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May 04, 2011

1968 Stanley Cup: Montreal Canadiens

The year is 1968. The NHL looks much different.

Having completed the first season of expansion, the 12 team NHL allows 8 teams to qualify for the revamped Stanley Cup playoffs. This results in a third round, lengthening the run to the championship significantly. Teams would have to be victorious in the quarter-finals and semi-finals before competing for the Cup in the finals.

In order to promote Stanley Cup hockey in the new markets of St. Louis, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Los Angeles, Oakland and Pittsburgh, it was decided early on to essentially split the league up between the Original Six, and the new six. One of the new six teams was guaranteed to compete in the Stanley Cup finals!

That team turned out to be the St. Louis Blues, who escaped back-to-back 7 game series against Philadelphia and Minnesota. Their reward - the right to face the heavily favored Montreal Canadiens in the finals.

St. Louis had a definite Montreal flavour in their roster. Players included former Habs like Doug Harvey, Red Berenson, and Dickie Moore. But it was the coaching of a young Scotty Bowman, who left the Montreal organization to take the job in St. Louis, and the goaltending of former Chicago great Glenn Hall that really keyed the Blues' deep run.

Montreal appeared to have no problem with the Blues, sweeping the series 4 games to 0. Upon closer inspection the series was a very tight one, with every game decided by just one goal. Two of the games went into overtime.

3 comments:

jchi said...

In Alan Bass's book The Great Expansion (thanks to the HockeyBookReviews recommendation), on page 169 Bass quotes Stan Fischler as saying that the first three post-expansion Cup finals were "shams".

(Fischler also hyperbolically derides Orr's OT winner in 1970 as "the phoniest goal in the history of sports." Was Fischler having a bad day when Bass interviewed him?)

What's your opinion of the 68,69,70 Stanley Cups -- were they tainted by forcing an expansion team to be in the final? The Blues kept many of the games close but they were swept in all three finals.

Anonymous said...

They kind of were, given that they were rejects on these teams. I believe that St.Louis had a losing record in 1967-68.

Anonymous said...

I recall watching these games closely. They were close yes but seemingly not 1 ever felt in doubt that somehow Montreal would win
I have seen much worse finals since then.

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