Monday, April 18, 2011

Detroit Red Wings 1943

As playoff action is well underway, I thought it would be interesting to explore previous Stanley Cup Champions from the Original Six era.

The NHL became a six-team league in October 1942. The New York Americans franchise collapsed under the strain of an expiring lease agreement and from losing personnel to the war effort. With the New York Americans becoming extinct, Toronto, Montreal, Boston, Chicago, Detroit and the New York Rangers were the nucleus of clubs forming the National Hockey League.

Several changes were put in place for the '42-43 season, as a response to wartime conditions.  It was estimated the NHL had 90 players on active duty. Faced with this reality, the league reduced the roster size for each club to 14 players (including one goalie). Also, overtime during the regular season was scrapped in order to allow teams adequate time to travel from city to city.

There were many highlights from the 1942-43 campaign. In Montreal, coach Dick Irvin formed a new line consisting of Toe Blake, Elmer Lach and Joe Benoit. They were branded with the tag "Punch Line". Down the road, Benoit would be replaced on the line by "Rocket" Richard.

In a game played on January 26, 1943, Max Bentley of Chicago would score 3 goals and 4 assists against the New York Rangers. This tied an NHL record for most points in a regular season game. The record had been set earlier (Nov.5/42) by Carl Liscombe of Detroit.

Alex Smart, a rookie with the Montreal Canadiens, scored 3 goals in his first NHL game (Jan.14/43). He was the first player to accomplish this feat. In a game played in Maple Leaf Gardens (Nov.12/42), Boston's roster featured 16 year old Bep Guidolin. His inclusion into the line-up made him the youngest player to participate in an NHL game.

The National Hockey League suffered a loss when President Frank Calder succumbed to heart attack. He was replaced by former New York Americans general manager Red Dutton.

In semi-final action, Detroit won a best-of-seven series over Toronto 4-2. The other semi-final match-up ended with Boston holding a 4-1 margin in games over Montreal. Thus, setting-up a Stanley Cup final between Detroit and Boston.

The Detroit Red Wings captured Lord Stanley on April 8, 1943. Detroit blanked Boston 2-0, giving goaltender Johnny Mowers his second consecutive shutout. As if winning the Stanley Cup wasn't enough, Wings owner Jim Norris Sr. added some incentive. He already pledged $5000 to the playoff kitty. On the eve of game 4, he tossed in an additional $2500 if his club ousted Boston in four straight.

With the additional bonus on the line, Detroit scored goals in both the first (Joe Carveth) and second (Carl Liscombe) periods. The tally by Liscombe in the middle frame, enabled him to tie an NHL record. The point earned on his goal, gave him 14 points, equalling the mark set by Bill Crowley in 1939. Also, sharing in the record was Don Grosso who registered 14 points in 1942.

Of interest, the last goalie to post back-to-back shutouts in playoff action was Boston's Tiny Thompson. His victim was the Montreal Canadiens in 1929.

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