Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The New York Islanders Come Back From a Three Game Deficit - 1974-75 New York Islanders Ed Westfall Jersey

Created in an effort to block the rival World Hockey Association from placing a team on Long Island, the New York Islanders were added to the National Hockey League for the 1972-73 season. As one would expect, the expansion Islanders were overmatched in their first season, going 12-60-6 and finishing dead last in the NHL by 18 points. They were led in scoring by Billy Harris with 28 goals and 50 points in 78 games. They were backstopped by the duo of Gerry Desjardins, claimed from the Chicago Black Hawks in the 1972 Expansion Draft, and Billy Smith, who was claimed in the same Expansion Draft from the Los Angeles Kings, who brought just 5 games of NHL experience and took his lumps with a 7-24-3 record. Desjardins had less to write home about thanks to his 5-35-3 record.

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Billy Smith

The Islanders parlayed their last place finish into Denis Potvin, the first overall selection in the 1973 NHL Amateur Draft, who would go on to patrol the ice for New York for the next 15 seasons and led the team in scoring with 17 goals and 54 points in 77 games on his way to being named the Calder Trophy winner as NHL Rookie of the Year.

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Denis Potvin

Despite the arrival of Potvin, the Islanders improved marginally in 1973-74 to a 19-41-18 record for 56 points, second worst in the NHL and ahead of only the California Golden Seals 36 points, as the Golden Seals roster was raided unmercifully by the upstart WHA.

Normally the Islanders would have selected second overall, but during the 1974 NHL Amateur Draft, the expansion clubs, the Washington Capitals and Kansas City Scouts, were granted the first two picks, pushing the Islanders down to fourth behind California. New York used its pick to select Clark Gillies, who would prove to be the only future Hall of Famer chosen in the first round of the draft. The Islanders second round pick was another home run, and another future Hall of Famer, Bryan Trottier.

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Clark Gillies

While Trottier would spend another year in junior hockey, Gillies would make the Islanders 1974-75 roster out of training camp. Other new additions to the lineup for that seasons were undrafted free agent goalie Glen "Chico" Resch, who replaced Desjardins as Smith's partner after appearing in 2 games in 1973-74. Bob Bourne arrived via trade and would be a regular in the Islanders lineup for the next dozen years.

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Bob Bourne

Also arriving during the season were veterans J. P. Parise and Jude Drouin in separate trades with the Minnesota North Stars.

Potvin again led the club in scoring, only now with 21 goals and 76 points. The improved roster saw Harris' point total climb to 25 goals and 62 points. Bob Nystrom also saw his point total climb to 27 goals and 55 points, up from 41 the year before, and veteran Ed Westfall also saw an increase from 42 to 55 points as well. After Garry Howatt's 48 points (an increase of 31!) was rookie Gillies with 25 goals and 47 points. Drouin and Parise, playing in just a half a season with the Islanders, had 32 and 30 points, a pace which would have had them among the top four had they played a full season.

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Billy Harris attacking the Penguins goal

Smith led the team with 58 games played and had his first winning season, with a 21-18-17 record and a 2.78 goals against, down from 4.16 two seasons earlier. Resch, meanwhile, also had a winning record at 12-7-5 and an even better 2.47 goals against.

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Chico Resch

All of this added up to a 33-25-22 record (22 ties!) to finish tied for second with the New York Rangers in the Patrick Division and their first ever playoff berth.

The Islanders were paired with the Rangers in the best-of-three Preliminary Round and won Game 1 in stunning fashion, scoring 3 third period goals to win 3-2. The Rangers hammered the Islanders 8-3 in Game 2, forcing a deciding Game 3. The Islanders scored once in the first (Gillies) and twice in the second (both coming from Potvin) only to have the Rangers score 3 in the third to force a winner-take-all overtime. The former North Stars wasted little time, as Drouin fed Parise in front of the Rangers goal for an easy tap in after just 11 seconds of overtime. Of note, the road team won all three games of the series.

The Islanders advanced to face the Pittsburgh Penguins, who finished the season with a record similar to New York at 37-28-15 for 89 points, one more than the Islanders. Pittsburgh advanced by sweeping the St. Louis Blues by scores of 4-3 and 5-3.

Game 1 was held in Pittsburgh and saw the Penguins streak out to a 3-0 lead after 12 minutes. New York scored one in the first and one in the second to close to within 3-2 only to have the Penguins score a shorthanded goal 36 seconds into the third and add an important insurance goal at 4:44, as Parise scored twice afterwards to make the final margin 5-4 for Pittsburgh with Smith taking the loss.

Game 2 was scoreless after one. The Penguins scored two in the second and a third at 14:51 of the third before a goal by Gillies 43 seconds later made the final score 3-1 for Pittsburgh, giving them a 2-0 series advantage.

Game 3, held on Long Island, saw the Penguins leading 3-0 just 3:25 into the second period. Westfall scored in the second followed by Drouin at 1:17 of the third. The Penguins restored a 2 goal lead with a goal at 10:31 for a 4-2 lead. The game was scoreless for the next seven minutes before all hell broke loose. Bert Marshall scored for the Islanders at 17:41, Syl Apps for Pittsburgh at 18:15, Drouin for New York at 19:08 and Lowell MacDonald sealed the game and a 3-0 series lead for Pittsburgh with an empty net goal at 19:48 - four goals in 2:07 to make the final score 6-4 for the Penguins.

The Islanders now had no margin for error or their first playoffs would come to an immediate end. Looking for a change in fortune, the Islanders changed from Smith to Resch in goal for Game 4 in New York. With the game tied at 1-1 after two periods, the Islanders got third period goals from Gillies and Parise 39 seconds apart and Resch made 27 saves for the win to keep the Islanders season alive for one more game.

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The Islanders J. P. Parise looking to score against Pittsburgh's Gary Inness

Game 5 back in Pittsburgh was 2-0 for New York after one period and the teams traded goals in the second for a 3-1 New York lead after two. With a shade under three minutes to play, MacDonald pulled the Penguins back to within 1 at 3-2, but Drouin scored an empty net goal with 30 seconds to play for a 4-2 win for the Islanders despite being outshot 36-19 as Resch won his second in a row.

Game 6 had the Islanders back at home in front of their own fans, who were restless after a scoreless first period. Ralph Stewart opened the scoring for New York at 4:07 of the second and Pierre Larouche countered just 49 seconds later for the Penguins. Howatt put the Islanders back on top at 15:16 and the game did not see another goal until Pittsburgh pulled Gary Inness and Westfall made it 3-1 with 26 seconds to play before Howatt made the final 4-1 with a second empty net goal with a second remaining, giving the Islanders fans one more reason to celebrate their upstarts winning a third straight game to force a Game 7 after being down 3 games to none.

Game 7 took place on this date in 1975 at The Igloo in Pittsburgh. Resch, with the three wins for New York, got the obvious call in goal for the Islanders, while Inness started all seven for the Penguins.

There was no scoring after the first period, but plenty of animosity, as Gillies and Bob Paradise fought at 2:44. Dave Lewis for New York and Dennis Owchar then dropped the gloves at 11:37. There were three other instances where matching minors were handed out.

The second period was even more tense as the game continued scoreless. The Penguins led in shots 14-5 after one and then had an 11-6 advantage in the second, but despite outshooting the Islanders 25-11 after two, could not solve Resch.

The third period saw Howatt take a penalty at 5:48, but New York was able to withstand the Penguins powerplay. Finally, at 14:42, Westfall, an original Islander, got the puck alone in the slot and fired a backhander past Inness for the go ahead goal.

The New York defense, led by Potvin, limited Pittsburgh to just five shots on goal for the third period as New York became the second team to come back from a 3-0 series deficit to win a seven game series and first since the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs thanks to their 1-0 win in Game 7 on the road.

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An elated Islanders captain Westfall in the
handshake line after New York eliminated the Penguins

Resch finished with 30 saves for the necessary shutout and his fourth consecutive win in goal. The shutout was the first Game 7 shutout on the road in NHL history.

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Resch won Game 7 for the Islanders with a shutout

That was not all for the dramatics though, as the Islanders lost to their next opponent the Philadelphia Flyers 4-0 in Game 1 of their Semifinal series, then were defeated 5-4 in overtime and shutout again 1-0 in Game 3. The Islanders stayed alive after a tense 4-3 overtime win in Game 4 at home, cruised to a 5-1 win in Game 5 and had all of the hockey world talking with a 2-1 win to once again come back from a 3-0 deficit to tie the series at 3-3!

Could New York pull off the virtually impossible twice in a row after it had only been done once in 57 years? It was not to be, as the Flyers led 3-1 after one period and Bernie Parent held the Islanders scoreless for the game's final 55 minutes to win 4-1 and end their first, but memorable playoff run.

With a taste of the playoffs, the Islanders made it to Round 3 in both 1976 and 1977, the second round in 1978 and the third round once more in 1979. By now the battle tested team had added additional talent, such as Trottier, scoring star Mike Bossy, John Tonelli, Butch Goring, and US Olympian Ken Morrow going into the 1980 playoffs. The Islanders would defeat those same Flyers to win what would be the first of their four consecutive Stanley Cup championships of their 1980s dynasty.

Today's featured jersey is a 1974-75 New York Islanders Ed Westfall jersey as worn during the Islanders Game 7 shutout of the Penguins to become the first team in 33 years to come from three games down to win a playoff series.

The Islanders debuted in 1972-73 with jerseys identical to today's featured jersey except with orange numbers with white outlines. For their second season, they reversed the colors of the numbers to now white with orange outlines on their road blue jerseys. These jerseys remained in use through the 1976-77 season until the lace up collar changed to a v-neck and the white sleeve ends disappeared.

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 photo New York Islanders 1974-75 18 B jersey_1.jpg

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1974-75 New York Islanders Clark Gillies jersey as worn during the Islanders Game 7 shutout of the Penguins to become the first team in 33 years to come from three games down to win a playoff series.

Note that the Islanders spelled the rookie Gillies name wrong on the back of the future Hall of Famer's jersey, leaving out the second "i"!

 photo New York Islanders 1974-75 9 F jersey.jpg
 photo New York Islanders 1974-75 9 B jersey.jpg

Extra bonus jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is a 1974-75 New York Islanders Denis Potvin jersey as worn by the Islanders leading scorer during their wins in Game 4 and Game 6 as part of their historic comeback.

The Islanders debuted with this lace-up jersey and wore it through the 1976-77 season, with the only changes being a smaller font for the numbers after their first season of 1972-73 and the loss of the blue outline around the crest for the jersey's final season of 1976-77.

 photo New York Islanders 1974-75 F jersey.jpg
 photo New York Islanders 1974-75 B jersey.jpg

Extra extra bonus jersey: Today's extra extra bonus jersey is a 1977-78 Fort Worth Texans Yvon Vautour jersey. Why a Fort Worth Texans jersey from three years after the Islanders playoff victory? Back then, the Islanders recycled their jerseys, handing them down to their minor league affiliate. Names were removed and the crest was swapped to that used by the Texans, leaving game worn jerseys still crested with the Islanders logo from their early days rather scarce.

This particular #14 example was likely worn by Bourne when he was a part of the Islanders dramatic comeback during the 1975 playoffs.

And what of Vautour? He eventually played 17 games for the Islanders in 1979-80 and was claimed off waivers by the Colorado Rockies. He would play 204 NHL games with New York, Colorado, the New Jersey Devils and Quebec Nordiques.

 photo New York Islanders 1974-75 14 F jersey.jpg
 photo New York Islanders 1974-75 14 B jersey.jpg

In today's video section, a brief look at the Islanders dramatic come from behind playoff victory over the Penguins, which includes blink-and-you'll-miss-it footage of Westfall's Game 7 series winning goal.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

1988-89 Pittsburgh Penguins Mario Lemieux Jersey

The Pittsburgh Penguins completed the 1988-89 season in second place in the Norris Division with a 40-33-7 record, good for 87 points. They swept the New York Rangers in four games of the opening round of the playoffs to advance to face the Philadelphia Flyers (36-36-8; 80 points), who had upset the division winning Washington Capitals (92 pts.) in six games.

Prior to the playoffs, despite missing four games, Mario Lemieux set personal records for goals (85), assists (114) and points on his way to the NHL scoring title, easily outdistancing Wayne Gretzky 199 points to 168. Additionally, his 85 goals were the third most of all-time and he became the third player ever to reach 100 assists in a season. He also scored 13 shorthanded goals that season to set a new NHL record. Despite all that, the most remarkable achievement of Lemieux's stellar 1988-89 season was joining the exclusive 50 goals in 50 games club, only the fifth player at the time to achieve the feat first accomplished by the famed Rocket Richard when he scored his 50th of the season in his 46th game.

Also during the same season, Lemieux had one of the most remarkable nights in NHL history on New Year's Eve in 1988 when he scored five goals - in five different ways! He started the night with an even strength goal and followed it with one shorthanded, on the power play, a penalty shot and capped off his amazing night with an empty net goal.

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Lemieux celebrates his remarkable five goals on New Year's Eve

Game 1 of the series went to Pittsburgh 4-3 at home, but the Flyers countered with a 4-2 win in Game 2 on the road. The Penguins returned the favor, taking Game 3 in Philadelphia after 12 minutes of overtime by a score of 4-3. The Flyers responded with a 4-1 win in Game 4 to even the series as the teams headed back to Pittsburgh for Game 5 on this date in 1989.

Tom Barrasso got the start in goal for the Penguins while Ron Hextall was the starter for Philadelphia.

Lemieux opened the scoring with his 7th goal of the playoffs at 2:15 with assists from Paul Coffey and Kevin Stevens at even strength. Just 1:30 later Lemieux would strike again at 3:45 from Bob Errey and Coffey, again at even strength for a 2-0 Penguins lead. Lemieux then completed his natural hat trick in four minutes and 40 seconds at 6:55 on the power play from John Cullen to put the Penguins up 3-0.

Errey made it 4-0 Pittsburgh 7:07 before Philadelphia got on the board to give them a glimmer of hope at 11:45. Lemieux then tied an NHL record when he scored his fourth goal of the first period, again on the power play, at 17:09 from Dan Quinn on a wraparound into an unguarded net after he stole the puck from Flyers goaltender Hextall, sending the home fans into a frenzy. Just 35 seconds later Troy Loney made the score a remarkable 6-1 for the Penguins after just one period.

Despite giving up 6 goals in the first period, Hextall came out to start the second period, which was more of the same, with the teams combining for five more goals. A mere six seconds into the second period, Pelle Eklund converted a power play opportunity into the second Flyers goal, but Stevens countered for the Penguins just 1:37 later from Coffey and Lemieux at even strength. 

At 9:07, Brian Propp beat Barrasso, but yet again Pittsburgh responded quickly when Rob Brown lit the lamp to restore the Penguins five goal lead at 10:35 from Lemieux and Zarley Zalapski. Brown then made the score 9-3 at 12:55 from Lemeiux and Coffey. It was Lemeiux's third assist of the period to give him 7 points on the night - so far - and resulted in Hextall mercifully being pulled after giving up his ninth goal of the game, but not before the fiery Flyers netminder was given a 10 minute misconduct penalty. Brian Dobbin of Philadelphia then received a match penalty for attempt to injure Cullen during their fight at 17:03. 

The Flyers let the Penguins know they were not going to quit when they scored a shorthanded goal at 48 seconds and then tried to make a game of it by scoring at 10:21, 13:02 on the power play and finally another one 17:23 to close the gap to a worrisome 9-7.

Hoping to pull off the miraculous comeback, Philadelphia pulled goaltender Ken Wregget, but Lemieux sealed the 10-7 victory for Pittsburgh with his fifth goal of the night at 19:23.

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Lemieux's hat trick in the opening seven minutes was just the beginning

The Flyers then began the "message sending" of the era with the game now out of hand with a fight at 19:44 and an all-out line brawl with only nine seconds remaining which included all the players on the ice, including the Flyers goaltender Ken Wregget, who got involved to keep the numbers even, as Philadelphia was shorthanded from the previous altercation. In all, there were six fighting majors, three misconducts, two roughing, three slashing plus single elbowing and charging penalties all in the last 16 seconds in addition to Wregget being tagged for leaving his crease.

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Lemieux tied NHL records for Most Goals in a Playoff Game (5) held by Newsy Lalonde (1919), Richard (1944), Darryl Sittler (1976) and Reggie Leach (1976) and Most Points in a Playoff Game (8) as well as most goals in one period in a playoff game (4 in the first period) and most assists in a period in a playoff game (3 in the second period) that night.

In the 71 year history of the NHL, 8 points in a playoff game  had only been accomplished once prior, that by Patrik Sundstrom just the year before Lemieux. No one has since equalled Lemieux's records of 5 goals or 8 points in a playoff game a quarter century later.

The eight point night was the third of Lemieux's season, as he put up eight in the fourth game of the season and again on New Year's Eve, the aforementioned night he scored goals in five different ways. Lemieux remains the only player in NHL history to have scored eight points in a game three separate times, a feat he accomplished in a single season! It also remained the last time anyone scored eight in a game for 23 years until Sam Gagner managed the feat in 2012 and ranks second all-time for most points in an NHL game behind Sittler's 10.

Today's featured jersey is a 1988-89 Pittsburgh Penguins Mario Lemieux jersey worn on the memorable night during which he scored a record tying 5 goals and 8 points during a single playoff game.

This was the first season for this particular lettering style on the Penguins jerseys with the names on the back now changing to a sans-serif block font. In addition, the font for the numbers changed slightly to a thicker font for the back numbers with the sleeve numbers becoming noticeably more squarish when compared to the previous style.


Today's video section takes a look at the Penguins - Flyers playoff series in 1989, which includes Lemeiux's historic eight point night in Game 5. Ah, Michael, Michael motorcycle!

Here is Brown scoring the Penguins 9th goal of the game, which sets off the always tightly-wound Hextall. Lemieux's assist was his 7th point of the game.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The NHL Record for Most Goals in One Period of a Playoff Game - 1979-80 New York Rangers Walt Tkaczuk Jersey

During the 1978-79 NHL season, the Philadelphia Flyers finished second in the Patrick Division with a 40-25-15 record for 95 points. In third place was the New York Rangers, who also had 40 wins but 29 losses and 11 ties, which left them four points back of the Flyers with 91 points.

In the first round of the playoffs, Philadelphia was paired with the Vancouver Canucks in a best-of-three series. Vancouver immediately put the Flyers on the brink of elimination with a 3-2 win in Philadelphia. The Flyers forced a third game with a 6-4 win in Vancouver and then eliminated the Canucks with a dominant 7-2 victory back at home.

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The 1978-70 Philadelphia Flyers

Meanwhile, the Rangers were also matched up with a cross-continent opponent in the Los Angeles Kings. Game 1 in Madison Square Garden was a laugher, 7-2 in favor of the blueshirts. Two days later the teams reconvened in California, where New York got a much tougher battle as the Kings fought to keep their season going, but fell to the visitors 2-1 in overtime.

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The 1978-79 New York Rangers

Round 2 then saw the Patrick Division rivals squaring off in a series which began on April 16, 1979 in Philadelphia. After Bill Barber scored with 4:59 to play, the game went to overtime tied at 2-2 and Ken Linseman won it for the Flyers just 44 seconds into overtime.

Game 2 was tied at 1-1 after 8 minutes, but from then on it was all Rangers as they reeled off six consecutive goals to win going away 7-1 with Ron Greschner leading the way with a pair of goals against Robbie Moore.

Game 3 in New York was more of the same, as the Flyers led 1-0 after the first period, but the Rangers roared to life with 2 goals in the first three minutes of the second period on their way to a 5-1 win.

An on form John Davidson was too much for the Flyers as he shut out Philadelphia in Game 4 after making 28 saves. Davidson had now allowed the Flyers just two goals over the last three games. Meanwhile, the Rangers offense continued to roll with 5 more goals, including 2 from Don Murdoch and 2 from Ed Johnstone.

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John Davidson

After being held to one goal in New York, the Flyers were relieved to be back at home in The Spectrum for Game 5 on this date in 1979. Davidson was back in goal for the Rangers, while Wayne Stephenson got the call over Moore for Philadelphia.

With Mel Bridgman in the penalty box for the Flyers, Greschner scored his 4th of the playoffs from Phil Esposito and Mike McEwen for a power play goal at 9:55 of the first period.

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Ron Greschner

At 12:44, Mario Marois was sent off for the Rangers, but veteran Walt Tkaczuk scored a shorthanded goal from Dave Farrish at 13:26 for a 2-0 lead for New York after one.

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Walt Tkaczuk

Offering no hint as to what was to come, there was no scoring in the second period despite two power plays for New York, including a two man advantage for 57 seconds. Of note, Paul Holmgren and Rangers goaltender Davidson were called for matching minors for the second time in the game at 18:58!

The fans had barely settled into their seats when Tkaczuk scored an unassisted goal at 2:03 for a 3-0 Rangers lead. Steve Vickers then made it 4-0 at 4:13 from Tkaczuk to really put the Flyers season in jeopardy.

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Steve Vickers

Ernie Hickey was then called for a penalty against New York at 7:01 only to have the flashy Ron Dugay score from Swede Anders Hedberg and Vadnais at 8:19 for a demoralizing shorthanded goal to extend the Rangers lead to 5-0.

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Ron Dugay

Not going down without a fight, Reggie Leach beat Davidson for the first Flyers goal in 179 minutes, dating back to the second minute of Game 3. Leach's goal came on a power play from Blake Dunlop and Holmgren at 10:37.

Less than two minutes later, Bob Dailey added a second goal for Philadelphia from Dennis Ververgaert and Linseman at 12:21.

Three minutes passed before Behn Wilson scored the third consecutive goal for the Flyers from Linseman and Ververgaert at 15:27 to reduce the Rangers lead to 5-3 with four and a half minutes still to play.

Flyers head coach Fred Shero pulled Stephenson for an extra attacker, but Vadnais scored an empty net goal from Dugay and Farrish at 16:50.

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Carol Vadnais

In full desperation mode, Shero again pulled his goalie for an extra attacker but Johnstone scored his fourth goal of the playoffs (after only 5 in the regular season) in an empty net at 17:24 from Don Maloney and Esposito.

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Ed Johnstone

Finally, with 34 seconds left to play, Hedberg made the final score 8-3 when he scored the record setting ninth goal of the period from Vickers and Tkaczuk. It was the sixth goal of the third for New York, who had the first three and then the final three after the Flyers attempt at a comeback in the middle portion of the period.

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Anders Hedberg

The final shots on goal were 23 for New York and 28 for the home Flyers as the Rangers closed out the series 4 games to 1 in record setting fashion.

The fifth seeded Rangers would advance to face the #1 New York Islanders, who they would defeat in six games to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals against the Montreal Canadiens. New York would win Game 1 4-1, but lose the next four in a row as Montreal would win their fourth consecutive Stanley Cup and tenth of the last 15 seasons.

Today's featured jersey is a 1978-79 New York Rangers Walt Tkaczuk jersey as worn during the record setting third period of the Rangers playoff game against the Flyers when both teams combined for nine goals in one period.

1978-79 was the first season the Rangers changed back to their classic style jersey after two seasons in a modernized jersey which featured the Rangers shield logo rather than their traditional jerseys which dated back to the team's formation in 1926, only now with "New York" on the front rather than "Rangers" as they had worn for both home and road games, even after introducing a white jersey in 1951. This put the Rangers more in line with the general practice of wearing their name on their home jerseys and their location on their road jerseys. The "New York" cresting would last nine seasons until they reverted to "Rangers" on both the home and roads once again.

Tkaczuk had two goals during the game, including the first goal of the record setting third period. He also assisted on the second goal and the ninth one as well.

 photo New York Rangers 1979-80 F jersey.jpeg
 photo New York Rangers 1979-80 B jersey.jpeg

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1978-79 New York Rangers Anders Hedberg jersey as worn during the record setting third period of the Rangers playoff game against the Flyers when both teams combined for nine goals in one period.

Hedberg scored the final goal of the record setting third period and also had an assist on the third one as well.

 photo New York Rangers 1978-79 jersey.jpeg
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Extra bonus jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is a 1978-79 Philadelphia Flyers Reggie Leach jersey as worn during the record setting third period of the Flyers playoff game against the Rangers when both teams combined for nine goals in one period.

Leach scored the first goal of the Flyers attempt at a comeback, which was the fourth goal of the record setting third period.

 photo Philadelphia Flyers 1978-79 F jersey.jpg
 photo Philadelphia Flyers 1978-79 B jersey.jpg

Sunday, April 23, 2017

1979-80 Washington Capitals Ryan Walter Jersey

Born on this date in 1958, Ryan Walter first played junior hockey for the Langley Lords in the British Columbia Junior Hockey League in the 1973-74 season, demonstrating his potential with 40 goals and 102 points in 62 games. In a bit of foreshadowing, he also played a pair of games for the Kamloops Chiefs in the Western Canada Hockey League, a step higher than the BCJHL.

For 1974-75, Walter scored 32 times on his way to 92 points in 54 games. He again played with Kamloops in the WCHL, scoring 8 goals and 12 points in 9 games.

He moved to Kamloops full time for the 1975-76 season, needing no adjustment period, as he scored 35 goals and 84 points in 72 games. He had a 40 goal season with the Chiefs in 1976-77 with 41 and totaled 99 points, second best on the club and one short of equaling his penalty minute total for the season.

For the 1977-78 season, the Chiefs relocated to Seattle, Washington and were renamed the Seattle Breakers. Walter was named as the team captain and again finished second on the team with 54 goals and 71 assists for 125 points, which earned him WCHL MVP honors. The club would be known as the Breakers through the 1984-85 season before they were subsequently renamed the Thunderbirds after a change in ownership and continue to play in Seattle today.

During the holidays that season, Walter captained the Canadian team at the 1978 World Junior Championships, where he scored 5 goals and 8 points in 6 games on his way to winning a bronze medal.

That summer, Walter, a center, was selected second overall in the 1978 NHL Amateur Draft behind only Bobby Smith.

Walter would miss the Capitals training camp due to an injury suffered over the summer playing sports with his younger brother. As a result, he would play 2 games with the Calgary Wranglers of the Western Hockey League before joining Washington, the only two minor league games of his career. Once called up to the NHL, Walter would make the jump with ease, playing in 69 games and scoring an impressive 28 goals and 56 points as a rookie, a season which saw him finish second in Rookie of the Year voting.

His fine season earned him a place on the Canadian roster for the 1979 World Championships, where he scored 4 times in 8 games.

The Capitals then made Walter, at just 21 years old, the youngest captain in league history for the 1979-80 season. He set a club record with 12 power play goals on his way to a 24 goal, 66 point season.

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Walter wearing the "C" as the captain of Washington

His 1980-81 season was a virtual repeat, as in 80 games he had an identical 24 goals and 44 assists for 68 points, along with a career high of 150 penalty minutes. After the conclusion of the NHL season, Walter again suited up for Canada at the 1981 World Championships.

Walter had a career season in 1981-82 for the Capitals, setting career highs in goals with 38, assists with 49 and points with 87. With Washington missing the playoffs yet again, Walter was available for his third World Championships in four seasons. He played in 4 of Canada's 10 games, scoring a goal and 3 assists as the Canadians took home the bronze medal.

With the Capitals never having made the playoffs in their eight seasons of existence, Washington was looking to revamp their roster and sent their captain Walter, along with Rick Green, to the Montreal Canadiens in a blockbuster trade in exchange for Doug Jarvis, Rod Langway, Craig Laughlin and Brian Engblom.

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Walter's card showing him in a Capitals jersey
reflects his trade to Montreal

His first season with the Canadiens saw Walter's offensive game pick up where he left off in Washington, scoring 29 goals and 46 assists for 75 points, finishing just one point back of Guy Lafleur for the team lead. He also got his first taste of playoff hockey, albeit for a brief 3 games.

His style of play also changed with the move to Montreal, as after penalty minute totals of 150 and 142 his final two seasons with the Capitals, he only had over 60 penalty minutes once while with the Canadiens. Additionally, his annual playoff appearances would bring an end to his international hockey career, as he was no longer available during the World Championships as he had been with the Capitals.

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Walter was traded to Montreal in 1982

From the 1983-84 season on, Walter's role with the Canadiens changed to a less offensive role, which was reflected in his point totals. He still hit 20 goals that season, but his point total was reduced to 49 and he would never reach 50 again.

He had 19 goals and 19 assists in 1984-85 for 38 points, but he was able to add 9 points in 12 playoff games.

Walter had 15 goals and 49 points in 1985-86, but broke his ankle with three games left in the regular season which caused him to miss much of the playoffs. He was able to return in time to play in 5 postseason games, which earned him his name on the Stanley Cup, as the Canadiens defeated the Boston Bruins in 3 straight, narrowly escaped the Hartford Whalers by winning in overtime of Game 7, cruised past the New York Rangers in 5 and won the championship in 5 games over the Calgary Flames.

After a 23 goal, 46 point season in 1986-87, the Canadiens went on another deep playoff run, and Walter had a fine postseason with 19 points in 17 games. Injuries limited him to 61 games and 36 points in 1987-88. For the 1988-89 season, Walter had 14 goals for his 11th consecutive season of double digit goals dating back to the start of his career. He would finish with 31 points and in the playoffs, in 21 games, he would add just 3 goals, but one was a double overtime winner in Game 3 of the 1989 Stanley Cup Finals against the Calgary Flames, the last time to date two Canadian teams would play for the Cup.

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Walter in the 1989 Stanley Cup Finals

His offensive numbers dipped in 1989-90 to just 8 goals and 24 points in 70 games, his first time under 30 points in his career. Worse, he only played in 25 games in 1990-91 after breaking his wrist early in the season and was ineffective on his return, with just one assist for the season followed by 5 scoreless playoff games, which brought an end to his time in Montreal.

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Walter played nine seasons for the Canadiens

He returned home to British Columbia for the 1991-92 season when he signed as a free agent with the Vancouver Canucks. Named as an assistant team captain, Walter played in 67 games that season, contributing 6 goals and 17 points and another 3 assists in 13 playoff games. His 1992-93 season was another abbreviated one. Although he played in just 25 total games, they included Walter playing in his 1,000th career game on March 20, 1993 against the New York Islanders. Not offered a contract for the following season, Walter chose to retire as a player.

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Walter finished his career with Vancouver

His final career totals were 1,003 games played with 264 goals and 382 assists for 646 points along with a World Championship bronze medal and a Stanley Cup championship with Montreal in 1986.

Today's featured jersey is a 1979-80 Washington Capitals Ryan Walter jersey from the season the Capitals made the 21 year old Walter the youngest captain in NHL history, keeping in mind that prior to the expansion that allowed the four surviving WHA teams into the NHL, players could not be drafted by NHL clubs until they were 20 years of age.

After starting life in the NHL with this style, the changes were few. While they began with names on the back of the home white jerseys, the road reds did not get names until they were required by NHL rules until 1977-78. After two seasons they were reduced one color white for the 1979-80 season. The sleeves changed from five stars to four in 1983 for two seasons and then the names became two colors again in 1987-88 and remained that way until the 1984-85 season, the last for the Capitals original jerseys.

After wearing their original white jerseys as a throwback for the 2011 Winter Classic, that jersey became the team's new third jersey for the following season. In 2015-16, the capitals would change their throwback alternate from the white version to the red version.

 photo Washington Capitals 1980-81 F jersey.jpg
 photo Washington Capitals 1980-81 B jersey.jpg

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1978-79 Washington Capitals Ryan Walter jersey worn during his rookie season prior to being named their team captain. The difference between this and his 1979-80 jersey shown above is the original use of two color names on the back, which was simplified to one color names for for eight seasons until becoming two color names again in 1987-88.

 photo Washington Capitals 1979-80 F jersey.jpg
 photo Washington Capitals 1979-80 B jersey.jpg

Extra bonus jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is a 1985-86 Montreal Canadiens Ryan Walter jersey from the season Montreal won the only Stanley Cup of Walter's career.

Montreal first introduced a white jersey for the 1935-36 season, By 1941-42, the red shoulders and twin red and blue stripes arrived and this style has remained in use essentially unchanged since then, save for the 1944-45 to 1946-47 seasons when the club added the a blue band around the chest identical to their famous red jerseys.

 photo Montreal Canadiens 1985-86 A F jersey.jpg
 photo Montreal Canadiens 1985-86 A B jersey.jpg

In today's video section, Walter is now a motivational speaker, and here he talks about having to miss most of the 1986 Stanley Cup playoffs.

In this next video, Walter takes on Boston's Mike Milbury, and it's always nice to see Milbury dropped like a sack of potatoes.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

1987 United States National Team Bob Mason Jersey

Born on this date in International Falls, Minnesota, goaltender Bob Mason first played for the Green Bay Bobcats of the United States Hockey League in American junior hockey for two seasons prior to playing his college hockey for the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs in the highly competitive Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

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After a tough first year when he was 9-15-3 with a 4.45 goals against average, Mason showed his potential with a turnaround 1982-83 season when he was 26-16-1 with a 3.49 goals against which earned him the WCHA Player of the Year award.

That performance caught the attention of USA Hockey, which named him to the United States National Team for the 1983-84 season. Mason was 17-10-5 in preparation for the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. He played in 3 games during the Games, with a 1-0-1 record and a 3.75 goals against.

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After the conclusion of the Olympics, Mason, an undrafted free agent, signed with the Washington Capitals. He then played in 5 games with their American Hockey League affiliate, the Hershey Bears. With Hershey, he was a less than impressive 1-4 with a goals against over 5.50. Still, he was called up to the NHL and played a pair of games with the Capitals, winning both while only allowing 3 total goals.

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For the 1984-85 season, Mason played the majority of this games with the Binghamton Whalers of the AHL, putting up a fine 10-6-1 record with a 3.31 GAA. When recalled by Washington, he again impressed with a 8-2-1 record in 12 appearances with a 2.81 GAA.

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Despite his success when playing in the NHL, the young Mason was third on the Capitals depth chart behind the duo of Pat Riggin and Al Jensen, who combined to win the Jennings Trophy for Washington for allowing the least number of goals in 1983-84 and then behind Jensen and Pete Peeters in 1985-86.

So, for the 1985-86 season, Mason was with Binghamton in the AHL once again, playing in 34 games with a 20-11-2 record and a slightly higher 3.90 GAA. His lone appearance with the Capitals saw him get a win in 16 minutes of playing time while facing 5 shots without allowing a goal.

Finally, for the 1986-87 season, Mason was finally cracked the Capitals lineup, where he split time with Peeters, who played in 37 games to Mason's 45 while Jensen was in the net for just 6. Mason led the team in wins with 20, while taking 18 losses to go with 5 ties. In the interests of completeness, Mason did play in a pair of games in Binghamton, going 1-1 with a goals against of 2.02.

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Mason's final game with the Capitals was a memorable one, as the Capitals and the New York Islanders playoff series stretched to a Game 7. The game began on Saturday, April 18th, and the teams alternated goals until the Islanders tied the game at 2-2 with 5:23 to play in regulation. The game went to overtime and neither team could score after each taking 11 shots on goal. The Capitals pressed hard in the second overtime, outshooting the Islanders 17-9, but Mason and Kelly Hrudey refused to crack. The third overtime saw New York hold a narrow 11-10 margin in shots as the game stretched into the night. Midnight arrived as the game now extended into Easter Sunday. Finally, at 8:47 of the fourth overtime, Pat Lafontaine wheeled and fired a shot past Mason to win the fifth longest game in Stanley Cup history, the longest playoff game in 36 years and the longest Game 7 ever, 3-2 in what has become known as the Easter Epic.

 photo LaFontaine Mason Easter Epic.jpg

Later that fall, Mason was chosen to be on the roster for the United States at the 1987 Canada Cup tournament.

Mason left Washington before the next season began and signed with the Chicago Blackhawks as a free agent for the 1987-88 season. He would play in 41 games with Chicago, splitting time with Darren Pang in goal. Mason would finish with a 13-18-8 record, but as Pang got more and more playing time in the second half of the season, and the crease in Chicago about to get very crowded (Pang (35 games), Alain Chevrier (27), new arrival Ed Belfour (23) and Jimmy Waite (11) would all compete for playing time), Mason was traded to the Quebec Nordiques for the 1988-89 season.

 photo Mason Blackhawks.jpg

Unfortunately for all involved, the Nordiques would finish last in the NHL and Mason would bear the brunt of their poor performance, as he would finish the forgettable season with a 5-14-1 record and a demotion to the Halifax Citadels of the AHL. Playing a 23 games with Halifax, Mason showed his worth with an 11-7-1 record and a goals against a full 1.30 lower than his 4.73 NHL rating.

 photo Mason Nordiques.jpg

Mason was traded back to Washington for the 1989-90 season and split time between the Capitals (16 games, 4-9-1) and the Baltimore Skipjacks of the AHL (13, 9-2-2). Washington released Mason at the end of the year and he signed with the Vancouver Canucks organization to add depth to their roster.

 photo Mason Baltimore.jpg

He would play the majority of the 1990-91 season with the Milwaukee Admirals of the International Hockey League, playing in 22 games, winning 8. He would also go 2-4 during his 6 games played with Vancouver, which would prove to be his final games in the NHL.

Mason would not play in the NHL in 1991-92, which allowed him to see action in 51 games for the Admirals that season, winning 27 while losing 18 with 4 ties and a 3.39 GAA. For the 1992-93 season, Mason would be the number one goaltender for the Hamilton Canucks in the AHL, finishing with 44 games played and lead the team with a 20-19-3 record and a 3.67 goals against average.

He would return to Milwaukee and the IHL for the 193-94 season, where he had an excellent season, ending with a 21-9-8 record for the Admirals. He would play one final season, playing in 13 games for Milwaukee with a 7-4-1 record and a single game for the Fort Wayne Komets, also of the IHL.

His final NHL totals were 145 games played with 55 wins, 65 losses and 16 ties and a career goals against average of 3.75.

Following his playing career, he was a goaltending coach at the University of Minnesota for three years until being hired by the Atlanta Thrashers as a goaltending consultant for three seasons, Then in 2002-03, he took the same position with the Minnesota Wild and is now in his 15th season as their goaltending coach, which included guiding Niklas Backstrom and Manny Fernandez to the Jennings Trophy in 2007.

Today's featured jersey is a 1987 United States Bob Mason jersey from the 1987 Canada Cup tournament, the predecessor to the current World Cup of Hockey. Canada was frustrated with the state of international hockey, as the Canadian professionals were not allowed to participate in amateur-only events like the Olympics, while the World Championships were always held while the NHL playoffs were in progress, which combined to keep the best Canadian players shut out of the highest profile international tournaments.

Meanwhile, the best players from the communist European nations, the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia in particular, established a system where their players were considered to be members of their military whose assigned duties were to play hockey, a technicality which allowed them to maintain their amatuer status for their entire career, while countries like the United States and Canada were limited to young, non-professional players. Later agreements allowed professionals, but the timing of the Olympics taking place during the NHL season still kept the best Canadian and American players out of the Games.

1972 saw the Summit Series, an eight game exhibition series of games between the top Canadian professionals and the best the Soviets had to offer, which was an emotionally charged event that captivated the hockey world as the styles and cultures clashed for the first time. Two years later they tried to catch lightning in a bottle once again, with the Soviets now facing a team of pros from the World Hockey Association, such as Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull, who was locked out of the 1972 event due to having jumped to the WHA, angering the powers that be in the NHL who kept him out of the original Summit Series despite is undisputed qualifications.

Seeking to capitalize on the two team Summit Series, the Canada Cup was born in 1976, which took place in the fall prior to the NHL season, which allowed the best players to all compete in a tournament format, as now the United States, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, Finland and West Germany were added to the competition in addition to the Soviets and Canadians.

The Canada Cup was held five times, 1976, 1981, 1984, 1987 and 1991, with Canada winning all but the 1981 edition, which went to the Soviets.

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photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1985-86 Washington Capitals Bob Mason jersey .

 photo Washington Capitals 1985-86 F jersey.jpg
 photo Washington Capitals 1985-86 B jersey.jpg

In today's video section, highlights of the Easter Epic, the four overtime game between the Capitals and Islanders with Mason making 54 saves in goal for Washington.

Next, Mason is flattened by Shane Corson during one of his limited appearances for Vancouver.

Finally, Mason discusses his career as a goaltending coach and his current work for the Wild with their current top goaltender Devan Dubnyk.


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