Friday, March 18, 2011
The 1943-44 Montreal Canadiens opened their season with a 2-2 tie against the Boston Bruins at home on October 30, 1943. Three nights later they secured their first win of the season, also at home when they beat the New York Rangers 2-1. Following a win in Chicago against the Black Hawks, Montreal returned to The Forum and beat Chicago once again. Six days later the Detroit Red Wings fell to the Habs 4-1.
A two game road trip saw the Canadiens beat Detroit and tie Boston once again. They faced their rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs, whom they defeated 5-2 at home and then again 7-2 in Toronto. Following two ties against Boston, the Canadiens showed their superiority with a dominating 13-4 win over the Bruins.
The Rangers then fell 6-3 in Montreal prior to gaining a tie back in New York the next night. Back at the Forum, Montreal stretched their unbeaten streak to 11-0-3 with consecutive wins over Chicago and Detroit on December 2nd and 4th.
The Canadiens then suffered their first loss of the season, a close 5-4 loss to the Bruins in Boston. Six days later, the Canadiens extended their losing "streak" to two games following a 4-2 setback to the Maple Leafs in Toronto. It would be the only time all season that the Canadiens would lost back to back games.
Motivated to avenge their back to back losses, Montreal ripped off nine consecutive victories, five of them at home against each of the other five members of the Original 6 to give Montreal 20 wins agains two losses and three ties.
Montreal then lost 5-0 at Toronto on January 11, 1943 to end their winning streak. A tie back at the Forum against Detroit preceded a second consecutive tie, this one at Chicago. They then beat Boston in a home and home series before a tie at home against Toronto.
A win over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden proceeded a win over the Black Hawks at home by a convincing 6-1 score. The Canadiens were then blanked for the second and final time that season versus the Bruins in Boston 3-0.
The Canadiens then beat Toronto on the road and followed that with a tie against Chicago, 2-2. Montreal then reeled off ten consecutive wins from February 17th to March 11th, five of which came at home, to push their undefeated streak to 12.
The Bruins then dealt the Canadiens their fifth and final loss of the season, a 6-5 defeat in Boston.
Chicago fell 3-2 in Montreal before the Canadiens then demolished the Rangers 11-2 at the Forum on this date in 1944. Thanks to Phil Watson's four assists against New York, the Canadiens concluded the regular season with a 22-0-3 record at the Forum to become the first team to ever go undefeated for an entire season at home.
They concluded their regular season schedule with a 6-1 win over the Rangers in New York to finish first overall in the NHL with a 38-5-7 mark for 83 points, 25 more than the next best club.
They were led in scoring by Elmer Lach's 72 points, followed by Toe Blake's 59. Maurice "Rocket" Richard led the club in goals with 32 as part of his 54 points. Goaltender Bill Durnan played every minute of every game and led the league with a 2.18 goals against average, the only goaltender in the league with an average below 3.00.
Montreal went on to capture the Stanley Cup by winning eight of nine games, including sweeping Chicago in four straight in the finals, with their only loss coming in their opening game of their series against Toronto - at home in the Forum! After dropping Game 1 by a score of 2-1, the Canadiens outscored the Maple Leafs 22-3 over the next four games.
The championship for Montreal ended a 12 season Stanley Cup drought, the second longest in club history.
Today's featured jersey is a 1943-44 Montreal Canadiens Maurice "Rocket" Richard jersey. The white Canadiens jersey, long overshadowed by the iconic red jersey with it's blue chest stripe, was first introduced in 1935 for games against the Detroit Red Wings, who also wore red jerseys. In 1941 the red shoulder yoke and lace up collar was first added, creating the jersey that has remained essentially the same ever since, except for a brief three year period in the 1940's when the white jerseys had a blue chest stripe like the red jerseys, before changing back to the style that remains in use today.
From the time Montreal first wore a white jersey in 1935, the center of the logo was filled in with blue. This lasted until 1947-48 when the blue chest stripe was discontinued after just three seasons and the subsequent jersey no longer had the center of the crest filled in with blue. The lace up collar would last all the way until 1975 before being replaced by a v-neck collar.
Today's video section is a look at Maurice "Rocket" Richard, which includes both still photos and video footage of the legendary Canadien.