On the verge of winning the Stanley Cup, as recently as Jan. 3, the St. Louis Blues owned the worst record in the NHL.
If they succeed in overcoming the Boston Bruins, does that make the Blues the worst team to ever win the Cup?
Hardly. In fact, it’s not even close.
Kings Of Overcoming
Some will make a case for the 2011-12 Los Angeles Kings, the only eighth-seeded champion since the NHL went to the 16-team playoff format of eight teams from each conference.
Again, you have to look deeper into the numbers. L.A. went 40-27-15 and collected 95 points. By contrast, the 2008-09 Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins went 45-28-9 for 99 points. And no one would tout them as the worst Cup winner.
Leafs’ Stanley Cup Threepeats Are Close
The Toronto Maple Leafs won the 1963-64 Stanley Cup, their third in a row, off a third-place finish with a 33-25-12 slate, good for 78 points.
The 1948-49 Leafs also won a third straight Cup. They were a fourth-place team that posted a losing mark of 22-25-13.
When the 1971 Montreal Canadiens toppled the record-setting Boston Bruins, it was remarkable. But those Habs collected 97 regular-season points. You’d have a better chance arguing your case for the 87-point 1985-86 Cup champion Habs.
The 1990-91 Penguins collected only 88 points. They followed up that win with another in 1991-92, off an 87-point regular season.
The 1960-61 Chicago Blackhawks won just 29 games and garnered only 75 points in 70 games. The 1944-45 Leafs were 24-22-4 during the regular season. The 1923-24 Habs were 13-11.
And The Winner Is . . .
The 1937-38 Blackhawks. And like we stated at the outset, it isn’t even close.
Chicago went 14-25-9 that season. No, that isn’t a typo.
The Blackhawks only made the playoffs because the Detroit Red Wings – who, shockingly were coming off back-to-back Stanley Cup titles – were even worse, at 12-25-11.
There are 3 ways to look at the 1938 Blackhawks:
1. They are the worst Stanley Cup winning team
2. They are the greatest Cinderella story ever
3. Doesn't matter, they got their name on the cup and a banner in the rafters pic.twitter.com/3kPTAc1GVD
— Dan Hyland (@WindyCityCritic) October 10, 2018
The Wings remain the only team in NHL history to finish in last place (1934-35), win successive Stanley Cups (1935-36, 1936-37) and finish in last place again (1937-38).
Jack Shill, from left, Carl Voss, Cully Dahlstrom and Harold "Mush" March of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrate in the locker room after they defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 4 of the 1938 Stanley Cup Final on April 12, 1938, at Chicago Stadium #HawksHistory pic.twitter.com/4AcUDNgx0A
— The Comiskey Kid (@TheComiskeyKid) September 24, 2018
Still, there were signs that these Blackhawks shouldn’t be taken lightly. Chicago blasted the Montreal Maroons 7-1 in a late-season game on March 6. “They’re red hot,” cautioned Maroons coach Tommy Gorman, Chicago’s coach for the Blackhawks’ 1933-34 Cup triumph. Gorman cautioned that the Hawks would be “a force to be reckoned with” during the upcoming playoffs.
Surviving By The Skin Of Their Teeth
The postseason didn’t start with promise for the Blackhawks. They were belted 6-4 by the Canadiens in the opener of their best-of-three quarterfinal. Toe Blake fired a hat-trick for the Habs.
Back home, Chicago won 4-0 behind the shutout goaltending of Mike Karakas. In the decisive game, Montreal was 1:26 away from eliminating the Hawks when defenseman Earl Seibert tied the score at 2-2. Paul Thompson tallied at 11:49 overtime to earn the Blackhawks a 3-2 win.
— Classic Hockey Co. (@classichockey99) December 21, 2016
Just a quickly in the best-of-three semifinal against the New York Americans, Chicago dug another hole. The Blackhawks lost Game 1 at Madison Square Garden 3-1. But Cully Dahlstrom scored the only goal of the game 13:01 into the second OT period and the teams would head back to Manhattan to decide the series.
Chicago raced to a 3-1 advantage and hung on for a 3-2 victory. But if Chicago advancing to the Stanley Cup final series wasn’t wild enough, things were really about to go off the deep end.
— Dave Stubbs (@Dave_Stubbs) July 3, 2016
Karakas had broken his big toe in the series decider against the Amerks. He couldn’t play the opener of Chicago’s best-of-five Stanley Cup final against Toronto at Maple Leaf Gardens and teams didn’t carry back up goalies in those days.
The Blackhawks recruited NHL All-Star Dave Kerr from the New York Rangers but the Leafs balked. Instead, Toronto suggested journeyman minor leaguer Alfie Moore, who the Leafs had allegedly tracked down imbibing in some spirits at a local watering hole.
Things got heated and punches were exchanged in the MLG hallways between Chicago coach Bill Stewart and Leafs GM Conn Smythe, as well as Stewart and former Leafs player Baldy Cotton.
Now In Goal
Eventually, Moore started in goal and things leaked bleak for Chicago when the first shot of the game sailed past him. But Moore settled in and the Blackhawks rallied for a 3-1 victory.
As he left the ice, Moore snubbed his nose at the Leafs bench. “It isn’t fair to the Hawks,” Moore told the Chicago Tribune. “They wanted Kerr and I was picked because I’m a bum.”
Oldest goalies to win in their first Stanley Cup playoff start (per @PR_NHL)
Curtis McElhinney May 1, 2019 35 343
Les Binkley Apr 8, 1970 35 306
Alfie Moore Apr 5, 1938 32 125
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) May 2, 2019
Moore was ruled ineligible for the rest of the series. Minor-leaguer Paul Goodman arrived for Game 2 but was shelled 5-1.
Heading back to Chicago, Karakas, equipped with a steel plate in his skate, was back for Game 3. Syl Apps gave Toronto a first-period lead. Former Leaf Carl Voss tied it for the Blackhawks in the second period. Doc Romnes, wearing a football helmet to protect a broken nose given him by Toronto defenseman Red Horner, netted the winner in a 2-1 victory in the third period.
Game 4 proved to be no contest. Chicago blasted Toronto 4-1. Second-period goals by Voss and Jack Shill snapped a 1-1 tie.
“We just got on a roll at the right time,” Blackhawks forward Pete Palangio recalled of their win in a 2002 interview. “It was probably the biggest upset ever in sports.”
Chicago made NHL history. Eight Blackhawks – Karakas, Romnes, Dahlstrom, Voss, Alex Levinsky, Roger Jenkins, Lou Trudel and Virgil Johnson – were American-born. Coach Stewart was also an American. This stood as the mark for the most American players on a Stanley Cup-winning team until 1995.
— Chicago History ™️ (@Chicago_History) June 16, 2015
A Miracle On Ice fashioned 42 years prior to the one in Lake Placid.
It left hockey people shaking their heads. “To think they’ve got the Stanley Cup,” astonished Canadiens coach Jules Dugal told the Montreal Gazette.