Ladies and gentlemen, today Iâ€™ll try to use a bit of the Leafs‘ ever glorious history to try and make todayâ€™s rivalry night even more special. Here goes nothing.
On this day in 1966, our Maple Leafs started paving a road to their last Stanley Cup. They started a season that will forever be remembered in the hearts of Leafs Nation members around the globe. Some of us read about it, watched rare vintage video, some of us even had the privilege to see it live.
The Cup winning season of 1966-67 started with a 4-4 tie against the New York Rangers. Rangersâ€™ leading point scorer and Hall-of-Famer, Rod Gilbert recorded a hat trick in the game but the Leafs still managed to draw the opener. Whatâ€™s interesting about this is that the Leafs didnâ€™t actually have a good regular season that year. We finished the 1966-67 regular season in 3rd place out of only six teams.
And now for the good stuff. The team didnâ€™t face just anybody in the 1967 Stanley Cup Final. Oh no, the opponents were nothing other than a frightening Canadiens team that was labeled by the media as a heavy favorite going into the Finals. Entering the Finals, the average age of the Leafs‘ players was 31, the oldest lineup ever to win the Cup.Â Some analysts even called the Leaf players has-beens, insulting them just to create more tension in an already molten encounter. But the players thought otherwise.
Montreal won the opener 6â€“2, soundly trouncing Toronto. For the second game, Terry Sawchuk was replaced by Bower and provided the Leafs with a 3-0 shutout win. Bower was in net for game three won 3â€“2 on Bob Pulford’s overtime goal. This game has been described as “one of the most exciting games ever played.” JohnnyÂ Bower was injured before game four and Sawchuk had to take over again. Al Smith was called up from the minors to serve as back-up for the fourth and fifth games. The Canadiens defeated the Leafs 6â€“2 to even the series. Everyone thought they were done. But one man, a man named Bob Pulford, thought otherwise. He proved everyone wrong by scoring the double-overtime winner in game three and Jim Pappin got the series clincher in game six of the series. Terry Sawchuk stopped 41 shotsÂ in that game which once again proved he is indeed one of the best goalies of all time.Â As the Maple Leafs lifted the Stanley Cup, Dave Keon was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player of the playoffs.
Even today, I see a similarity with that group, just not necessarily the Cup connection. The Montreal Canadiens are not a heavy favorite going into this one, one can strongly argue against calling them a favorite at all. Iâ€™d even speculate that this year we have more chance of winning the Cup than they do, even if it is a major stretch for both teams. However, our group is too an underrated bunch, this too is a team with something to prove. Letâ€™s hope that like the winners of old, they start proving it against Montreal.