Friday, June 10, 2011

Montreal 1965 & 1966

The Montreal Canadiens last hoisted Lord Stanley after their Cup victory in 1960. Following an incredible run of five consecutive titles (1956-1960), the Habs were defeated by Chicago in the 1961 semi-finals. They would follow this pattern of first-round losses in 1962 (Chicago), 1963 (Toronto) and 1964 (Toronto).

Prior to the Original Six era coming to a close, Montreal would add two Stanley Cup banners.

1965

The biggest change in the Canadiens organization came off ice. The clubs managing director, Frank Selke, retired and his duties were taken over by Sam Pollock. On the ice, Bernie Geoffrion called it a career to become coach of the Quebec Aces (AHL). Geoffrion would return to the NHL in 1966 and play two seasons with New York. After being out of hockey for one year, former Canadien Dickie Moore signed with Toronto for the 1964-65 campaign. Cracking the line-up were Yvan Cournoyer and Ted Harris. On December 22, 1964, Montreal traded Bill Hicke to New York for left winger Dick Duff.

The Canadiens finished in second-place (36-23-11) with 83 points. They trailed 1964-65  league champs, Detroit, by 4 points. Toronto's fourth-place finish, resulted in the Leafs and Canadiens hooking-up in one of the semi-final series.

On April 1st, Toronto and Montreal began writing another chapter in their long rivalry. The Canadiens took games one (3-2) and two (3-1) in the Montreal Forum. The action shifted to Maple Leaf Gardens for the next two contests.

In game three, the defending Stanley Cup champions mounted a come-from-behind against Montreal. The Habs held a 2-1 advantage, until Andy Bathgate potted the equalizer. Then, in overtime, Dave Keon notched the sudden-death goal.

The scoring hero for Toronto in game four was Red Kelly. His two goals sparked the Leafs to a 4-2 win.

Game five, back in Montreal, saw the two clubs locked in a 1-1 draw going into period three. The game winning tally came off Bobby Rousseau's stick at 7:30. His long shot beat Johnny Bower in the Leafs goal. The final goal in Montreal's 3-1 triumph went to Jean Beliveau.



Bobby Rousseau

The Montreal Canadiens were sixty-minutes, plus any necessary overtime, away from returning to the Stanley Cup final.

On April 13th, Montreal and Toronto clashed in game six. The fans in Maple Leaf Gardens would be treated to an exciting game and got an added-bang for their buck. After regulation time, the score was knotted at three apiece. At 16:33 of the first overtime period, Montreal's Claude Provost put the Leafs dream of a three-peat to rest.

Montreal was joined in the final by Chicago. The 1961 Stanley Cup champions advanced by downing Detroit four games to three in the other semi-final.

The 1965 final had both teams quoting a phrase from the Wizard of Oz - "There's no place like home." Montreal won game one (3-2), game two (2-0) and game five (6-0) in the Forum. The Hawks won game three (3-1), game four (5-1) and game six (2-1) in Chicago Stadium. With the series tied at 3-3, a seventh and deciding game to declare a new champion was necessary.

Game Seven was played on May 1st in Montreal. Could Chicago put an end to Montreal's dominance on Forum ice? Well, the question was answered early. The game winning goal came 14-seconds after the drop of the puck to start period one.

Captain Jean Beliveau described the goal to reporters, "That first goal was a break. It went in off my shins. I had lost the puck to Pierre Pilote and he cleared to Ken Wharram but Bobby jumped him and rapped the puck at Duff. It caromed off Dick's stick on to my shins and then into the goal."

The final score was 4-0. Also scoring for Montreal were Dick Duff, Yvan Cournoyer and Henri Richard. All four goals came in period one. The shutout went to Gump Worsley.





In addition to the Stanley Cup, a new piece of silverware was presented. The Conn Smythe Trophy, named after the legendary Maple Leafs owner, recognized the outstanding player in playoff competition. The inaugural winner was Jean Beliveau.



Jean Beliveau

1966

Playing like defending Stanley Cup champions, Montreal finished in top-spot following the 70 game regular season. Their 41-21-8 record translated into 90 points.

While the Canadiens were the team to beat, Chicago's Bobby Hull topped the league in scoring. It was a record-breaking campaign for the "Golden Jet".

On the goal front, Hull became the first player to score more than 50 goals. In 65 contests, he hit the twine on 54 occasions. When factoring in his assists count of 43, Hull amassed a grand total of 97 points. This was one better than Dickie Moore's record of 96, set in 1958-59.

As a result of his scoring prowess, Chicago's Number Nine captured both the Art Ross Trophy (top scorer) and Hart Trophy (MVP).



Bobby Hull

The league champs were rewarded for their brilliant defensive play. Montreal allowed the fewest goals against - 173. For their efforts, Gump Worsley and Charlie Hodge won the Vezina Trophy. Montreal's  Jacques Laperriere was named top defenceman, thus becoming the third Hab blueliner to win the Norris Trophy.

For the fourth straight playoff, Montreal faced Toronto in the semi-finals. In Montreal for games one and two, the Maple Leafs were defeated on both occasions by scores of 4-3 and 2-0. The change in venue to Maple Leaf Gardens didn't brighten their fortunes. Montreal won both games in easy fashion and swept Toronto in 4 straight. The scores were 5-2 and 4-1.

The other semi-final featured Detroit and Chicago. This series required six games before Montreal's opposition was established. Powered by Norm Ullman, who led all playoff scoring with 15 points (6 goals & 9 assists), Detroit ousted Chicago four games to two.

The Cup final opened in Montreal on April 24th. Behind the outstanding goaltending of Roger Crozier, the visitors stole games one (3-2) and two (5-2).

In the final frame of game two, Crozier made two brilliant glove saves to keep his team in the hunt. With the score even at 1-1, Gilles Tremblay and Jean Beliveau fell victim to Crozier's reflexes.

"I still don't know how he got that shot of mine. It was one of my best. My aim was perfect but he caught it with his right hand and I had a lot of net to shoot at", said Montreal's captain in his post-game comments.

The tide turned once play resumed in Detroit. The Canadiens doubled-up Detroit in game three, with a 4-2 victory. In game four, Crozier suffered a knee/ankle injury at 5:48 of the first period. As a result, he left the game and was replaced by Hank Bassen. The Red Wings and Bassen couldn't hold a 1-0 advantage and fell 2-1.

With the series tied at 2-2, the two teams convened on May 3rd in Montreal for game five. A banged-up Roger Crozier once again took his position between the pipes for Detroit. Although not one-hundred percent, Crozier received little support from his teammates. The Habs experienced no difficulties in thumping Detroit 5-1.

The Detroit Red Wings entered game six on the brink of elimination. Unlike the previous contest, game six contained a tighter defensive effort by Detroit. Jean Beliveau opened the scoring at 9:08 of period one. In the middle frame, Leon Rochefort provided Montreal with a two goal margin. Detroit got on the scoreboard courtesy of Norm Ullman, who's goal came shortly after Rochefort's tally. At 10:30 of period three, Floyd Smith's marker brought the Olympia crowd out of their seats.

The overtime was short and sweet for the Montreal Canadiens. Henri Richard's controversial goal at 2:20 of O/T gave Montreal their second straight Stanley Cup. It was a bitter pill for Detroit to swallow.





Henri Richard

"They beat us on a bad goal Henri Richard scooped the puck into the net with his hand. I went after referee Frank Udvari but he was away back in the corner on the play, couldn't see what was going on. It was illegal, should have been called back", said a very frustrated Roger Crozier.

A newspaper headline declared, "Award sweetens bitter taste of defeat." This was in reference to Crozier being named the 1966 recipient of the Conn Smythe Trophy.



Roger Crozier

Following the game, Sid Abel, coach of the Red Wings, was travelling to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby. On a "special train" heading for Montreal, Canadiens coach, Toe Blake, and his squad were celebrating another Stanley Cup.

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