|Leafs celebrating Bob Pulford's OT winner in Game 3.|
It's part of Toronto Maple Leaf folklore. And really, that's all that keeps us Leaf fans going is folklore. Game Six of the 1967 Stanley Cup Finals. 55 seconds remaining. Who does coach Punch Imlach have take the defensive-zone face off to the left of Terry Sawchuk but defenceman Allan Stanley. Of course, Stanley would beat Jean Beliveau on the draw and eight seconds later George Armstrong sealed the Leaf Cup win with an empty-net goal. The truth is, Imlach using his defencemen to take the defensive zone draw was more of a normal than a rarity.
Punch Imlach had actually started this practice as far back as the early 1960's. His thinking was that the defender could simply run right through the opposing centre with little concern for the puck that was being dropped. This actually led to the introduction of an interference penalty being assessed to such actions. Even still, Imlach enjoyed throwing his d-men out for defensive draws.
I watched this very game recently and decided to keep track of the face off stats as best as I could. The NHL Network broadcast has cut out a few minutes of the game play in places, but I was able to count well over 90 percent of the draws in the game. The results are as one might expect. Of the total of 32 face offs in the Toronto end, Imlach had a defenceman take an amazing 27 of them. The individual breakdowns are as follows:
Armstrong, a Right Winger managed to split the two draws he took, both in the offensive zone.
Centreman Keon took 6 of the 12 face offs in the Montreal end, splitting them. Amazingly, there were almost three times as many face offs in the Toronto zone compared to the Montreal zone (32 to 12). The majority of this discrepancy occurred in the third period with Toronto protecting a lead, in the third alone there were 16 face offs in the Toronto end (mostly icing calls) and only ONE in the Montreal end.
As stated, in the third period there were 16 face offs in Toronto's zone and the only three taken by forwards were within 10 feet of the Toronto blueline. All 13 of the face offs in the circles left and right of Sawchuk were taken by Leaf defenders. They won 4 and lost 9 of them.Stanley took five of these draws in the third winning the most important one with under a minute remaining.
|Dave Keon vs. Jimmy Roberts in the 1st Period of Game 6. Keon won.|
Toronto's forwards won 19 and lost 23 overall with the defence going 11 and 16. As stated, the defence were even on draws throughout the match if not for Horton's 1 win in 7 attempts. In the end, Imlach really can't be faulted for this strange practice as 3 of the 4 defencemen performed adequately. The Leafs didn't win the Cup as a direct result of this practice, but it definitely didn't hinder them too much.