August 13, 2014

1955-56: Hockey's Greatest Dynasty Begins

The Three Stars:

Habs Win First of Five Stanley Cups In A Row: The Montreal Canadiens, led by wandering Vezina trophy winning goalie Jacques Plante, Hart and Art Ross trophy winner Jean Beliveau, Norris Trophy winner Doug Harvey, and of course the legendary Rocket Richard (now joined by his brother Henri "The Pocket Rocket" Richard) win the first of an amazing five consecutive Stanley Cup championships. The Habs discard their arch rivals from Detroit in 5 games.

Toe Blake Takes The Helm: A major reason for the Habs success in the second half of this decade was the stewardship of new coach Toe Blake. Blake is often considered to be one of the greatest coaches of all time - so much so that many forget he was a Hall of Fame player before that.

Wings Trade Sawchuk: In a shocking trade the Detroit Red Wings move superstar goalie Terry Sawchuk to Boston in a nine player trade. Wings GM Jack Adams was heavily criticized but he truly believed in the young rookie in waiting named Glenn Hall. Hall posted a 30-24-16 record while playing in all 70 games, and would soon earn the nickname "Mr. Goalie" and is generally credited as the goalie who created the "butterfly" style of goaltending. Adams pulled another trade involving seven players, perhaps the biggest revamp of a Stanley Cup champion ever. When he's done, just nine players from the 1955 Stanley Cup championship team remain.

Season Highlights:
  • Sawchuk really struggled in Boston. With the weak Bruins he led the league with 33 losses and the frustration boiled over several times during the season. 
  • Jean Beliveau really emerged as the best player in hockey, winning both the Hart and the Art Ross trophies. It was Beliveau's third season, and a welcomed breakthrough as he did not live up to the incredible hype in the first two campaigns. This year though he paced everyone with 47 goals and 88 points and took no bull from anyone, as his 143 PIMs suggest.
  • Beliveau scored a hat trick in a span of just 44 seconds, all on the power play. In those days a penalized player had to serve the full 2 minutes and the opponent could score as many times as possible. The rule would change after another season, thanks largely to Montreal's vaunted power play and Beliveau's quick trick.
  • Leapin' Louie Fontinato handed out a lot of bull, as he became the first NHL player to earn 200 PIMs in a single season.
  • The Soviets win their first ever Olympic gold medal.

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