Monday, May 9, 2011

Detroit Red Wings 1952

It was a clear cut case of the "rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer." Detroit general manager, Jack Adams, still feeling the sting of a semi-final elimination the previous spring, made further adjustments to his roster in the off-season. Prior to training camp in 1951-52, Adams made a deal with the Chicago Black Hawks. On August 20, 1951, he sent Jim McFadden, Max McNab, George Gee, Claire Martin, Jimmy Peters and Rags Raglin to Chicago. In return, Detroit obtained Hugh Coflin and $75,000. This sum made it the biggest cash transaction in NHL history. It easily topped the previous amount of $35,000 which Toronto sent to Ottawa for the services of King Clancy. Also in the summer, Adams traded Gaye Stewart to New York for Tony Leswick.

At training camp, rookie centre Alex Delvecchio earned a spot in the Red Wings line-up. The previous year, Delvecchio played in one game with the Wings. In his first full season, Delvecchio skated in 65 games, scoring 15 goals and registering 37 points.

Alex Delvecchio
As they had in the past, Detroit annihilated any opposition which crossed their path. The Wings were playing like a perfectly oiled machine, with their best players clicking on all cylinders. Driving the Red Wing machine was Gordie Howe. In 1951-52, Number Nine would claim his second consecutive Art Ross Trophy for leading the league in scoring. In 70 games, he amassed 86 points, including 47 goals. Based on these totals and his overall dominance, Howe captured his first Hart Trophy.

Besides Howe, several other Wing players gained recognition for their outstanding contributions. Goaltender Terry Sawchuk won his first Vezina Trophy to go along with being named to the First All-Star Team. He was joined by Howe(RW), Ted Lindsay (LW) and Red Kelly (D).

At the end of 70 games, Detroit accumulated 100 points with a sizzling record of 44-14-12. Their nearest rival was Montreal who finished with 78 points.

Highlights from 1951-52 included Bill Mosienko's 3 goals in 21 seconds. The Canadiens Elmer Lach becoming the all-time points and assists leader. He surpassed Bill Cowley in each category by reaching 550 points and 354 assists.

Bill Mosienko
The biggest question in Detroit concerned their ability to translate regular season success into playoff victories. Anything less than an appearance in the Cup final would be considered an absolute failure.

In semi-final play, the Wings were matched-up against Toronto. The Leafs were defending Stanley Cup champions, but past glory didn't help them versus Detroit. The Wings swept Toronto sending them packing after 4 games.

While Detroit was at home resting, Montreal went the distance against Boston in the other semi-final series. On April 8, 1952, Montreal defeated the Bruins in game 7 to advance.

After the first three games of Cup action, Detroit held a 3-0 series lead. The Wings had brought their "A"-game to the table. Much of their success against Montreal was being able to keep Rocket Richard in check. To stop Montreal, you had to stop the Rocket. And that was a difficult task as many Bruin players could have advised their Detroit counterparts. In game 7 against Boston, played in the Montreal Forum, Richard wasn't going to be denied. Returning to play, after being treated for a blow to the head, Richard took matters into his own hands. The Rocket resembled a foot soldier who was stitched-up, bandaged and given orders to return to battle. He re-entered the fray with the score tied 1-1. Taking a pass from Butch Bouchard, Richard out maneuvered each Bruin player on the ice. It was a brilliant display of puckhandling ability and physical strength. Goalie Sugar Jim Henry became his last victim, when Richard slipped a one-handed shot past him.

Metro Prystai
In game 4 of the Cup final, Detroit and Montreal resumed play in the Olympia. The fact Detroit had a balanced attack came to light in game 4. The opening goal was scored by centre Metro Prystai. Playing on a line with Alex Delvecchio and Johnny Wilson, Prystai's 25-foot shot beat Canadiens netminder Gerry McNeil. In the middle frame,  Prystai earned an assist on a goal by Glenn Skov. He banged in a rebound which resulted from Prystai's shot on goal. To add icing to the cake, Metro Prystai scored on a solo rush in the third period. The Wings defeated Montreal 3-0. It was Terry Sawchuk's second consecutive shutout, having blanked the Habs in game 3 by the identical 3-0 margin.

By winning in the minimum of 8 games, Detroit was the first franchise to accomplish this feat. No other team since the best-of-seven format was initiated in 1939 had cruised through the playoffs without losing a contest.

Detroit, known as the Motor City, was the home of automotive and truck manufacturing. Their hockey team had become a prime example of a bulldozer on ice, as they knocked down and flattened each obstacle which dared to get in their way

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