Friday, November 28, 2014

The Eruption of Petri Skriko

Going into play on November 18, 1986 Vancouver Canuck, Petri Skriko had produced 5 goals and 8 assists in playing all of his team's 18 games. This is about as average as one could get in the mid-1980's NHL when players scoring at a point per game pace was commonplace. Then came the Eruption of Petri Skriko. What sounds like an Icelandic volcano was in fact one of the greatest goal scoring bursts in NHL history.

On Nov. 19, Vancouver won at home against Calgary by a score of 5-0. Skriko had a natural hat-trick before the second period had ended, the last two were shorthanded goals. November 21 saw the Canucks lose at home to the Rangers 8-5, but Skriko one-upped himself. Instead of a natural hat-trick to open the scoring, he went one better. Before the second period was two minutes old, Petri Skriko had pumped four goals past John Vanbiesbrouck, the last of these was also shorthanded. He added his fifth goal at the halfway point of the game to give Vancouver a 5-2 lead. Alas, the Rangers poured the next six goals past Wendel Young and Richard Brodeur for the win.

The following day they traveled to Edmonton only to lose 5-2, with Skriko being shutout. Next came a back-to-back with Los Angeles. The Canucks won at home by 11-5 with Skriko counting another pair of goals and two helpers. In Los Angeles on November 26, Skriko continued his rampage with his THIRD hat-trick in eight days including yet another shorthanded marker.

By this point, Skriko had collected 17 goals and 10 assists for 27 points in 23 games and was now 5th in the NHL in goals. Over his previous five games he had accumulated a ridiculous 12 goals and 14 points. Yes, 12 goals in 5 games is pretty darn good, Wayne Gretzky himself only managed to have a stretch that good once in his career. Gretz scored 15 (FIFTEEN) goals in a five game period culminating with his 5 goal effort on Dec. 30, 1981 against the Flyers to reach 50 goals in 39 games.

Soon after this eruption, much like an Icelandic volcano, Petri Skriko went dormant. Over their next six games Vancouver went 1-6 and Skriko was held scoreless with 3 assists. Amazingly, if not unsurprisingly, Skriko would not score a goal until he potted an empty-netter on Dec. 23,  12 games after his amazing run. After reaching 17 goals through 23 games played at the end of November, Skriko wouldn't score his 20th until Jan. 16 versus Calgary in his 45th game.

Petri Skriko would finally awaken again on March 6 against Montreal with yet another hat-trick, to bring his season goal total to 24. I believe he missed 4 games prior to this at some point in February, so before this game he had counted a measly 4 goals over his last 41 games. He was shutout the next game after the latest hat-trick but scored a pair of goals in each of the next three games for another 9 goal outburst over a 5 game stretch. Three goals in his final 8 games brought the season total to 33 in 76 games, 21 of which were scored over two five game segments. In 1986/87 Petri Skriko was the very essence of hot and cold.

Skriko scored 30 goals each of the next two seasons. He would return to play in Finland in 1992/93 before finishing his career with six seasons in Denmark before retiring at age 36.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Pat Quinn, R.I.P.

Pat Quinn passed away this week and the tributes have been pouring in. Quinn was universally revered and should really be in the Hockey Hall of Fame. I believe the only reason he hadn't been so honored yet was due to the fact that he was on the selection committee. Quinn is fifth overall in career NHL coaching victories with 684, and even though he never won the Stanley Cup, he has the 6th most career playoff wins with 94.

It's interesting to me how the Vancouver Canucks and their fan base have seemingly claimed Quinn as their own when in reality he coached in and won more than twice as many games with Toronto. In fact, Quinn owns the highest career winning percentage of any Maple Leaf coach ever. I understand that Quinn coached Vancouver to their magical run of 1994 and that carries a lot of weight in people's memories. In truth, he coached almost as many games with Philadelphia and was even more successful. Granted, Quinn also filled roles of player, General Manager and President with Vancouver...indeed we can all share in honoring him.

 Below are the top five coaches by Percentage in Leafs history (GP W-L-T Pct)
Quinn    574 300-196-52    .591
Irvin       427 216-152-59   .575
Imlach    770 370-275-125 .562
Day        546 259-206-81   .549
Burns     281 133-107-41   .546

As for playoff games, even though he never won a Cup he is still over .500 with Toronto.
(GP Pct)
Day     80 .613
Quinn  80 .513
Irvin    66 .508
Burns  46 .500
Imlach 92 .478

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Maple Leafs Surrender 9 Goals at Home

Nashville 9, Toronto 2. 
Nine goals by one team in a game is rare nowadays. In fact the Leafs haven't scored nine themselves since the 2006/07 season and they had not given up at least nine goals since Dec. 26, 1991 when they lost 12-1 in Pittsburgh. 

The last time Toronto had surrendered at least nine on home ice was all the way back on Jan. 14, 1991 when Buffalo beat the 11-30-4 Leafs by a score of 9-3. The Sabres got out to a 4-1 lead after the first period, chasing starter Peter Ing from the net. The Leafs actually got within a goal five minutes into the second on goals from Gary Leeman and Dave Ellett. The Sabres then poured three past Jeff Reese in a three minute stretch and two more in the third. In the end Reese allowed five goals on 14 shots while Ing allowed his four on 13 shots. Each of  Alexander Mogilny and Pierre Turgeon ended up with 2 goals, 3 assists and a plus 6 rating, while Toronto's Vinny Damphousse and Michel Petit were each a minus five.

The time previous that the Leafs allowed at least nine at home was two seasons before on March 18, 1989 when Winnipeg smashed them 10-2. This game was only 2-0 for Winnipeg after one period before the Jets ripped four past Alan Bester to go up 6-0 after two. By the time it was over, Bester had given up all ten goals on 35 shots against and Vinny Damphousse posted another minus 5 rating. For the Jets, Tomas Steen had a hat-tick and five points and Dale Hawerchuk collected five assists and six points.

The Maple Leafs of the late '80s early '90s were not a very good team, (Newsflash). From 1987/88 through 1991/92 they posted seasons of 52, 62, 80, 57 and 67 points and won a mere three games in two playoff series. 25 years later, the current edition of the Leafs are somewhat reminiscent of these teams of the past. They are a team that's barely good enough to fight for a playoff berth and not quite bad enough to receive a high draft pick.

Is it possible to equate Kessel, Bozak, vanRiemsdyk to Leeman, Olczyk, Damphousse as the top line in their mid-20's with defensive issues? Nazem Kadri is Daniel Marois, the young up-and-coming scorer? Dion Phaneuf as the ex-Calgary Flame, current captain near 30 years old? Joffrey Lupul as the often injured scorer Wendel Clark? Gardiner and Rielly as Al Iafrate and Luke Richardson, the young stud defenders in their early 20's? Bernier and Reimer as Jeff Reese and Peter Ing, the young goaltending tandem? This may all be a bit of a stretch, but it sure is fun to compare different eras. 

Truthfully, I'm not sure this edition has much more hope than the one from 25 years ago. Remember, those Leafs of old would soon trade for 19 mostly prime seasons worth of two future Hall-of-Famers in Mats Sundin and Doug Gilmour. Even with this, they still never even reached the Stanley Cup final.
Unless the current Leafs are going to acquire Steve Stamkos (maybe?) and say a Rick Nash or Joe Thornton...I'm afraid what we see is what we get.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

John Collins Cartoons; From World War to Hockey Wars

Jan 12, 1943
A while back I high-lighted the hockey related newspaper cartoons of the great John Collins of the Montreal Gazette. Interestingly, he began with The Gazette mainly as a political cartoonist, satirizing the main figures in the conflict of the Second World War. Collins would at times take a sporting angle while looking at the world events as seen in the above cartoon. This one depicts Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt looming over an over-matched Adolf Hitler, complete with swastika marking.

Oct 22, 1945
Collins would pretty much stay away from sports-themed drawings until after the War had ended. With the beginning of the 1945/46 NHL campaign, he diverted his talents to the far lighter realm of sports.

Oct 23, 1945
Dec 1, 1945
John Collins held his post as Montreal Gazette resident cartoonist until retiring in 1982. He would pass away in 2007 at 89 years of age.
Nov 24, 1945
Dec 3, 1945 
Dec 8, 1945
Dec 22, 1945
Nov 1, 1945
Nov 10, 1945
Nov 17, 1945

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Happy 90th Johnny Bower

Hockey Hall of Fame card, 1983
Johnny Bower turns 90 years old today. He joins Wally Stanowski (95) and Howie Meeker (91) as the only living Leafs over 90 years old. In honour of the living legend, I am posting pretty much every piece of Bower memorabilia from my den. 
Nov. 1964 Hockey Illustrated
Feb. 1966 Hockey Illustrated
1966 Esso Schedule
Jan. 16 1968 All-Star Game Program 
1988 Maple Leafs Schedule signed with Dick Duff
1968/69 Post Cereal Marble & 1960/61 Shirriff Coin 
1966 Coca Cola How to Play Goal
Headline Hockey, 1963
Feb. 16, 1963 Game Program

2004/05 In The Game, Memorabilia
1963 Signed Maple Leafs Team Stick

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Johnny Bower Cyber-Scrapbook

Toronto Maple Leaf legend Johnny Bower turns 90 years old this Saturday, Nov. 9 (or 89 or 91). The old China Wall is still kicking strong, although there is no truth to the rumour that Randy Carlyle had him dress as emergency back-up last week. 

I thought I would share a virtual scrap-book of newspaper clippings of Bower photos throughout the years. I think my favourite is the last one showing Bower and Marv Edwards in 1970 wearing cool Maple Leafs practice jerseys that I had never seen before. Enjoy.

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