Brad Marchand and Sidney Crosby grew up within a half-hour’s drive from one another in Nova Scotia, Marchand in Hammonds Plains and Crosby in Cole Harbour. Good pals, they still typically skate together in the summer, often joined by the Avalanche’s Nathan MacKinnon from nearby Dartmouth.
“He just tells everyone he’s from Cole Harbour,” kidded Marchand, “so he can be like Sid.”
Fact is, all three Nova Scotia lads now live in the very same elite neighborhood on the NHL’s scoring list. Marchand posted a career best 36-64—100 line this season and joined Crosby (35-65—100) among only six NHLers to reach the 100-point plateau. MacKinnon, the superb Colorado center, was just a tick behind at No. 7 with 99 points.
“Nate didn’t stop bragging last year about how he beat us in the scoring race,” said Marchand. In 2017-18, MacKinnon led the triumvirate with 97 points, a few paces ahead of his fellow Maritimers, Crosby (89) and Marchand (85).
Only some 960,000 people live in the entire province of Nova Scotia, and this season three of them factored in the top of the scoring market, trailing only Russia’s Nikita Kucherov, Ontario’s Connor McDavid, Buffalo’s Patrick Kane, and the German-born Leon Draisaitl (prepped in the Western Hockey League).
On scale, the once-great hockey state of Massachusetts, with a population of just about 7 million, would have more than 20 proud sons of the Bay State delivering at or near 100 points. Yet only North Chelmsford’s Jack Eichel (28-54—82) came close to triple digits in 2018-19.
The last local boy to reach 100 was Marshfield’s Jeremy Roenick, whose 107 points in 1993-94 tied him at No. 5 that season with Mark Recchi and the sublime Pavel Bure (a.k.a. the Russian Rocket). Pembroke’s Kevin Stevens (111) and Roenick (107) hit the mark in 1992-93. Once a market leader in producing kids with a nose for the net, Massachusetts is now a quarter-century removed from delivering big-time scorers to the NHL.
If you really want your kid to find the footlights, maybe tell him to sling his equipment bag over his shoulder and hand him a bus ticket to Halifax — the city, by the way, which every year ships a humongous Christmas tree our way. We just don’t have many scoring gifts to put under it anymore.
“You know what? Massachusetts programs have changed so dramatically in the last 30 years,” said ex-Bruin Mike Milbury, the outspoken NBC analyst who grew up in Walpole. “It’s been more, frankly, about making money and making kids hit the road for two hours, play a one-hour game, and then come back two hours, than it is about doing the things they’re supposed to do to get better.”
By Milbury’s eye, youth hockey in Massachusetts, as well as in some other states, has been slow or reluctant to follow the development teachings and practices of USA Hockey. All because of what he feels is the commercialization, or “money grab,” that has sprouted up around the sport.
“Money grab is exactly the term,” he said. “And it does not serve the purpose. And you can see the kids from a lot of other places — particularly Europe and Sweden — their skill level is so much higher. In the US, we have this filtration to the top early, and it’s harder for the late [bloomer] to come in . . . I still don’t think we’re tapping into the greatest talents we can with the right kind of training.”
Meanwhile, dangling out there in the Atlantic, Nova Scotia is delivering high rollers at a rate that none of the other provinces can match.
Crosby, his Hall of Fame induction date awaiting his RSVP, posted his first of a half-dozen 100-point seasons in his rookie 2005-06 campaign. Prior to him, Nova Scotia had not seen one of its own reach 100 points since Al MacInnis (103) with the 1990-91 Calgary Flames (a lag time approximately half of what we’ve see here in the Bay State).
Prior to MacInnis, the list of 100-point Nova Scotians included only Bobby Smith (114) with the 1981-82 North Stars and Paul MacLean (101) with the 1984-85 Jets.
MacLean was born in France but grew up playing hockey in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, after moving there at age 2.
The lone other Maritimer to reach 100: Bobby MacMillan, of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, who connected for 108 with the 1978-79 Atlanta Flames. Quebec’s Guy Chouinard contributed 107 points to the Flames’ attack that same season.
For the most part, Marchand has downplayed his 100-point achievement this season but says there is some extra meaning to it because of his Nova Scotian roots.
“Yeah, for sure,” he said. “And not just in Nova Scotia, but in the whole league — you know, only a few guys do it every year. And a couple of years ago, nobody did it. So it’s nice to be able to be one of those guys from back home to be able to do it.”
Marchand became the first Bruin to reach 100 since Joe Thornton rolled up his Boston-best 36-65—101 line in 2002-03. Prior to this season, Marchand posted back-to-back 85-points seasons, and he now has led the club in scoring for three straight seasons.
“At the end of the day, those personal stats are fun to get, but they’re nothing compared to winning,” Marchand said, “and being in the playoffs and playing for a Cup. That’s ultimately what the regular season is for . . . all the points and goals that everyone gets is to try to win a Cup. It means more now that we’re in a playoff spot. It would mean a lot less if we weren’t in the playoffs and going home right now. If we don’t win this year, it really doesn’t mean anything — just another season down the drain. Cool accolade, but at the end of the day, it’s not a big deal.”
A good bet that folks in the Greater Halifax area, Canada’s 100-point epicenter, would argue that point.
WORTH THE WAIT
Leafs won 1933 series in sixth OT
Ken Doraty, the Petr Klima of his day, knocked the Bruins out of the playoffs in 1933 when he scored at 4:46 of the sixth (not a typo) overtime. It was the lone goal of a game that began the eve of April 3, and it ended the best-of-five semifinal series in five games (Marty Barry and Eddie Shore scored Boston’s game-winners in Games 1 and 3, respectively).
Doraty, the Maple Leafs’ fourth-line right winger, was born in Stittsville, Ontario, in the shadows of where the Ottawa Senators play today at the Canadian Tire Centre. His entire career spanned 105 NHL games.
With the clock approaching 1:45 a.m. on April 4, and each club yet to score after eight periods of play, league president Frank Calder huddled inside Maple Leaf Gardens with the respective general managers, Art Ross for the Bruins and Conn Smythe for the Leafs. Oh, to have a snapshot of those three legends, their brows furled, all fretting over how to proceed.
Their players exhausted after 160 minutes of scoreless action, Ross and Smythe proposed that they flip a coin to determine the winner.
According to the Globe’s report, Calder objected, feeling such a decision, determined by the capricious flip of a coin, would cheapen the NHL product.
Calder instead proposed that play resume, the ninth period of the night/morning, with each side absent their goalie. No good, said Ross. He had the great Tiny Thompson in his net, reason No. 1 he put the kibosh to Calder’s idea.
So the boys played on . . . for another 4:46. Play must have resembled the iconic marathon dancing competitions that began in the 1920s and became major arena events during the Depression.
On the winning goal, Doraty wired the puck in from a deep angle on the right side, connecting after fellow forward Andy Blair poke-checked the puck away from Shore, the legendary Boston defenseman, and pushed a pass through the slot (reminder: even the best of the best have coughed up pucks from the day vulcanized rubber was invented).
Drained, despondent, and beaten, the Bruins boarded a train early that afternoon for the 18-hour journey back to Boston.
“If ever a team deserved a rousing welcome [home],” wrote Victor O. Jones, the Globe’s beat man of the day, “that team is [the Bruins].”
Equally spent, the Leafs scrambled postgame to make their train to Manhattan for Game 1 of the Cup Final that same night against the Rangers. The opening faceoff was only some 18 hours after Doraty’s game-winner.
Historical note: It would be nearly another quarter-century before Red Wings great Ted Lindsay summoned the moxie to rally the players to form a union in 1957.
The Leafs lost Game 1 of the Final to the Rangers, 5-1, at Madison Square Garden, then evened the series four nights later at Maple Leaf Gardens. The Rangers won the Cup, three games to one, on April 13 — 86 years ago on Saturday.
The redheaded Doraty, a waifish 5 feet 7 inches and 133 pounds, played in only six more Stanley Cup games after 1933. He is remembered in the record books most of all for his record overtime hat trick on Jan. 16, 1934, in a 7-4 win over the Ottawa Senators.
Overtime, in the 1934 NHL, was a full half-period (10 minutes). It had been that way since the start of the 1928-29 season. On Nov. 21, 1942, because of restricted train travel during World War II, the NHL implemented its W-L-T format for the next 40 years, which then gave way to sudden-death OT, and eventually to the use of shootouts.
Playoff meetings go back long way
The Maple Leafs have not defeated the Bruins in a playoff series since 1959 (Gerry Ehman with the winner in Game 7). The loss ushered in the dark days on Causeway Street. The Bruins would not qualify again for the postseason until the spring of 1968, which was Bobby Orr’s second season in Black and Gold.
The six-team NHL in 1959 was predominantly a Canadian boys club, and more specifically, an Ontario boys club. Take that, Nova Scotia!
■ The Leafs dressed a total 26 players over the course of the 1958-59 season. All but six were born in Ontario. One huge exception: goalie great Johnny Bower, from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
■ The Bruins, coached by Milt Schmidt, of Kitchener, Ontario, also dressed 26 players that season, 14 of whom were born in Ontario. Equally huge exception: John Bucyk, from Edmonton, Alberta.
Fast-forward 60 years to today’s multinational NHL: The Leafs squad is still represented quite well by Ontario lads, including top guns Mitch Marner and John Tavares. Headed into Game 2 of their series vs. the Bruins, the Leafs had dressed 29 players this season, nine of whom were born in Ontario.
Meanwhile, the Bruins, once with great Ontario-born players such as Phil Esposito, Gerry Cheevers, Derek Sanderson, Orr, and more, have seen only two Ontario-born players (Zach Senyshyn and Gemel Smith) suit up among 39 roster players this season. Unless there is a surprise call-up from Providence, the Bruins will not dress a single Ontario boy in this series.
The Panthers moved quickly on Monday morning, less than 48 hours after their season ended, and secured ex-Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville as their new bench boss. Coach Q adds to a formidable cast of Atlantic Division coaches, including John Cooper (Tampa Bay), Claude Julien (Montreal), Mike Babcock (Toronto), and Bruce Cassidy here in Boston. The Panthers had better talent than the 36-32-14 they produced this season under Bob Boughner’s tutelage. They should finally be back in the Round of 16 with Quenneville running the show . . . As of Saturday, the Sabres had yet to name their guy to replace Phil Housley behind the bench. All signs earlier in the week pointed to Todd McLellan, dismissed early in his fourth season as Oilers coach. But reports Friday indicated McLellan is now out of the mix and perhaps headed to LA. The Sabres also should have been better — and were through much of November — but play and morale slipped badly over the second half, dooming the inexperienced Housley. There is no foolproof résumé when it comes to hiring a head coach. But hard to argue with the idea of hiring guys with established track records. Yes, that often means picking from the Good Ol’ Boys Club, but experience often is a huge help. In Buffalo, Housley arrived without ever having been a head coach at the pro level. Cooper took over the Tampa Bay bench in 2012-13 and had neither played nor coached in the NHL. But he was boss for three seasons in the AHL, preceded by four years at the junior level . . . Bruins captain Zdeno Chara finished the season ranked No. 24 on the all-time list with 1,485 games. The next three in his crosshairs: Wayne Gretzky (1,487), Housley (1,495) and Mike Modano (1,499) . . . The small town of Windsor, Nova Scotia, some 40 miles northwest of Halifax, is considered by many to be hockey’s North American birthplace. Like baseball and Cooperstown, “birthplace” is wide open to debate, speculation, and some hand-wringing. Your faithful puck chronicler some 30 years ago visited the very spot, a modest pond on a 250-acre farm in Windsor, that some researchers recognize as the site where a rudimentary version of today’s game was first played — or at least first chronicled. A story published in 1844, authored by Thomas Chandler Haliburton, noted a game of “hurley” played on that frozen pond. So maybe it really is the water in Nova Scotia that factors into the success of Sidney Crosby, Brad Marchand, and Nathan MacKinnon . . . Huge win for the Devils on Tuesday, jiggling up two spots in the pecking order to land the No. 1 pick in the draft lottery. And an even bigger win for the Rangers (up four spots to No. 2) and the Blackhawks (from No. 12 to No. 3). The top two picks, likely in this order, will be dazzling center Jack Hughes, son of former Bruins assistant coach Jimmy Hughes, and Finnish left winger Kaapo Kakko, who rolled up 38 points this season with TPS Turku (long ago the home of Saku Koivu). Hughes and Kakko project to start next season on NHL rosters. Round 1 of the draft will be Friday, June 21, in Vancouver . . . Ryan Donato’s final line in Minnesota: 4-12—16 in 22 games, a point rate of .727 per game. If he could keep that up, it would be 60 points over an 82-game season . . . Wild GM Paul Fenton said this past week he has “total confidence” in Bruce Boudreau and will bring him back as coach for 2019-20. “Right now, Bruce is my coach and he’s going to be the guy to lead this team where we want to go,” said Fenton. Key words: “right now.”