There were four National Hockey League games scheduled last night, with the marquee matchup taking place at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto where the Maple Leafs blanked the Montreal Canadiens 5-0. The other games saw St. Louis shock the Boston Bruins 5-1, Pittsburgh handled Minnesota 4-1 and the New York Rangers blanked the California Seals 2-0 out in Oakland.
We’ll have a look at all of these games, plus some other news items from around the hockey world.
Bower Brilliant As Leafs Thump Habs
Johnny Bower has never been better. At least that’s how Punch Imlach and 15,927 happy hockey fans at Maple Leafs Gardens in Toronto saw it as the Leafs blanked the Montreal Canadiens 5-0.
Be not fooled by the lopsided score, this was no one-sided thrashing by Toronto. Canadiens started fast, finished fast and could have run the Maple Leafs right out of their home rink had it not been for the wizardry Bower displayed in the Toronto goal. He was his old, acrobatic self, never giving up on a shot and causing most of the Montreal players to shake their heads in disbelief at the stops he made.
Imlach, the Toronto coach and general manager, was so impressed by Bower’s play that he immediately awarded the veteran goalkeeper with a brand new contract after the game.
“Yes, I’m tearing up Bower’s contract and he’s getting a raise,” Imlach informed the press after the game. “Hell, I’m going to burn the contract Friday after I get it back from league headquarters. An event like this is worth a ceremony.”
Imlach was asked if he had ever done something like this in the past:
“Yes – and I only do it for chaps over 40. But in the past I have inserted bonus clauses in Bower’s contract after the season was underway. The kind of bonuses he was sure of making. This time it’s a complete new deal and the money is right.”
Imlach declined to provide specifics on the new deal for Bower, but called the raise “substantial.”
This one looked anything like a 5-0 Toronto win in the first period. Montreal outshot the home side by 17-9 during the opening 20 minutes, but Bower was stupendous. Canadiens came at him in wave after wave, but it was apparent early on that nothing easy was going to get by him.
Neither team managed a goal in that first frame. Being even after one gave the Leafs a lift going into the second. They were the better team in the middle frame, holding a 15-8 edged in shots on goal, and counting three times.
Dave Keon’s third of the season opened the scoring and was the eventual game-winner. It didn’t come until the 11:39 mark of the second. Frank Mahovlich and Bob Pulford added the other two goals before the end of the sandwich session.
Canadiens awakened in the third and took over the game again, at least on a territorial basis. they fired 15 more shots at the unbeatable Bower in the third period, while the Leafs could only muster six at Montreal goalie Gump Worsley. But the Leafs garnered the only two goals of the period, with George Armstrong and Mike Walton finding the range.
While generally the Leafs were unable to control the puck in their own zone, that couldn’t be said for defenceman Tim Horton. Time and again he was on the scene to rescue a rebound after a Bower save and he was the only Toronto player who was able to consistently get the puck to safety out of the Leafs’ end.
While the Habs were buzzing around the Leafs net for most of the first and third periods, overall they were disorganized and their checking was weak, at best.
Hillman Contract Update
A more cynical observer might say that Imlach gave Bower the money he saved thanks to an arbitration decision by NHL president Clarence Campbell in the Larry Hillman contract dispute.
Campbell was given the task of deciding on the disagreement over contract terms between Hillman and the Maple Leafs. He has rendered his decision, but details have not been made public. Could it be that Imlach’s magnanimous gesture towards Bower is a result of a favourable decision by Campbell?
Bower was skeptical about the raise when Imlach came to him in the dressing room after the game and said he was tearing up the contract:
“I don’t know whether he means I’m getting a raise or the chop. Check it out for me, will you?”
Bower gave assistant coach and general manager King Clancy the credit for his fine game:
“The pressure was on me before the game. I had been in goal for all four of our defeats and three of the important goals had been on long shots.
“But King took me to one side and said ‘Don’t worry about a thing, you haven’t lost your touch. Just go out there and play your game. Punch and I haven’t lost faith in you because we know you can do the job.”
Montreal coach Toe Blake said that Canadiens’ fine record going into the night flattered a team that has not been playing well. It was no surprise to him that the Leafs were able to put up five goals. He wasn’t happy with young netminder Rogatien Vachon, who was pulled after the second period and replaced with veteran Worsley.
Leafs would have had a sixth goal but that was called back by referee Bruce Hood, who ruled that Toronto’s Brian Conacher was in the Montreal goal crease.
Bruins Have the Blues
A flat Boston Bruins team started slowly and never recovered last night in St. Louis. The result was a 5-1 pasting of the Bruins by the Blues. Two former Boston players led the assault.
Ron Stewart scored two goals and Wayne Rivers added a third as the Blues built up a 5-0 lead before the Bruins rookie Ross Lonsberry could get one past Glenn Hall in the St. Louis goal. Hall just missed racking up his 69th career shutout.
Other St. Louis goal getters were defencemen Bob Plager and Fred Hucul. The fifth Blues’ goal by Hucul came with the Bruins two men short. Ted Green was off for interference and John McKenzie was serving a bench minor assessed to Boston when a towel was thrown onto the ice.
St. Louis outshot the Bruins 41-31 on the night. For the most part Boston looked disinterested and disorganized. Despite giving up five goals, goalie Gerry Cheevers was probably the visitors’ best player. Defenceman Bobby Orr sat out the game with a sore back and his presence on the Boston blue line was sorely missed.
Blair Livid as Penguins Shoot Down Stars
Minnesota North Stars general manager-coach Wren Blair couldn’t contain his anger last night, both during and after a dismal home-ice performance by his team that resulted in a 4-1 Pittsburgh Penguins victory at the Met Centre in Bloomington.
Before a crowd of 7535, the North Stars didn’t start badly. They actually had the better of the play in the first ten minutes of the game. It was the play of Penguins goalie Les Binkley that eventually disheartened the Minnesotans. He made a number of scintillating saves that completely frustrated the home side. Then, when Paul Andrea and Keith McCreary scored during the last half of the opening 20 minutes, it seemed as if the North Stars lost all interest in winning the game.
North Stars did get on the board at the 11:15 mark of the middle frame on a goal by Andre Boudrias. That made the score 2-1, but that was as close as they would get. Andy Bathgate scored for Pittsburgh with a couple of minutes left in the second to make it 3-1.
The only goal of the listless final frame came off the stick of Pittsburgh’s Art Stratton at 2:35. The Penguins then threw a close-checking blanket over the North Stars who went meekly into the night after the game. That is, all but coach Blair.
During the second period, Blair became so disenchanted with the play of centre Murray Hall that he sent him to the dressing room and told him to take off his equipment. He benched several other players for the rest of the game. His demeanour on the bench during the third period could only be described as sullen and angry.
If he did make a speech to his team during the second intermission, it had absolutely no effect on the players.
Minneapolis Star writer Mike Lamey described Blair’s actions after the game as “a declaration of war” against his team. By the time reporters got to talk to Blair in his Met Centre office he had calmed down. But he made several declarations that should get the attention of his players.
First and foremost was the indefinite suspension of Murray Hall. Blair said that Hall “showed a complete lack of effort and has done nothing for the past four games.”
Blair also announced that several players had been fined undisclosed amounts. He refused to single out any players, saying that “Our forwards weren’t in the game. There are too many of them that are afraid of the puck. They get rid of it right away. They’re afraid of a check.”
Blair was so desperate for offence that he moved defenceman Mike McMahon up to centre for the final two periods. McMahon hadn’t played that position since he was 16 and in Junior C hockey.
Blair said McMahon would remain on the forward line “until I can find someone else.”
A Pittsburgh newspaper reported that 14 of the 16 North Stars players had been fined, but Blair refused to confirm that number.
Blair also threatened to call in John Muckler to take over the coaching reins of the team. Muckler is the coach and general manager of Minnesota’s Central Professional Hockey League team, the Memphis Stars. He said this was the first time he has seriously considered replacing himself behind the bench:
“This job (being coach and general manager) is far too much but it is the best way I know to find the weaknesses on this team. If this kind of hockey continues I’ll have to get out on the road to find someone to help the team.”
This type of move by Blair is not without precedent. He took the same type of action when he was coaching Boston’s Kingston farm team in the Eastern Professional Hockey League (predecessor to the CPHL).
“We lost seven of our first eight games and I knew the players we had weren’t going to do the job. So I made one of the staff coach and went on the road for a month. I returned with five different players and we won six of seven games and we made the playoffs that year.
“These players would be foolish if they create this situation. If I’m on the road I’ll find replacements for them and they’ll be back in the minors.
“I could bring Muckler up on an interim basis too. But I haven’t reached that point yet.”
Blair didn’t mince words when asked what he thought of the crowd booing the home team during the game”
“I’d boo too. They didn’t get their money’s worth tonight.”
Rangers Club Seals
The California Seals first game at home after their disastrous road trip did not provide any better results. Although they held the visiting New York Rangers off the score sheet for 51 minutes and 11 seconds, they followed their usual pattern and faded late in the game. Two late goals gave the Rangers a 2-0 shut out win.
Seals goalie Charlie Hodge could have been the hero had his mates provided him with any offensive support. He held the Rangers at bay in the hopes someone would find the back of the net for the Seals but it wasn’t meant to be. The little man finally succumbed to the relentless Ranger pressure in the final nine minutes.
Orland Kurtenbach and Rod Gilbert were the New York marksmen. Kurtenbach’s goal was atonement for a five-minute major penalty he took earlier in the third for combing the head of Seals’ Mike Laughton with his cue. Rangers defence did a great job, although the home side really didn’t have much to offer in the way of offence.
The shutout was Ranger goalie Ed Giacomin’s first of the season. He’ll get full credit for the whitewash despite being called upon to stop only 16 Seals shots.
- Rookie Norm Ferguson scored three goals to lead the AHL Cleveland Barons to a 5-2 win over the WHL Vancouver Canucks in Cleveland.
- WHL Phoenix Roadrunners defeated visiting AHL Buffalo Bisons 7-4. Tommy McVie led the Roadrunners with three goals.
- NHL players association counsel Alan Eagleson wants Clarence Campbell replaced as the sole arbiter for contract disputes between the league’s teams and players. He feels someone completely independent should assume the role.
- The NHL is considering awarding a separate trophy for the Western Division regular season champions. That would be the only separate trophy for the new teams. There will be only one rookie-of-the-year winner.
- Saturday’s crowd of 14,674 at the Met Centre for the game between Chicago Black Hawks and Minnesota North Stars was the largest ever to take in a hockey game in the state of Minnesota.