Friday, April 29, 2011

'47-'48-'49 Toronto : The First Cup Dynasty

The honour of being hockey's first Stanley Cup dynasty in the Original Six era belongs to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The 1947, 1948 and 1949 Toronto teams were the first to be crowned World Champions in three consecutive seasons. Since they were the first team to accomplish this feat, I decided to lump each trophy win into one story. A dynasty deserves special treatment, especially when they are pioneers. I will follow this pattern for each repeat winner in upcoming editions.

The 1947 Stanley Cup final commenced on April 8 ,1947, with Montreal hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs. The two teams split games one and two in the Forum. With the action shifting to Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto defeated Montreal in both games to take a 3-1 series lead. A victory in game five pulled Montreal to within one and forced another contest in Toronto.

Ted Kennedy
In game six, played on April 19, 1947, Montreal came out of the chute on fire. On their second rush, Buddy O'Connor scored on Leaf netminder Turk Broda. This would be the only scoring taking place in period one. In the final two periods, Toronto's K-M-L Line of Ted Kennedy, Howie Meeker and Vic Lynn took centre stage. Early in the middle frame, Vic Lynn put one past Bill Durnan to even the score. In the third, Ted Kennedy beat Durnan on a long shot to give his club a 2-1 lead.

Montreal, would keep things interesting right to the end. With goalie Durnan on the bench, Montreal had an extra skater on the ice. Coach Dick Irvin had a designed play for the situation. He moved defenceman Kenny Reardon to centre, thus adding more muscle up front. Each Canadiens player was instructed to tie-up a Leaf player, therefore, leaving one man open. The plan, as mapped out by Irvin, never materialized. The final score was 2-1 in favour of Toronto as 14,546 fans cheered their conquering heroes.

After a summer of celebrations, the 1947-48 Leafs were ready to defend their title as Stanley Cup champions. With the close of the regular season play, Toronto held top spot in the league standings. Their 77 points put them 5 points ahead of second place Detroit. Being ranked first and second in total points, it came as no surprise when the two clubs meet in the 1948 Cup final.

The best-of-seven final got underway on April 7, 1948 in Maple Leaf Gardens. Before the home crowd, Toronto downed Detroit 5-3 in game one and 4-2 in game two. Having home ice advantage for the next two contests didn't help the Wings cause. In game three, Toronto blanked Detroit 2-0 with Turk Broda earning the shutout.

The final game of the series was played on April 14, 1948 at the Olympia. Sensing another Cup victory was around the corner, Toronto jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead. They would match this effort in period two by increasing their margin to 6-1. The two clubs would exchange goals in the final frame, with Detroit's Pete Horeck scoring with 1:12 remaining.

A four game sweep resulted in another Cup for coach Hap Day and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Two straight and counting.

If Toronto had any hopes of adding a third consecutive Cup, they would have to do it without their captain. The team had a new leader, with Ted Kennedy adding the "C" to his jersey. This all came about with the retirement of Syl Apps following the Cup victory in 1948.

The Leafs finished 1948-49 with 57 points,  slipping to fourth place in the standings. Their arch-rival, Detroit lead the league with 75 points. If the Wings thought Toronto were floundering, they were in for a jolt come the 1949 Cup final. For the second straight year, it would be a Toronto versus Detroit match-up.

One couldn't blame Red Wing players if they were muttering - "The more things change, the more they remain the same" - following game four of the Cup final,

On April 16, 1949, Toronto completed  another four game sweep over Detroit, winning 3-1 in a contest played in  Maple Leaf Gardens. In game four, Ray Timgren emerged as an offensive threat. He scored the opening goal and set-up Max Bentley's insurance marker in the third period.

With new talent like Timgren (pictured above) in the organization and making nine straight appearances in the finals, the future looked bright for Leaf fans. Only one question remained. Could the Toronto Maple Leafs make it four consecutive championships?

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