The Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins, and to a lesser extent, the NHL’s five other clubs, received a large offensive boost prior to the beginning of the 1929-30 season.
With new rules implemented to favour a more wide open game, the Bruins were even more threatening than the goal scoring machine they were a year prior. But the manner in which the NHL tinkered with the flow of play, and thus making the Bruins dominant early on, was perhaps too much of a good thing. The league had to amend its own ruling part way through the season, as the players were too often taking advantage of the new on ice liberties.
The 1928-29 season had seen scoring totals across the league dip to new lows. The game had evolved to the point where defensive schemes had the better of offensive skills, and the rules of the game were no help. There were a ridiculous 15 scoreless ties across the NHL in 1929. George Hainsworth led the league with a ridiculous 22 shutouts. Something had to be done.
The NHL had set upon trying to combat a drop in scoring for the past few seasons. In 1925, the league mandated that “no more than two defenseman (shall be) permitted to remain inside a team’s own blue line when the puck has left the offensive zone” and limited goaltenders pads to a 12 inch width. The following season, bluelines were moved to “sixty feet from the goal lines, thereby enlarging the neutral zone and standardizing the distance from blue line to goal.” In 1927, goalie pad width was again cut by two inches, and forward passing was now allowed in both the defensive and neutral zones. This facet of the game was further extended in 1928-29, when forward passes across the blueline came into play, provided the pass originated from the neutral zone. Forward passing, however, was not allowed inside the blueline.
In 1929-30, what helped the Bruins and every other team in the league pad it’s goal totals was the allowing of forward passes in all zones, including the offensive zone for the first time. This is where the forward passing privelege became abused, as players took to simply standing and waiting beside the goal for passes that would come from the middle of the ice.
On December 21, the NHL heads met to amend the rule, stating precisely that “no attacking player (is) allowed to precede the play when entering the opposing defensive zone”. More specifically, this was the creation of what is now the modern day offside rule. One season later, the rule was refined further when it was stated that “the puck must be first propelled into the attacking zone before any player of the attacking side can enter that zone.”
The newer, more precise restraints hardly slowed down the better squads of the day, but it did return the focus to speed and puck movement rather than stillness and passing. In all, it hardly seemed to thwart the 1929-30 Bruins best assets, as they recorded winning streaks of four, five, eleven, and fourteen games through the 44 game schedule. In all, Boston would win 38 games, including a consecutive 20 on home ice.
From the previous season in which goaltenders ruled and no team scored more than 89 goals, the NHL was now a more free flowing game and no team scored less than 102 goals in the season. Boston led the way with 179 tallies, and the Canadiens are Maroons were a distant second and third, with 142 and 141 goals respectively.
Howie Morenz, who finished seventh in points, was third in goals with 40 – his production more than doubling from the previous season. With an additional 10 assists, Morenz came near his personal points record of 51, a one time NHL standard that had now been obliterated by the Bruins Cooney Weiland, who hit for an outrageous 73 points in this season.
One thing was quite clear as the campaign progressed, and that was that the defending Cup champion Bruins were still the team to beat.
There were four new players for the Canadiens this season, in addition to two new goaltenders who subbed in George Hainsworth’s absense. Among them, defenseman Gord Fraser and Bert McCaffrey, and right winger Gus Rivers played mainly the roles of reserves and spares. Fraser appeared in ten games for the Canadiens after being acquired from Detroit for cash on October 10. The veteran of a pair of Cup finals with the Victoria Cougars, Fraser played only minimally with the Habs, and after sitting out a pair of games was loaned to the Providence Reds. Two weeks later, on December 23, he was sent to the Pittsburgh Pirates for McCaffrey.
The 36 year old McCaffrey had previously played with the Maple Leafs and St. Patricks and was employed in 28 games by Montreal, while also getting spot duty on the right wing. He added a goal and three assists and he would also return in part time role the following season.
After Hainsworth was injured in a 9-2 win over the New York Americans on February 22, the Canadiens called up farmhand Mickey Murray from the Providence Reds to play three nights later against the same Americans team in New York. Murray lost his only NHL start by a 4-2 score, and two nights later Montreal were loaned American’s goalie Roy Worters for a game – a 6-2 win over the Maple Leafs back at the Forum. Worters was given the game puck and his sweater for keepsakes from the game.
The Canadiens best addition of the season was a 26 year old right winger named Nick Wasnie. Signed as a free agent on November 10, Wasnie finished sixth in team scoring with 12 goals and 11 assists. Wasnie had played in Winnipeg, Newark and had a brief stint with the Blackhawks in 1927 before joining the Canadiens. His biggest contribution would come in the playoffs, when he led the team in scoring with 2 goals and as many assists in 6 games.
Prior to the start of the season, the Canadiens parted ways with Herb Gardiner, Art Gagne and George Patterson, as all three headed to the Bruins in a cash deal.
Two former Canadiens, Odie Cleghorn and Albert Corbeau returned to the league as officials.
Leo Dandurand and the group that purchased the Canadiens for $11,000 from George Kennedy received an offer from Americans financiers of $600,000 for the club, which they turned down. There was also an offer made for the services of Howie Morenz to the tune of $100,000.
Pit Lepine had a career game against the Ottawa Senators on December 14, scoring 5 goals in a 6-4 win at the Forum. Lepine also set up the sixth goal by Wasnie. Morenz matched the feat with a five goal performance of his own on the last night of the regular season on March 18 in an 8-3 routing of the Americans in front of 8,000 Forum faithful.
After consecutive 59 point seasons, the Canadiens slipped slightly to 51, on the strength of a 21-14-9 record. The Maroons also finished with 51 points, and ranked first ahead of the Habs with a 23-16-5 record. While the Canadiens only scored one goal more than their rivals, both teams allowed a total of 114 against, far off the Boston mark of 89. Both Montreal teams shared a similar fate when facing Boston, and only the Maroons were able to beat them on a single occasion – a 6-1 drubbing in Boston on November 26.
Following a disappointing last place finish in 1929, the Maroons rebounded nicely while winning the Canadian Division. Forward Nels Stewart had a stellar season with 39 goals, winning his second Hart Trophy. Maroons goalie Clint Benedict made history on February 20th, by becoming the first NHL goalie to wear protective gear to cover on his face. The leather cover, unlike any mask in it’s wake, was worn to protect a broken nose. It would be knocked off in a late season game, as Benedict’s nose is broken again, forcing him to retire from hockey.
The Maroons would suffer a letdown come playoff time, losing to the Boston Bruins in four games despite their first place finish.
When the playoffs arrived, many felt it would be simple childs play for Boston to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. Led by the devastating offense of the “Dynamite Line” featuring Weiland, Norm Gainor and Dit Clapper, and the defensive pairing of the wicked Eddie Shore and Lionel Hitchman, the Bruins seemed in all views to be invincible. Goalie Tiny Thompson had taken the Vezina Trophy honours from Hainsworth and Boston established eight NHL records in their season of dominance.
While Boston awaited its next rival, the Canadiens were having a tougher go of it. Starting off against the Chicago Blackhawks, Montreal went to extremities to edge the Hawks by the narrowest of margins. In the first game of a two game total goals series played in Chicago, the Canadiens lone goal scored by Wildor Larochelle was all they needed to win. Back at the Forum three nights later, a tie game was all the Canadiens needed for the series win. After 60 minutes, it was the Blackhawks who were ahead 2-1, and overtime was required to break the 2-2 total score deadlock. The Canadiens and Blackhawks played almost a full three periods of overtime, when Howie Morenz ended the suspense almost sixty minutes into extra play.
The Canadiens advanced to meet the New York Rangers, who had taken care of the Maple Leafs in the first round. Still reeling from three extra periods of hockey two nights earlier, Montreal needed a four overtime periods to solve the stubborn Rangers. Gus Rivers was the game’s hero in what would be the NHL longest game up until that point – a record was broken seven years later. The Canadiens finished off the Rangers two nights later, with a 2-0 win at Madison Square Garden.
Montreal now had the daunting task of containing the high powered Bruins offense in a best two of three Cup final.
Having lost center Gainor in the third game of the Maroons series, the Bruins were slightly off balance in game one and the Canadiens took advantage of it. Montreal, on goals by Lepine and Leduc, surprised the Bruins with a 3-0 win in Boston. The victory gave the Canadiens a huge lift and they came out flying two nights later at the Forum, jumping out to a 4-1 lead after two periods.
With a loud home crowd behind them to start the third period, the Habs looked to pad their lead and were quickly set on their heels by two Bruins goals to bring the game to 4-3. The Bruins attacked relentlessly, as they’d seemed to have broken through the defensive blanket thrown over them by the Canadiens in the first four periods of the series. Late in the period, the Bruins appeared to have tied the game, but it was ruled that Boston’s Marty Barry had kicked the puck past Hainsworth. Time elapsed, and the Canadiens had surprised the hockey world by slaying a Goliath for their third Stanley Cup.
The Canadiens went 5-0-1 in the playoffs, making them one of the few Cup winning teams in history to not lose a game in the playoffs.
Here is how the New York Times saw the game:
The Stanley Cup, the trophy awarded each year to the team winning the hockey championship of the world, is a small, insignificant looking container, filled with dents because it is a Canadian tradition for the winning team to drink champagne out of it and in the celebration of many victories the Cup has not always been handled carefully. It is competed for, after the regular playing season ends, in a complicated series of playoff games, a series designed for box-office purposes rather than for scrupulous fairness in picking a winner. Thus the Boston Bruins, the Chicago Black Hawks, the New York Rangers – finishing in the order named in the American group of the National Hockey League -played a preliminary series against the three leading teams in the International group – the Montreal Maroons, the Montreal Canadiens, the Ottawa Senators.
The Rangers won in the third – place playoff. Ching Johnson, big, bald, hooknosed, hip – swinging defense man of the Rangers, played with a grotesque aluminum protector strapped around his broken jaw. Frank Boucher, star centre, wore a cast of tape and bandage around ligaments he had torn away from his left collarbone shortly before the series. They came from behind in the third period of the deciding game with Ottawa, scored three times in three minutes, won at 5 to 2.
Howie Morenz of the Canadiens, the fastest skater in hockey, his round, heavy shoulders hunched toward his stick, his strong legs pumping in characteristic gait resembling a shuffle, but matchless in speed, broke a tie and won his team’s series by curling a high shot past Gardner, frenzied Chicago goalie, who had stopped everything up to that time.
Against the Rangers in the second round of the playoffs, Desrivieres, rookie of the Canadiens, got his stick on the puck at a moment when the regulars of both teams were exhausted by an overtime period which had lasted 68 minutes. Desrivieres flipped it in, and in the second game, played in Madison Square Garden, the Canadiens had no trouble winning again, qualifying for a final series against Boston.
Now something happened that seemed impossible in the light of past performances. The Bruins had broken all records in the regular season for number of points and number of goals scored. They had won 38 games, lost only five. They had beaten the pugnacious, heavy Maroons in a bruising first place playoff series. In a way, by their point lead and their victory over the Maroons, they had already, so far as most people could see, won the world’s championship twice, but the Canadiens, brilliant, temperamental, undependable, and given a chance by the queer playoff system which puts the first three teams in each group on an equal basis regardless of what they have done in the regular season, found a way to stop them.
Instead of using all their speed in attacking, in their usual fashion, they went down the ice only in occasional rushes, concentrated on defense, the two wings wedging the opposing puck carrier, the centre checking back for passes, and the ordinary defense men furiously upsetting any Bruin who managed to get through this network. Morenz seemed to be in a thousand places at once, shooting oftener than anyone else, checking back like a lightning bolt.
For a while in the last period of the second game, played in Montreal after the Canadiens had won in Boston, the Bruins played with five men down the ice. They whacked shot after shot against the pads of Goalie Hainsworth, scored once and seemed about to do it again when the gong rang and the game ended with the Canadiens winners, 4-3.
Idols of the French section of Montreal, the Canadiens rushed jubilantly to the dressing room, hearing, as they put on their clothes, the murmur of the crowd waiting in the cold outside the Forum for them to come out and take a bow.
|1928-29 NHL season
|1929-30 NHL season
|1930-31 NHL season