Two in three were excellent for the NHL before 1980


Two in three are not bad when Meat Loaf was eliminated in 1977, around the same time, the NHL made the most of a top three playoff.

It is said that such a shortened set could be relaunched whenever the NHL cautiously exits a pandemic postponement to help accelerate the completion of the 2019-2020 calendar.

“It would be really interesting as a way to resume play,” said former Maple Leafs captain Darryl Sittler, veteran of five of these 1975 heats until the league returned to longer rounds in 1980. ” You have teams that have had a solid season, but now almost everyone is healthy and would start at Ground Zero.

“It would be a very intense series with little margin for error. There may be asterisks at the end of the year, but unfortunately, this is the situation the league finds itself in today. “

In ’75, three of the four preliminary rounds were found to be upset. The Leafs were 27 points behind the Los Angeles Kings, but beat them in an ocean-to-coast marathon in just four days. The Chicago Blackhawks surpassed Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito in last year’s dynamic duo as the Bruins, while the New York Islanders, starting in post-season action, eliminated their bitter rivals on Broadway.

“You understand why they went the best of three, with more teams entering the league,” said Sittler. “But these were high pressure series. You almost had to win your first game, at home or away. “

Back on 10 of the best of the three, incredibly wild, with top seeds at the time:


Toronto (12) vs Los Angeles (4) – Leafs win 2-1

The first game in Tinseltown was swept away by the television Oscars while Toronto fans struggled to keep up with developments late at night.

Ron Ellis scored late to force overtime at 2-2, but future Leafs coach Mike Murphy won in overtime. Blaine Stoughton was the hero under similar circumstances for the Leafs at the Gardens and the tired teams returned to the West Coast to play again the following night.

“It was a four or five hour charter, then the game,” said Sittler of the condensed schedule.

But there was still a lot of fight in both teams. The bad blood of match 2 saw Sittler in two rumbles, with Gene Carr in the first faceoff, then Murphy, with his Leafs teammate Tiger Williams. In the final frame, with the Leafs 2-0 on goals from George Ferguson and Inge Hammarstrom, Dave Hutchinson of LA went after Williams into the penalty area, the two sticks swinging wildly.

While a few fans were trying to get to Williams, the camera caught the streak of California-dressed Eddie Shack and Brian Glennie leaving for the seats to intercede.

“Well, it was the mid-1970s,” said Sittler. “Each team had a badass and there were a lot of fights to clean the benches.

“The fans were also caught in this emotion. For players, the element of fear and courage was one of them. The guys hit hard and fought hard. I’m not taking anything away from the game today, but there was something serious about it then. It was for real. There was no place to hide. “

Don Kozak of Los Angeles moved his team closer to the board, but Gord (The Bird) McRae hung on to the net for the 2-1 victory. It was Sittler’s first win in series, but the Broad St. Bullies followed with a four-game sweep.

NY Islanders (8) against NY Rangers (7) – Isles wins 2-1

“It’s the series that started it all for the Islanders,” said Harry Klaff, The Hockey News correspondent for the team. “Until then, the rivalry with the Rangers was more like an assault. The Rangers were riding on them. “

Then, the Island’s high draft choices, like Denis Potvin, began to reverse the trend. In the spring of 1975, there was a tie, the two clubs finishing with 88 points. The Rangers had an advantage on the home ice over more wins and took a 2-0 lead in the third period at MSG in Game 1. But Billy Harris scored in power play, Jean Potvin (brother of Denis ) beat Ed Giacomin on a rebound and with less than seven minutes to go, freshman Clark Gillies had the final winner.

“Game 2 was over before it started,” Klaff chuckled. “The Rangers had a 3-0 early lead, Billy Smith replaced Chico Resch and it was an 8-3 final. Which brings us to match 3… ”

There were a lot of boasting among Ranger fans after a decisive road victory at the Nassau Coliseum. But they were silenced as Gillies scored at the end of the first period, the Potvins teamed up on power play and Denis added another. Giacomin argued at the end of the second period with the Garry Howatt Island pest, later saying he did it to excite his friends.

It worked because Bill Fairbairn scored in the third, kicked Steve Vickers, and then Vickers scored 14 seconds later on Smith. But woe to those of the restrooms, the beer line or just sitting in their seats who have missed the NHL’s fastest overtime goal so far.

“Jude Drouin won the draw and Dave Lewis threw it deep in the corner,” said Klaff from his original playing notes. “Drouin just flew there, about a foot from the red line with a perfect pass in front of J.P. Parise. Although Brad Park is all over him, Parise took a stick on it. “

It took 11 seconds.

“Do you know the expression” no cheers in the press “? Well, there were a lot of them at the time, “said Klaff. “Everyone around the Rangers said,” Forget it, the Islanders have no chance. “

Their story was just beginning. Eight more times in the coming weeks, they faced elimination, losing 3-0 to Pittsburgh then 3-0 to Philadelphia, ultimately losing game 7 of the conference finals to the Flyers. They made the playoffs a total of 14 consecutive seasons and won four cups in the early 1980s.

Chicago (11) vs. Boston (5) – Blackhawks win 2-1

“I always hated the first round,” said Boston coach Don Cherry several years after the overthrow. “You have to play with the team (outsider). They’re just happy to come in, they’re cowardly, cranky. I had a gun on my head. “

His Bruins could have looked at their significant advantage over Chicago in the standings and two stars 100 points away from Orr and Espo. The latter had a hat trick in an 8-3 loss in the first game. But Phil’s brother Tony atoned for the net, 33 saves in Game 2, while Ivan Boldirev won 4-3 in overtime.

Then, “Tony O” made 54 saves in the decisive game at Boston Garden after his team gained a 3-0 lead, started by Keith Magnuson in less than two minutes, when Chicago had only 19 shots total on Gilles Gilbert. The end marked a change of guard at Boston, as Orr’s worst problems with knee surgery quickly followed. Ironically, he would end his career in Chicago.


St. Louis (8) against Buffalo (1) – The Sabers win 2-1

The Sabers had reached the Cup 75 final and had barely avoided kayaking in this first series.

Their sworn enemy was a goalkeeper whose initial ambition was to join the Canadian army. Ed Staniowski was rather drafted by the province of origin Regina Pats and played well enough to be chosen by the Blues in the second round. In his rookie playoff debut, he was a 5-2 winner and would be an OT goal far from advancing to the quarterfinals.

The Sabers lagged behind opted for the second and third home games and needed a boost after Staniowski made 37 saves in Game 1. Staniowski followed with 39 of his 54 saves in the first two periods of the Auditorium, but no offensive aid was granted. there in a 3-2 loss.

“Staniowski came out of his tree the way he played,” recalls Saber man Rick Jeanneret. “If he had been a Saber, they would have built a statue of him.

“The Aud was a great place for playoff hockey. The other thing about this series for me, Derek Sanderson scored for the Blues (the first goal in the series, in his only year with them). I had known him since my days in Niagara Falls. “

In the second in a row at Aud, Gilbert Perreault and Red Berenson traded early goals, however, almost 40 minutes without a goal passed before Don Luce beat Staniowski in the extra frame. Staniowski finally fulfilled his career dream and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, serving in Afghanistan in the 2000s, the highest-ranking former NHL player in the Forces.


Atlanta (6) vs Los Angeles (3) – Kings win 2-1

This streak marked the only playoff victory the Flames could have in their best three of three years. Eric Vail won game 2 at the Omni, but Cliff Fletcher’s expansion team could not follow.

To make matters worse, the Kings had eliminated Atlanta by 2-1 and 1-0 the previous year, with Rogie Vachon beating other French Canadian goalkeepers Dan Bouchard and Phil Myre in four of the five games.

The Flames and Thrashers in the 2000s moved to Calgary and Winnipeg, respectively. Pat Quinn, who will later follow Fletcher as league executive and general manager of the Leafs, played his last hockey in this series.

Toronto (5) vs. Pittsburgh (4) – Leafs win 2-1

The Blue Jays ‘birth on April 7 filtered a home loss that could have been disastrous after the Leafs’ big road victory in Game 1. Ron Stackhouse, who will later become Leaf, scored two goals in the surprise 6-4 at the Gardens.

The deciding game included three goals from Lanny McDonald at the igloo, including a big assist from Sittler, who let his chance for an empty net go to McDonald’s for his hat trick.

“That night there was a call to my house,” said Sittler. “It was Bobby Orr who watched the game and left a message for my wife to compliment what I did for Lanny. When a player of this stature takes the trouble to call, you never forget. “

Despite four road wins in the spring, the Leafs were eliminated a third time in a row by Philly.


Colorado (8) vs. Philadelphia (1) – Flyers win 2-0

From their creation in 1974 to their improbable run until the conference final in 1988 as the New Jersey Devils, this was the only eliminatory push from “Rocky Hockey”.

Still made up of many expansion companions, the Denver first team came second in a dismal Smythe division and attracted the powerful Flyers.

Still, there were tight collars on the spectrum when Dave Hudson scored in the third period and Game 1 went to a fourth period at 2-2. Former Flyer Doug Favell was beaten by Mel Bridgman in the first shift, while Favell’s 40-game save streak did nothing for Denver in a 3-1 loss.


Vancouver (8) against Philadelphia (1) – The Flyers win 2-1

Wearing their new “Flying V” jerseys with the curious color palette, the Canucks were looking for their first winning streak on their third try – and it would have been a wave of upheaval.

The Flyers were always a force. Hall of Fame goalkeeper Bernie Parent was injured, but Vancouver tripped over 5 foot 5 inch substitute Robbie Moore. He entered after Wayne Stephenson lost the first game at Philly and stayed to win the duel with Gary Bromley.

The Canucks, who had lost six of their seven playoff games to the game, had no answer for the Flyers’ arsenal at the end. Yet Philly had to resort to Kate Smith’s lucky recording of God Bless America for match 3 and triumph 7-2, with seven different snipers. Kate herself improved to 52-7-2 at home.

Pittsburgh (5) against Buffalo (4) – The Penguins win 2-1.

As a Leaf, George Ferguson played a role in knocking out the Penguins twice from the best of three.

This time it was a helping hand for the pens. Part of the trade with Randy Carlyle for Dave Burrows (Carlyle would later win the Norris Trophy in Pittsburgh) Ferguson tied the game, then won it in the first minute of OT.

Denis Heron made 38 saves that night, Jim Hamilton scored twice and future NHL general manager Colin Campbell added a few points.

Toronto (6) vs. Atlanta (3) – Leafs win 2-0

No matter the old rivalry with the Canadians, the other battles with the Original Six teams or the conflicts with the Flyers and the Islands. No other Leafs The playoff game had more penalty minutes than the 109 evaluated in the first game in this series or had more minutes combined with the Atlanta 110. It was also the 11th highest total of all NHL playoff games.

“The Flames had Willi Plett and a very difficult formation,” said Sittler.

Most of the chaos occurred at 7:09 p.m. median, after Walt McKechnie’s second of two gave the Leafs the lead in a goal they clung to overnight at the Omni. Sittler scored two goals and Toronto streak winner Dan Maloney 7-4 spanked. It was the last series Roger Neilson won as a Leafs coach and the last for the team until 1986.

“Roger has prepared you for each night as if it were a match 7, made you responsible. Praised Sittler. “We weren’t far off in the next round against a great team from Montreal, but he was the most prepared coach I have ever seen.”

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