As a disappointing National Hockey League season for the Toronto Maple Leafs drew to a close last night, veteran goalkeeper Johnny Bower provided the highlight as he shut out the Detroit Red Wings by a 4-0 count. That win enabled Bower and Terry Sawchuk to overtake Wings’ goalie Roger Crozier and claim the Vezina Trophy.
In the other two scheduled games, Montreal handled New York 5-3 and Boston ended their season on a high, upsetting Chicago 3-1.
The 40-year-old Bower put on a sparkling performance at the Olympia in Detroit. He was supported by some great penalty-killing and fine defensive work by the Leafs’ blue-line corps. Tim Horton was the best Toronto skater, playing a superb two-way game.
Rookie Peter Stemkowski’s goal at 7:36 of the third period was the tally that put Crozier in second place in the Vezina derby. It was his fifth of the season.
With the score 3-0 for Toronto in the final minute of play, Toronto defenceman Carl Brewer was whistled off for holding, giving the Wings one last chance to score a goal and pull Crozier into a tie with the Toronto duo. Red Wings coach Sid Abel removed Crozier from the net in favour of a sixth skater in an all-out effort to find the equalizer. The ploy backfired, as Davey Keon topped off an unbelievable night of penalty-killing to take a George Armstrong pass and skate in to fire a shot past Gordie Howe, the only man back for Detroit.
Other Toronto scorers were Don McKenney and Horton.
Bower ended up with 37 saves, compared to 29 for Crozier. Despite his stellar performance, it appears that he will not have his name etched on the Vezina. The National Hockey League has ruled that only Sawchuk’s name will be inscribed on the trophy. Sawchuk played 36 games for the Leafs, while Bower was in goal for the other 34.
The league rule states that the trophy is awarded to “the goalkeeper playing the most games for the team with the fewest goals scored against it.”
Sawchuk was dressed and on the bench for the entire game, and of course he liked what he saw from Bower.
“I never saw anything like him. He eats that puck. I had my pads on and was slated to play part of the game until John got hot.
“Matter of fact, I couldn’t watch the first two periods, sat in the dressing room. But I was rooting and making every move with him in the last 20 minutes. What reflexes, he was like a teenager.”
Despite being named the sole trophy recipient, Sawchuk says that he will not accept the award unless Bower is named a co-winner.
“I’ll split the bonus money with him, but John’s name belongs on the trophy.”
Bower was happy to have put his goaltending partner in a position to win the prize.
“How about that, you’d think we won the Stanley Cup. Imlach was more excited than I was!
“Terry deserves the trophy, he played 36 games. I don’t need the trophy, just the money. But it would be nice to have a plaque later on, to show the kids. I think the league should award two of them in a case like this.”
The rookie Crozier had a stoic reaction to seeing the award slip out of his grasp in the final game.
“Sure, I’m unhappy about losing it. But maybe I’ll win something else to make up for it. The big thing for me would be the rookie award. If I don’t get it this year, I’ll never have another chance. With the Vezina, there will be other years.”
Toronto Maple Leaf player representative Bob Pulford said that he will ask the NHL to change its rules so that both Bower and Sawchuk officially receive the trophy. Pulford’s reasoning was this:
“The league is now forcing all teams to carry two goalkeepers, so it is only sensible that the Vezina Trophy should be a joint award. It is ridiculous that a man playing 36 games should get everything and the guy playing 34 games gets nothing.”
This situation has happened only once before in NHL history. In 1950-51 Al Rollins played 39 games for Toronto, with Turk Broda in for the other 31. Rollins won the Trophy and the $1,000 prize money. He apparently didn’t share the cash with Broda.
Habs rotate goalies
Jean Beliveau reached the 20-goal plateau for the ninth time in his career as he scored twice to power the Montreal Canadiens to their win over the Rangers in New York.
Montreal coach Toe Blake turned the game into something of a spectacle by alternating his goalkeepers. Charley Hodge started the game for Montreal, but after five minutes, Gump Worsley replaced him. The two then took turns for the rest of the game.
Worsley gave up all three New York goals. He made 17 saves while Hodge stopped 15.
The Blake move is a reaction to the NHL edict that stipulates that NHL teams must have a second goalkeeper dressed and on the bench for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Other Montreal scorers were Jean-Guy Talbot, Henri Richard and Dick Duff. Talbot’s goal stunned the Rangers, coming after only 11 seconds of play after the opening faceoff.
Bill Hicke, Wayne Hillman and Lou Angotti replied for the Rangers.
Bruins best year in five
The Boston Bruins won their 21st game of the season last night, their best total in five years, as they upset the Chicago Black Hawks 3-1 at home in Boston.
The Bruins were the better team on the night, as Chicago appeared listless and less than enthusiastic. The Black Hawks did not look like a team getting ready to compete for the Stanley Cup. Boston outshot Chicago 31-26.
Ed Westfall got the Bruins started in the first period, tipping in a point shot from Joe Watson just before the eleven minute mark.
Tommy Williams upped the Boston lead to 2-0 near the half-way mark of the second period with a spectacular goal. The Bruins were killing a penalty and the Hawks were pressing, one of the few occasions on the night where they mounted any sustained pressure.
Things were particularly desperate for the Bruins, as goalkeeper Jack Norris had lost his stick so Boston managed to ice the puck. Chicago’s Red Hay retrieved it and started a rush back toward the Boston zone. Williams, diligently forechecking, stole the disk from Hay and broke in on Hawks’ goalie Glenn Hall. He fired a partially screened 10-footer that deflected off Elmer Vasko’s stick and over Hall for what proved to be the winning goal.
John Bucyk netted the last Boston goal at 8:20 of the final frame.
Norris, who played very well for the Bruins, missed his chance to collect his second NHL shutout with less than nine minutes to play. Chicago defenceman Matt Ravlich scored his 3rd goal of the season on a 40-foot screened shot that Norris still hasn’t seen.
Stanley Cup playoffs start Thursday
The Stanley Cup playoffs will begin Thursday night with both series playing their opening games.
In Series A, third-place Chicago will visit pennant-winning Detroit. Fourth-place finisher Toronto will journey to Montreal to play the runner-up Canadiens. Both series will be best-of-seven affairs.
Toronto columnist Dick Beddoes reported on the betting lines as of the end of the regular season. Detroit Red Wings are listed as 9-11 favourites to win the Stanley Cup. It’s 14-5 for both the Leafs and Canadiens. The Wings are 11-10 favourites over Chicago while Montreal is favoured 6-7 to beat the Leafs in the semi-finals.
- Stan Mikita won the Art Ross Trophy, awarded to the leading scorer in the NHL. Mikita finished with 87 points, four ahead of Detroit’s Norm Ullman. Ullman led the league with 42 goals.
- Boston Bruins won’t make any announcement about possible changes to their management structure until later this week.
- Alex Delvecchio’s streak of 17 consecutive games scoring at least one point was broken by Toronto last night. One more game would have tied Gordie Howe’s team record of 18.
- Niagara Falls Flyers qualified for the OHA Junior A finals by eliminating the Oshawa Generals four games to two.
- Toronto and Peterborough are tied with one win apiece, with one game tied in their OHA semi-final series.
- Jack Adams, former manager of the Detroit Red Wings and now president of the Central Professional Hockey League, says that if he owned an NHL team, he would pay $150,000 for Toronto prospect Mike Walton, who played for Tulsa in the CPHL this year.
- Detroit scout Jimmy Skinner rates Walton’s team-mate Nick Harbaruk as a better prospect than Walton.
- Bronco Horvath of the Rochester Americans of the AHL had to settle for second place in the scoring race despite a late-season push. Buffalo’s Art Stratton won the crown.
Retired police detective, involved in hockey at all levels for over 50 years. Member of Society for International Hockey Research and presently a video analyst for the leader in advanced hockey analytics (we work exclusively for 2 NHL clubs, and provide advice on an ad hoc basis to many other clients). Currently the Assistant General Manager for the Pelham Pirates of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League. Previously owned the Faceoff computer hockey simulation and also provided all player ratings for the EA Sports series of NHL computer games from the late 90’s into the mid 2000’s.