Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Greatest Hockey Team Ever: The Rocket man and his Nighbor
If this What If Sports generated Greatest Hockey Team Ever series goes to seven, the 1919-20 Sens should have the upper hand. After all, the neutral games are being played at Toronto’s ACC and the Sens were forced to play their championship winning game in 1920 at Toronto’s fancy new artificial ice arena, so they should be experienced. Of course, the fact that they only have 11 skaters could cause a challenge but hey…this is leather helmet stuff, old-time hockey, you know…all that stuff.
The 1944 Habs were the most controversial of all of Montreal’s championship teams. If you’ve studied your Canadian history, you’ll remember that Mr. King had about as much luck as Mr. Borden in convincing the Quebecors that they should jump on a ship to fight for Mother England. As such, the Canadiens more or less stayed together while the rest of the league’s teams saw much of their roster ripped apart to fight. The result saw the Habs take off like a, well, Rocket. After two injury plagued seasons on the cusp of the big show, Rocket Richard burst onto the scene in the 1943-44 season.
How they got here Proving that youth is sometimes served, the ’44 Habs started things off by beating an older version of themselves, the 1946 champs. Then they got rid of the ’48 Leafs before disposing of the famed 1940 Rangers.
The Sens lucked out in that they didn’t draw the Leafs in a playoff series (we all know how that usually turns out), but they did get by a Toronto team—the 1922 St. Pats. Then the ’24 Habs were set-aside before they beat out yet another Rangers championship team (‘cause there have been so many!) from 1928.
Game 1 The Habs doubled Ottawa up on shots and used two goals from Ray Getliffe to brush aside their old-school opponents 5-1. Maybe playing centre Frank Nighbor for an entire 60 minutes wasn’t the best plan for the Sens.
Game 2 Or not… Nighbor once again played every second of the game and scored five points in the Sens 6-3 win, evening the series at 1-1 as it heads back to Ottawa. Hopefully, Nighbor can catch some rest on the bus (horse drawn sleigh?).
Game 3 Montreal peppered Ottawa ‘keeper Clint Benedict with 74 shots, but needed double overtime to finally finish the Sens off. A Toe Blake goal at 15:23 of the second extra frame gave the Habs a 4-3 win and a 2-1 series lead. Nighbor? Only 95:38 played. Wimp.
Game 4 Rocket had his best game of the series, scoring three points on route to am easy 6-1 Habs win. Defenseman Butch Bouchard was a force for Montreal, playing nearly 50 minutes of hard-nosed hockey. That slacker Nighbor only played 59:24—he took a penalty.
Game 5 Elmer Lach’s goal with just 1:09 left gave the Habs a 2-1 win and 4-1 series victory. Ottawa’s Benedict nearly stole it, making 55 saves, but the Habs proved to be too strong and advance to the Elite 8.
Next up, the 1999 Buffalo Sabers take on the 1998 Detroit Red Wings.