Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Detroit Red Wings 1950

The Toronto Maple Leafs string of consecutive Stanley Cup championships would come to an end in 1949-50. Another team would take the crown and dethrone a Toronto club which claimed three straight Cups.

Ted Lindsay
During the regular season, one team dominated play from start to finish. The 1949-50 Detroit Red Wings finished on top of the league standings with a 37-19-14 record and 88 points. This was 11 points more than runner-up Montreal who had 77 points. The Production Line of Ted Lindsay, Sid Abel and Gordie Howe would sit 1-2-3 in NHL scoring. Ted Lindsay would become the third winner of a relatively new piece of hardware - the Art Ross Trophy - as top scorer. Lindsay would set a new record for most assists in a season, racking-up 55.

Prior to and during the season, Detroit general manager Jack Adams made several moves, which benefited his club in the short term and long term. A trade on August 16, 1949, enabled Detroit to add 4 players to their organization. In exchange for Bill Quackenbush and Pete Horeck, Adams secured Pete Babando, Clare Martin, Lloyd Durham and Jim Peters from Boston.

Jack Adams was well aware his defensive core could function without all-star defenceman Bill Quackenbush. In order to improve the troops up front, Adams knew he would have to surrender quality to get quality back. The addition of Pete Babando and Jim Peters would bolster his line-up and be two new weapons for coach Tommy Ivan to employ.

Terry Sawchuk
When starting netminder Harry Lumley suffered an injury in January 1950, Adams summoned his replacement from Indianapolis. On January 8, 1950, Terry Sawchuk made his first NHL appearance wearing a Red Wings jersey. He played in 7 games during the '49-'50 campaign, posting a 4-3-0 record. One of the victories would be Sawchuk's first National Hockey League shutout. On January 15, 1950, Sawchuk blanked Boston 2-0.

The Detroit Red Wings opened the semi-finals against their nemesis - the Toronto Maple Leafs. Hap Day's team defeated Detroit in 11 straight playoff games, dating back to April 1, 1947. The '49-'50 semi-final started on March 28th in the Detroit Olympia. Once again, it appeared as though the Wings had fallen under a Toronto curse. The Leafs hammered Detroit 5-0, but that was the least of their problems. Winger Gordie Howe suffered a serious head injury after a collision with Leaf captain Ted Kennedy. His services would be lost for the duration of post-season play.

Detroit would bounce back and win the best-of-seven series 4-3 over Toronto. For Leaf fans, it spelled the end to an amazing run of 3 consecutive Stanley Cups. After dispatching Toronto, the Wings were hoping for better results in the Stanley Cup final, having been swept the previous 2 years. Their opponent this time around would be the New York Rangers.

By finishing in first place, Detroit earned the right of having home ice advantage in the playoffs. In the Cup final, this advantage would be increased, thanks to the management at Madison Square Garden. Not expecting the Rangers to advance, a circus was booked into the Garden. This resulted in New York playing the entire Stanley Cup final on the road.

With Detroit downing New York in game one in the Olympia, the venue switched to Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. This was the location of choice by New York to serve as their home base. The two clubs split the games in Toronto. The remainder of the series would take place in Detroit. After game 6, the Cup final was all even with each club winning 3 games.

The deciding contest, game 7, would be played on April 23, 1950. The Rangers took a 2-0 first period lead on goals by Allan Stanley and Tony Leswick. In the middle frame, Detroit tied the score at 2-2. During a powerplay, Pete Babando and Sid Abel scored 21 seconds apart. The Rangers took the lead on a goal by Nick Mickoski, but the Wings quickly responded on a goal by Jim McFadden.

Neither club scored in period three and for the third time, the 1950 Cup final went into overtime. In both games 4 and 5, New York's Don Raleigh netted the game winning goals. He was the first player in NHL history to score two consecutive overtime goals in Stanley Cup final action.

Don Raleigh

The hero in game 7? Well, the honour belonged to Pete Babando of Detroit who scored at 8:31 of the second overtime period. His perfectly placed backhand from 20 feet out, beat Rangers netminder Chuck Rayner. The player acquired by Jack Adams in the summer, certainly paid dividends come playoff time.

Pete Babando & Harry Lumley
The Detroit Red Wings became Stanley Cup champions for the first time since 1943. It also marked Lord Stanley's return to America after a 7 year absence.

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