Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Scoring Machine

In a stellar National Hockey League career, one season certainly stands out when examining the achievements of Andy Bathgate - 1958-59. Dominating the centre-ice position, Bathgate played the full schedule, 70 games, and scored 40 goals. He accumulated 48 assists giving him 88 points on the season. Bathgate's brilliant year resulted in a First All-Star Team selection. The ultimate recognition of his skill level, came with the announcement he won the Hart Trophy as the league MVP.

Bathgate would once again enjoy individual success of some note during the 1962-63 season. Facing the Leafs in a contest played on January 2, 1963, Bathgate tied a National Hockey League record for scoring in 9 consecutive games. This put him in elite company, sharing the record with Bernie Geoffrion and Rocket Richard. The record-tying goal couldn't be classified as being a masterpiece. While attempting to pass the puck across the goal, Bathgate's pass was accidentally poked into the Leaf goal by Red Kelly.

This set-up a Saturday evening tilt against the Habs in the Montreal Forum. Bathgate would be going head-to-head against his nemesis - Jacques Plante. In this battle, Bathgate would skate away with the advantage. In a 2-2 tie, number 9 of the Rangers would score both New York goals. Each tally came as a result of a Bathgate slap shot beating Plante. On the first goal, which broke the record, Bathgate took a pass off the boards from line mate Earl Ingarfield. Bathgate told the assembled media the puck was on end when he blasted it towards the Canadiens goal. As a result, the puck resembled a knuckle ball.

At the time, the National Hockey League voiced concern relating to records which were already established. In particular, Harry "Punch" Broadbent's 16 game streak in 1921-22; Joe Malone's 14 game streak in 1917-18; Newsy LaLonde's 13 game streak in 1920-21; Cy Denneny's 12 game streak in 1917-18. In it's wisdom, the league classified Bathgate's feat as being "a modern-day record", which covers the time since the NHL took control of the Stanley Cup (1926).

Bathgate's ability to extend the record was met with a roadblock the following night in Madison Square Garden. In a rematch against Montreal, no Ranger, including Bathgate, was successful in putting a puck past Plante. The visitors out shot New York 42-18. Leading Montreal to a 6-0 victory was Ralph Backstrom who netted 2 goals and added an assist. Of note, Bathgate's streak would begin against Montreal (Dec.15/62) and also come to a close versus Plante and company.

On February 22, 1964, Andy Bathgate was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs along with Don McKenny. Going the other way was Arnie Brown, Bill Collins, Dick Duff, Bob Nevin and Rod Seiling.

One of his biggest goals in a Leaf jersey would come during the 1964 Stanley Cup finals. Bathgate recovered a loose puck at the Leafs blue line after a "pinching" Al Langlois couldn't handle the puck. Bathgate skated down the right side and put a quick shot past Wing goalie Terry Sawchuk giving the Leafs a 1-0 lead. The goal was scored at 3:04 of the first period.

The Bathgate effort would prove to be the game winning goal in a 4-0 win. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Andy Bathgate had captured the Stanley Cup as the Leafs were victorious in game 7.

Andy Bathgate was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1978.

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