Tuesday, December 8, 2009
On this date in 1997 the Toronto Maple Leafs played their 5,000th game in team history, defeating the Dallas Stars by a score of 3-0.
The game left the Maple Leafs with an all-time record of 2,139 wins against 2,135 losses and 726 ties.
Igor Korolev opened the scoring with assists from Mats Sundin and Mike Johnson at 14:04 of the first period after Sundin centered a pass from behind the net, which Korolev put past Dallas goaltender Ed Belfour on his stick side.
Following a scoreless second period in which each team had a pair of powerplays, Sundin put the Maple Leafs ahead 2-0 from Rob Zettler at 1:27 of the third period on a backhander into the top left corner.
"I faked a shot and the defenseman went down so I tried to wait to find some room in the net," Sundin said. "I was almost down to the red line and I wanted to make sure I got it over his pad. It was a little fluky but a nice goal to get."
Dallas had one powerplay at 9:26 but failed to convert and Sundin got his second goal and third point of the night with an emptynetter from center ice at 18:49 to seal the victory.
Felix Potvin got the shutout for Toronto, his first since defeating the same Dallas Stars by the same score 21 months prior.
"We've been knocked down a lot of time this year, had some bad games and we've been bouncingback up," Sundin said. "The first and second periods tonight may have been our best periods of the year. They played good and we played really solid, it's big for Felix, really important for his confidence."
The loss ended a seven game winning streak for Dallas, who were leading the league in points at the time of the game.
"We played a solid game from the start to the end, it's a good game for our confidence," Potvin said. "It's nice to get a shutout, but even if it's 3-2 or 2-1, it's a good team to beat."
Today's featured jersey is a Nike 1997-98 Toronto Maple Leafs Felix Potvin jersey. In many ways, this jersey can trace it's origins back to the 1991-92 Turn Back the Clock jersey worn during the NHL 75th Anniversary Season, when the Original Six teams all wore throwback jerseys, with the leafs being inspired by their 1940 sweaters.
Due to the overwhelming positive response to the throwback jerseys and it's vintage Maple Leaf crest, the Maple Leafs debuted a brand new set of jerseys for the 1992-93 season, supplanting those worn since 1970, a run of 22 seasons and honestly due for a replacement.
The new jerseys had the same twin stripes on the arms and waist as the 1940-based throwbacks and the same one color block font for the numbers with the addition of white cuffs and the collar changed from white to blue. The major departure from the throwbacks was the continuation of the modern Maple Leaf crest, also introduced in 1970, which continues to be used to this day. The vintage Maple Leaf logo from the throwback was retained in a simplified version without any wording, for use on the shoulders as a secondary logo.
For the 1997-98 season, the font for the names and numbers on the back of the jerseys was changed to the thicker, much more curvaceous font, now done with twin outlines of blue and white. Personally, we never really embraced the change to this new specification for the numbers in particular, feeling that they were too bloated and cartoonish for a jersey based on a 1940's original.
Apparently someone else felt the same way, as this style only lasted three seasons before giving way in 2000-01 to a much classier modernized block font with blue trim and the addition of a silver outline, as well as a new "TML" monogram for the shoulder logos, replacing the vintage Maple Leaf that inspired the change to the jersey in the first place. The vintage Maple Leaf logo would live on however, being the primary logo on the Maple Leafs new third jersey introduced the same season.
While we are often disappointed when searching YouTube for player highlights and finding nothing but fight videos, there is something we love about goalie fights, and no search on YouTube for "Felix Potvin" will allow you to avoid this clip of Potvin duking it out with the Flyers Ron Hextall. Potvin does a great job giving it right back, even changing hands at one point. In the end he opens up a cut on Hextall, much to the delight of Tie Domi.
Here is a well done tribute to Felix Potvin with more artistic flair than the usual highlight package and one we like very much.
Last up today are the Top 10 Goalie Masks in Maple Leafs history, although we'd rate Potvin in the top three after Cujo.