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April 18, 2007

NHL Playoff Legends - Steve Penney

Yesterday I posted about Ken Dryden, the lanky unknown goaltender who came out of nowhere to lead the Montreal Canadiens past Bobby Orr's Boston Bruins for an unexpected Stanley Cup championship.

Thirteen years later, another late season called up for Montreal followed almost exactly the same script.

Steve Penney, who earlier that season was the third stringer with AHL Nova Scotia, replaced an injured Rick Wamsley and slumping Richard Sevigny as starting goalie for the Montreal Canadiens on the eve of the playoffs.

His play in the playoffs was spectacular. First he led the Habs to a 3-0 series sweep over their arch rival Boston Bruins, including two road victories at the hostile Boston Gardens. Penney then pushed the Canadiens to a six game victory over the Quebec Nordiques, another other hated rival. Penney's magic would fall just short In the semifinals as the Canadiens lost to the defending champions NY Islanders in six games.

Penney was a sensation as the rookie led all playoff goalies with a fine 2.20 GAA. His 3 shutouts in the 15 games also led all goalies in the playoffs.

Penney would put together a solid rookie season, but soon would disappear from the NHL altogether. He would be replaced in Montreal by another hot rookie by the name of Patrick Roy.

Full Steve Penney Biography

Penney was not the first nor the last hot shot rookie to make a splash in the NHL playoffs, only to disappear shortly thereafter.

During World War II an unknown goalie named Frank "Ulcers" McCool replaced veteran Turk Broda. Despite facing obvious health concerns, McCool turned a rookie-of-the-year performance into a Stanley Cup championship. But Broda would soon return, and McCool was out of a NHL job.

Alfie Moore's story is even more improbable. In 1938, the minor leaguer was drinking away an afternoon lamenting the fact that he couldn't get tickets to that night's finals opener between Chicago and Toronto. Half cut, the Hawks came looking for Moore. Their regular goalie, Mike Karakas, could not play that night because of a broken toe. Moore sobered up, filled in, and won the game!

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