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April 30, 2010

1941 Stanley Cup: Boston Bruins

The year is 1941. The Boston Bruins are determined to finish the season as Stanley Cup champions. The Detroit Red Wings are the opposition. Despite keeping all the games within a goal, the Wings are swept 4 games to 0.

The Bruins iced essentially the same team that had won the title in 1939. With a better showing in 1940 this Bruins team may have been held in better esteem in the eyes of history. Even as it is they should rank among the best ever.

Milt Schmidt was easily the Bruins MVP in the spring of '41. The Bruins lost NHL scoring leader and MVP Bill Cowley to a knee injury in the very first game of the playoffs. Schmidt came through with his hard-checking, Bryan Trottier-like style, earning him mention as a game star in four of the semifinal games against Toronto. In the finals he registered points in all four games, registering 3 goals and 7 points in the final 4 games of the season. He led all playoff performers with 5-6-11 totals.

Here's how Milt Schmidt remembered the series:

"Winning that series in four straight was no surprise to us. We had a great hockey club at that stage, no doubt about it. It was a great hockey club at that stage, no doubt about it. It was a wide-open series against Detroit, and that favored us, because we had a good skating club and a good scoring club. We had guys like Bill Cowley and Roy Conacher and Herbie Cain and myself and Bobby Bauer on our line. If it had been a hitting series, a heavy body-checking series, it would have taken a little away from our greatest assets - skating and moving the puck around. But we had "Big Dit" (Clapper), and after 20 years Dit was well respected around the league. They used to say he could have been the heavy-weight champion of Canada if he'd wanted to. We had the muscle in Clapper - he was what they call a 'policeman' today - and I guess maybe that was the reason Detroit left us alone.

Missing from this Bruins team was the great Eddie Shore. Shore was traded to the New York Americans in exchange for forward Eddie Wiseman. Wiseman may be long forgotten in NHL history, but the trade paid off nicely in the spring of 1941. Wiseman led all NHL players with 6 goals in the playoffs, including 3 in the low scoring finals against Detroit.

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