Showing posts from April, 2010

Greatest Upsets Ever

There has been lots of talk on whether or not the Canadiens first round defeat of Washington is the biggest upset in NHL playoff history. Washington after all finished this season with 33 more points than Montreal (121-88), and won the President's trophy by a good margin. As well, the fact that Montreal came back from down three games to one make the feat all the more impressive, it is definitely one of the top five upsets ever but in my opinion there are others that were as impressive or even moreso. What follows is my list, in reverse order of the top ten upsets in NHL playoff history.

10. 1978-79 Semi Finals, New York Rangers defeat New York Islanders
The Isles had the most points in the league with 116 and a winning percentage of .725 while the Rangers, although fifth overall in the league had 25 points less with 91. Led by a rejuvinated Phil Esposito, Don Maloney and goaltender John Davidson, the Blueshirts beat the Isles four games to two. The Islanders only two wins came in …

Playoff "Oh-Fer" Club, and Windsor's Comeback

After Montreal's Maxim Lapierre notched his first playoff goal today in his 22nd career game, the the list of active NHL forwards without a career playoff tally is down to six gentlemen. I chose the minimum amount of games at 15 to gain entry in this exclusive, and unwanted club.

Leading the way, and finished for another season is Buffalo's Paul Gaustad with 31 games played without a goal. He has scored 10, 12 and 12 goals in each of the last three seasons, yet is still searching for number one in the post season. Bruin Steve Begin at 29 games will have to score in the second round or risk passing Gaustad on the active list.
Chicago's Troy Brouwer will take his 23 games without scoring to the second round against Vancouver, and Petteri Nokelainen of Phoenix will enter game seven against Detroit with 21 scoreless playoff matches.
Jannik Hansen of the Canucks sits at 18 career scoreless games, while Fredrik Sjostrom at 17 games unfortunately (or unfortunately) didn't have …

Fort St.John Allan Cup Champs

Last night, the hometown Fort St.John Flyers were crowned amateur champions of Canada. They beat arch-rival Bentley Generals 4-1 to claim the Allan Cup. The Flyers were led by brothers Rod and Chris Stevens, each being named a tournament All-Star team with Rod named MVP.
Rod Stevens tallied 9 points in 4 Allan Cup games, while brother Chris had 6 goals in 3 games. Fort St.John native, Rod Stevens most recently played pro in France and Britain. He scored 20 goals for the AHL Syracuse Crunch in 96/97 and had 109 points Kamloops in his last year of junior in 93/94.
Fort St.John team mate Kimbi Daniels notched 6 points in the 4 Allan Cup games. He was a third round pick of Philadelphia in 1990 after a 118 point year with the Swift Current Broncos. Daniels also played for Team Canada in the 1992 World Junior Championships scoring 7 points in 7 games. He made a nice career in the ECHL since the late '90s mainly with the Anchorage, Alaska Aces. Fort St.John goalie Clayton Pool starred wit…

Carey Price is having a tough time.

After losing to the Caps in game 4, Carey Price has now lost his last eight (8) consecutive playoff starts dating back to April 26, 2008.
Here's his numbers in those starts: (W-L, GAA, SPct)

0-8, 4.27, .865

In his defense however, during the time that Price has been in the net over those eight games his Habs have scored a grand total of 14 goals.

Fabulous Finn 'tenders

Halfway through the opening round of the playoffs and a look at the goaltending stats is quite revealing and startling to Canadian hockey fans.
Among those who have played at least two games, there is not a Canadian-born goalie in the top-ten in Goals Against Average. Read that again.....amazing.

Here they are with their country of origin;

Pekka Rinne, Finland 1.35Brian Boucher, USA 1.98Annti Niemi, Finland 2.01Tuuka Rask, Finland 2.01Craig Anderson, USA 2.11Evgeni Nabokov, Russia 2.12Semyon Varlamov, Russia 2.12Ryan Miller, USA 2.36Jonathan Quick, USA 2.45Jimmy Howard, USA 2.78Martin Brodeur, Canada 2.98MA Fleury, Canada 3.01Roberto Luongo, Canada 3.20Ilya Bryzgalov, Russia 3.26Jose Theodore, Canada …

Towel Power, An in depth look.

Most hockey fans know the story of how Vancouver Canuck coach waved a white towel in mock surrender to the officiating. It was late in game two of the 1982 Stanley Cup semi-finals against the Chicago Black Hawks, and the Canucks had just went down 4-1 on a Denis Savard goal. The towels went up, Neilson was tossed from the game (and later fined $1000) and a tradition was born. What makes a coach get to such a point of frustration? With the help of a great little book by long-time Vancouver journalist Tony Gallagher, we can learn what actually happened. Gallagher's book "Towels, Triumph and Tears" was published right after the playoff run of '82.

Vancouver had advanced to the semis that year sweeping the Calgary Flames and beating the "Miracle on Manchester" L.A. Kings 4 games to 1. As unimpressive as the Canucks regular season record was at 30-33-17, they had still not played a team with a superior record than them until the Islanders in the final. The '…

Chris DiDomenico, back with a vengance.

You may recall the story of Christopher DiDomenico. Last May 5th, in the midst of a terrific season, he broke his femur while chasing down an icing call. That year he had starred in the World Juniors on a line with John Tavares and was leading the Quebec League in playoff scoring with 35 points in 15 games. He underwent surgery on his femur and knee, and by October of last year he had begun rehab. He was given a stall in the Toronto Maple Leafs practice facility in order to receive the best rehab available and to be surrounded by professionals who may one day be his team mates.

Amazingly, "DiDo" returned to game action with Drummondville on Feb. 17 of this year and notched three points. He scored a point in 11 of the 12 games finishing with 22 points. Drummondville has advanced to the QMJHL semi-finals and this past Sunday, DiDomenico tallied a pair of goals in a 5-2 loss. He is once again leading the "Q" in scoring with 20 points in 11 games. The Leafs are hoping …

The French Goalies of Cincinnati

The Cincinnati Mohawks may very well have been the greatest minor league hockey team of all-time. Between the years of 1952/53 and 1957/58, they finished first in the International Hockey League all six seasons and won the Turner Cup Championship five years in a row. The Mohawks worst season in that span produced a .675 winning percentage, every other year was over .700. They topped out in 1956/57 with a 50-9-1 record and a win pct. of .842. A huge factor in the success of the Mohawks was their affiliation in the powerful Montreal Canadiens farm system. In the early '50s the Habs had a stable of players under an extensive minor league umbrella
from the Quebec League Montreal Royals, the AHL's Buffalo Bisons, the Western League's Victoria Cougars and the Cincinnati Mohawks. During the aforementioned season of 56/57, Cincy had one of the most dominant seasons in hockey history. In the six team IHL, they were the only team to finish over .500 and had 44 more points than seco…

Career Playoff Points per Game

In the history of the NHL, only 42 men have averaged at least one point per game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs while playing at least 20 career games. Forty-two players in the entire history of the game. Somewhat surprisingly, Barry Pederson ranks third overall with 1.53 points per game. Granted, he played only 34 games but he scored 52 points to rank behind the obvious Gretzky at 1.84 PPG and Lemieux at 1.61 PPG. Alex Ovechkin in his 21 career playoff games is fourth all-time with 1.43 points per game and Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are fifth and sixth in 49 games each with 1.29 and 1.27. The top ten is rounded out by Hall of Famers Mark Messier (1.25), Mike Bossy (1.24), Bobby Orr (1.24) and Jari Kurri (1.17). A few other surprises in the playoff Point per Game Club are; Ken Linseman in 23rd with 120 pPts in 113 Games (1.06 PPG) Dennis Maruk 24th with 1.06 PPG Mark Pavelich 28th with 1.04 PPG Jason Allison 39th with 1.00 PPG Thomas Gradin 41st with 1.00 PPG When it comes to Goals per Gam…

Cup Predictions and Stuff

There's so many great things in this image.

The greatest time of the year is about to start, The Stanley Cup Playoffs. A few thoughts on the last week of regular season; --------------------------------------------------- NHL Goals Leaders (Minus Empty Net Goals) Sidney Crosby 50 Steven Stamkos 48 Alex Ovechkin 45 Patrick Marleau 43 ----------------------------------------------------------- Shorthanded Goals on the Season (Approx 4,940 Minutes) Minnesota, Montreal, Phoenix 3 Tampa Bay 2 Shorthanded Goals in One Minute, Four Seconds Boston, April 10 3 ----------------------------------------------------------- Points in last 8 games played Sidney Crosby, Pitt 20 (6G 14A) Henrik Sedin, Van 12 (1G 11A) Alex Ovechkin, Was 11 ( 5G 6A) Daniel Sedin, Van 14 (8G 6A) John Tavares, NYI 11 (3G 8A) Tom Gilbert, Edm …

Doug Messier, Mark's father

Another recent addition to The Den, this Western Hockey League programme from 1961. The Edmonton Flyers were in their second last year of existence and featured a rookie Doug Messier on defense. The 25 year old was in the middle of a two year self-imposed trial with pro-hockey. He put his teaching career on hold to see if he could make it. In hindsight,it was a good choice, as he went on to play eight full years in the Western circuit. In 67/68 he would actually lead all defensemen in scoring with 44 points in 66 games.

Doug went on to coach in the Alberta Junior League in the early and mid '70s mentoring the likes of 15 year olds Wayne Babych, Tony Currie and sons Paul and Mark Messier. He took a few years off then came back to coach third son Tom in 81/82. Doug was instrumental in the formation of the Professional Hockey Player's Association and served as it's first Executive Director from 1967-69.

Leafs Game Day....1962

I scanned these pics from a 1962 Maple Leaf Gardens program. The article describes how the team arrives at the Gardens at 10:30 on the morning of a game to check their equipment. There was no game day skate other than putting the skates on while still wearing your suit to test out the edges. The shots of them on the ice with skates and suits are pretty cool.

Bert Olmstead and Eddie Litzenberger putting on the blades.

Billy Harris out for the most casual game day skate in history.
Bob Pulford and captain George Armstong yukking it up.

Tim Horton digging into his 2pm dinner of steak and potatoes.

Horton racking it up on the living room couch before another big game.

Goalie Splits

If I asked you which NHL goaltender has the best numbers on the road, would you have guessed St.Louis' Ty Conklin? (pictured above with his Village People 'stache) Neither would I. I like looking at road numbers for goalies as it generally gives a truer sense of which are the top 'tenders in the league. Most have goalies have superior stats at home, but it's on the road where the real tests occur and the moxy is tested. Conklin, mind you has played only 17 games away from home, but among goalies with at least 15 away games, he has far and away the best numbers. Click chart below to enlarge...

Lots of the usual suspects that are at the top of the overall goalie leaders, but Conklin really does stand out like a sore thumb. A few other oddities; Jose Theodore jumps from 33rd place in overall Goals Against Avg. up to 13th in Road GAA. Perhaps this reinforces the expectations of a long Washington playoff run. Evgeni Nabokov drops from 10th in GAA and 7th in Save Pct to 19t…

Connie Dion

I was checking the online Detroit Free Press newspaper to see if Jimmy Howard was getting the start today and discovered Chris Osgood is getting the nod. This snaps Howard's streak of consecutive games at 25. Not since 1991/92 and Tim Cheveldae with 29, has a Wing 'tender started more games in a row. I also learned that Howard falls one shy of the Red Wing rookie mark for consecutive starts. Now, I definitely remember Tim Cheveldae, but not Connie Dion the rookie who started 26 straight games in 1943/44.

After my Connie Cobb story of earlier in the week, the name Connie jumped out at me. I had to check him out. Dion was one of the many war-time era stop gap measures employed throughout the league (see Steve Buzinski). The difference was that Dion was actually not half bad. He signed as a free agent in Jan. 1944 after Detroit has used Jimmy Franks, a 35 year old Normie Smith and a 17 year old Harry Lumley.

The 5 foot, 4 inch and 140 pound Dion proceeded to play the remaining 26 …

The race for The Rocket

Sidney Crosby with 47, and Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos tied with 46 are in heated battle for the Rocket Richard Trophy and the 50 goal plateau. A three-way tie for the goal lead is extremely possible. In 2003/04 Jarome Iginla, Ilya Kovalcuk and Rick Nash finished tied with a mere 41 goals. It will be far more impressive if we have a three-way tie of 50 goals or more. The last time (and only time) that happened was 1979/80.
This is one of my favourite trivia questions, who were the three players to tie for goal lead in Gretzky's rookie year? Of course it was Blaine Stoughton, Danny Gare and Charlie Simmer with 56 each.

As for which of the three leaders this season has the best remaining's a tough call who has the edge. Pittsburgh plays the Islanders and Atlanta twice each and once against Ovie's Caps. Crosby has 3 goals each versus the Isles and Caps but none so far in two games with Atlanta. Washington has one extra game remaining with two as well agains…

"Connie" Cobb

I just picked up this card on the weekend (I paid handsomely for it) of all-time great Cornelius Irving Cobb. "Connie" Cobb was an innovator of the game of ice hockey. Paired alongside Cyclone Taylor on the Portage Lake club in Houghton, Michigan, he was the first player to perfect the give-and-go spinorama maneuvre.

Born in Hagersville, Ontario in 1879, he was the middle of nine children. He would star for fourteen seasons playing with teams from Renfrew and Pembroke to Mackinaw and Kenora. Along the way he played mentor and team mate to the likes of Taylor, Didier Pitre, Newsy Lalonde and Reg Noble. Cobb was not only speedy and shifty, he was also a moose on blades. In an era when a player 5 foot, 10 inches in height was considered tall, Cobb stood a full four inches clear of six feet and weighed in excess of 220 pounds. He was Eric Lindros of the early 1900's.

His strength was so great that he is reputed to have displayed it once in a most unusual way. Apparently, de…