The Chicago Black Hawks have arrived in Montreal and are preparing to take on the Canadiens in the first game of the Stanley Cup final series tonight at the Forum. Here’s a look at what we can expect from the two teams and where we think the series might go.
Pilote, Wharram doubtful starters
The Hawks come into the series without a long injury list, and that was a contributing factor in their win over Detroit. However, a huge gap may appear on the Chicago blue line if captain Pierre Pilote is unable to play. At the moment he is listed as a doubtful starter.
Right winger Kenny Wharram is also listed as doubtful. He had not been at the top of his game against Detroit and there were whispers that he wasn’t healthy.
Coach Billy Reay said yesterday, “I honestly can’t say whether they’ll go or not. They’re both pretty sore, but another 24 hours might do it.”
Pilote sustained a shoulder injury in game seven when he was knocked to the ice by Detroit defenceman Marcel Pronovost. The Hawks aren’t saying, but it’s thought Pilote suffered a slightly separated shoulder.
Wharram was checked heavily by Gary Bergman, and suffered a couple of twisted knees.
Habs without Laperriere
The Canadiens also have a huge hole to fill on their blue line. Jacques Laperriere suffered a broken ankle in game six against Toronto and will not play again this year. Coach Toe Blake has fingered rookie Noel Picard to fill Laperriere’s sizeable skates. Picard is a rough and tumble blueliner who is short on finesse but long on heart, hustle and truculence. His inexperience is Blake’s big worry.
Goaltending: Hall vs Hodge
The Hawks will be going with veteran Glenn Hall in goal. Hall was spectacular at times against the Red Wings and is far more experienced than his back-up Denis DeJordy. DeJordy had a solid season for Chicago, but Reay won’t go to him unless the durable Hall is injured or runs into trouble.
Blake has said that Charlie Hodge will start in goal for Canadiens in game one. That raised a few eyebrows, mainly because Gump Worsley played so well in the semi-final series against Toronto while Hodge was out with a groin injury.
Blake explained, “Charlie was our first stringer and he’s recovered, so he should start the final.”
The Hawks suspect that Hodge is going in simply to give Worsley a rest. The Gumper complained of fatigue from the stress of the semi-final and it’s thought he could do with an extra day’s rest.
During the season, Worsley played five games against Chicago with a 2.60 goals-against average. Hodge played the Black Hawks nine times, putting up a 3.44 average, so Blake might be quick to switch to Worsley.
This will be Gump’s first shot at a Stanley Cup final.
Forwards: Hawks have Hull, Habs have balance
The Canadiens have no one that can compare to Bobby Hull, but then again, no one in the league really comes close to what the Golden Jet can do. The Habs know it’s almost impossible to stop Hull, but they do feel they can contain him.
Right-winger Claude Provost will draw the assignment of keeping an eye on Hull. This job is nothing new for Provost, who spent most of the games against the Hawks covering Hull. Provost, as well as being a good checker, matched Hull point-for-point in their head-to-head match ups this season. Hull scored eight goals and eight assists, while Provost put up five tallies with 11 helpers.
Down the middle, Montreal has to be given the edge. While Stan Mikita is one of the two best centres in the league, he, along with his supporting cast of Phil Esposito and rookie Freddie Stanfield are slightly inferior to the Habs’ centre corps of Jean Beliveau, Henri Richard and Ralph Backstrom. Beliveau is still one of the top talents in the game, while Richard and Backstrom are speedsters who are superior defensively and have good hands around the net.
On the wings, Hull is the big man for the Hawks. The left wing on the Scooter line will be patrolled as usual by Doug Mohns, who came over in the off-season from Boston as a defenceman. Others who work the left side are Red Hay, who can double at centre, and Camille Henry, acquired from the Rangers late in the season. Henry hasn’t had the offensive success in the playoffs that the Hawks had hoped he’d offer when they made the trade to bring him over.
The Hawks will have a gap on the right side on the Scooter line if Wharram can’t go. Eric Nesterenko may move into that spot, although he is better suited to third-line checking duty. Nester had a big series against the Wings. Chico Maki lines up with Hull on the right side of the first line, and while not offensively gifted, he has a knack of finding Hull with quick, accurate passes. Johnny McKenzie will find work somewhere, especially if Wharram is scratched.
The Habs also have a big edge on the wings. A secret weapon may be Dick Duff, a money-player if there ever was one, acquired just before Christmas from New York. He has fit well with Beliveau and right wing Bobby Rousseau. Hard-rock John Ferguson will be too much to handle for the smallish Chicago forwards, and rookie Claude Larose has shown a penchant for scoring big goals this season.
Defence: Habs’ speed will be a problem for Hawks
Both teams sport solid blue line units, but the Canadiens may get the edge based on size and mobility. There’s no question that both clubs will have huge holes to fill if Pilote and Laperriere are unable to suit up. While Laperriere is definitely out for the duration, the Hawks are hoping Pilote will see action in the series.
The rest of the Montreal defence corps features the heady J.C. Tremblay, and tough guys Terry Harper and Ted Harris. The rookie Harris in particular has developed into a dependable first-stringer for the Habs. Jean-Guy Talbot will likely split time with Picard filling in for Laperriere.
Chicago has one of the biggest men in the NHL in Elmer Vasko, who usually works with Pilote. If Pilote doesn’t play, young Doug Jarrett probably will be inserted into his spot. The number two pair, Al MacNeil and Matt Ravlich, will have trouble with the speed of Canadiens forwards, and that could be a deciding factor as the series wears on.
Coaching: Blake is the master
Toe Blake has won more Stanley Cups than any of the other mentors around the NHL and his playoff experience largely overshadows that of Billy Reay. He is a master at motivation, and a grand tactician. While he has been known to lose his temper with officials on occasion, even those instances are usually calculated to help his team, not hurt it.
Reay, on the other hand, hasn’t won anything as a coach in the NHL. He had one full season coaching Toronto before being replaced by Punch Imlach 20 games into his second year. He was brought to Chicago to take over for Rudy Pilous in 1963. Reay had his team firing on all cylinders early in the season, but the team faded badly in the second half to end up third.
Montreal has the decided advantage behind the bench.
Habs in six
It says here that the Canadiens will come out on top in this series, and it should take six games. The Hawks could force a seventh game if Hall can come up with some spectacular magic, and that’s always a possibility. But the Habs have too much for the Hawks, Bobby Hill notwithstanding, and will win their first Stanley Cup since 1960.
Rangers trade for goalie
The New York Rangers have completed a trade with the Providence Reds of the American Hockey League for goalkeeper Ed Giacomin. The deal has been rumoured for months.
New York will send goalie Marcel Paille, defenceman Aldo Guidolin, and forwards Sandy MacGregor and Jim Mikol to the Reds for Giacomin.
There are questions as to whether New York can legally trade Paille to an AHL team. Paille was not on the Ranger protected list last summer and may not be eligible for a trade such as this.
If it becomes necessary, New York has arranged to have Montreal send goalie Claude Dufour to Providence instead. The terms of that transaction are said to be complicated, but in any event, will only be announced in the event the Paille part of the deal is nixed.
Bathgate blames Punch
Andy Bathgate, veteran right-winger of the Toronto Maple Leafs, told a Brampton newspaper that he blames coach Punch Imlach for the Leafs’ early exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Bathgate said that the Leafs were “too tired” to beat Montreal.
“There were exhausting practices and many didn’t get along with the coach.
“There is a limit to a player’s endurance. Imlach pushed a few of the players past that limit physically and mentally. We played some of our best games in practice.”
Bathgate said that Imlach rarely spoke to him or star forward Frank Mahovlich.
“When he did, it was to criticize and Frank usually got the worst of it. We are athletes, not machines and Fran is the type who needs some encouragement.”
Bathgate went on to say that he won’t play next season if he is only going to be used in a utility or part-time role.
The Western Hockey League has announced its all-star teams. Goalkeeper on the first team is Jimmy McLeod of Seattle. Defencemen are Pat Stapleton and Gord Sinclair. The forward line is made up of Billy McNeill (Vancouver) at centre between left wing Tommy McVie and right wing Andy Hebenton, both of Portland.
The second team has Don Head of Portland in goal. Fred Hucul of Victoria and Connie Madigan of Portland are on defence, with Guyle Fielder (Seattle), Brian Smith (Los Angeles) and Wayne Connelly (San Francisco) up front.
- New Boston general manager Hap Emms says that Bobby Orr’s NHL future is at forward, not on defence, where he has been an all-star in junior.
- A rumour making the rounds has Toronto defenceman Allan Stanley leaving the Leafs to become player-coach of the Los Angeles Blades of the WHL. This move would be in anticipation of the Blades moving up to the NHL when the league officially expands.
- Fred Glover, player-coach at Cleveland of the AHL, is said to be in line for an NHL job. Speculation has him going to Chicago if Billy Reay is let go, or Montreal if Toe Blake decides to retire.
- Stan Fischler of the New York Journal-American says that when Clarence Campbell’s current contract runs out, the NHL will likely appoint an American as the next president, rather than a Canadian. Campbell has six years remaining on his deal.
- The Chicago Black Hawks attendance in 1964 was so high, the city collected more in taxes from the hockey club than from the Cubs and Bears combined.
- Singer Bing Crosby has joined a syndicate which will apply for an NHL franchise for San Francisco.
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.