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Etched in History

Canadiens dynasty won Cup for fourth straight time in 1958-59

Montreal's history-making champions featured in series about teams being removed from trophy

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / NHL.com Columnist

Every 13 years when the bottom band of the Stanley Cup is filled with names of champions, the top band is removed and retired to be displayed in the vault of the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. The current top band, featuring NHL championship teams from 1953-54 to 1964-65, is coming off, and four bands below it are sliding up one place to make room for a fresh fifth band at the bottom that will begin with the 2017-18 Washington Capitals. Each day through Oct. 2, NHL.com will look at one of the 12 Cup-winning teams leaving hockey's most coveted trophy.

 

1958-59 MONTREAL CANADIENS

Regular-season record: 39-18-13 (91 points), first in NHL
Coach: Toe Blake
Captain: Maurice Richard
Names on the Cup: 29
Players on the Cup: 22
Future Hall of Fame players on the Cup: Jean Beliveau, Bernie Geoffrion, Doug Harvey, Tom Johnson, Dickie Moore, Jacques Plante, Henri Richard, Maurice Richard

 

Stanley Cup engraving anomalies: Sen. Hartland de Montarville Molson, the Canadiens owner and president, appears as Hon Senator R de M Molson; vice president Ken Reardon appears as Kenny Readon; Bill Hicke appears as Will Hicke; Tom Johnson appears as Thom Johnson; Dickie Moore appears formally as Richard Moore; Jacques Plante appears as Jacq Plante; Ken Mosdell appears as Kenn Mosdell. 

A name on the Cup: With names appearing mostly in alphabetical order, defenseman Ian Cushenan is found between Hall of Famers Jean Beliveau and Bernie Geoffrion. It is the only appearance on the Cup for Cushenan, who played 129 games for four NHL teams. Montreal acquired Cushenan from the Chicago Black Hawks for cash in September 1958 and traded him back for cash the following June. He played 35 regular-season games for the Canadiens but none in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for them. He never played in the postseason for Chicago, the New York Rangers or the Detroit Red Wings either.

 

How they made history

To this point, two NHL teams had won the Stanley Cup three consecutive times: the Toronto Maple Leafs (1947-49) and the Canadiens (1956-58). The last thing that Toronto wanted was for its Original Six archrival to make it four straight.

In the end, the Maple Leafs were no match for the Canadiens in the five-game Stanley Cup Final, Montreal powering to its fourth straight championship in its historic run of five in a row. This team was so strong that it won the Cup with elite center Jean Beliveau sidelined after breaking two vertebrae during the NHL Semifinals.

"Let's face it, they're a great team," Maple Leafs coach Punch Imlach said. "Every man they send over the boards is an excellent shooter and skater."

Video: 1959 Stanley Cup Film: Canadiens 4th Straight Cup

In the other dressing room, Canadiens coach Toe Blake said that this wasn't the greatest Montreal team he'd seen, "not even the best I've had in the last four years. But they're not just ordinary, either."

Forward Marcel Bonin was the hero in Game 5, scoring the Cup-winning goal while wearing gloves he borrowed for good luck from Canadiens forward and captain Maurice "Rocket" Richard. Bonin, who joyfully posed with Blake for photographers after the game as the coach held up four fingers to reflect Montreal's streak, scored three times in the Final after having scored seven goals in the Semifinals, an unexpected surge from a forward who had 13 goals in 57 regular-season games. And forward Dickie Moore, a ferocious digger in the corner with a nose for the net, led the NHL with 17 playoff points (five goals, 12 assists) after also finishing first in regular-season points (96; 41 goals, 55 assists).

Dickie Moore was an almost unstoppable force for the Montreal Canadiens.

 

The Canadiens had supreme confidence in Blake, who succeeded Dick Irvin in 1955-56 and merely won the Stanley Cup his first three seasons. Montreal ownership had wanted Billy Reay (Toronto's coach for the first 20 games in 1958-59; they were 5-12-3), but general manager Frank Selke Jr. and his loyal lieutenant, Canadiens vice president and former defenseman Ken Reardon, chose Blake after seeing him work from 1951-54 with Valleyfield in the Quebec Senior Hockey League. 

"Toe had served his apprenticeship in the Quebec league, where a coach had all the responsibilities of finance, travel and the actual competition," Selke wrote in "Behind the Cheering," his 1962 autobiography. "He had the personality for the job."

Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Tom Johnson (left) helps Vezina Trophy-winning goalie Jacques Plante contain Toronto Maple Leafs forward George Armstrong.

 

Unspoken was the thought that Blake, who was the left wing with center Elmer Lach and right wing Richard on the Canadiens' formidable "Punch Line" in the 1940s, would know how to counsel, inspire and even harness the mighty Rocket.

"Toe lived up to all of our expectations," Selke wrote of his hand-picked coach, who guided his "classy pucksters," as the GM called them, to the Stanley Cup eight times over 13 seasons until he retired in 1968, going out as he came in: a Cup champion.

The Canadiens' firepower included forwards (from left) Bernie Geoffrion, Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau and Ken Mosdell.

 

"There are 20 guys in a dressing room and it's seldom you find even two of them alike," said goalie Gump Worsley, who won three of his four Stanley Cup titles under Blake in the 1960s. "Toe knew each individual -- the ones who worked from the needles, the ones who needed another approach. His ability to handle players, I guess that's what made him great."

Indeed, Selke cherished Blake as a coach, teacher, motivator, disciplinarian and psychologist rolled into one.

"All in all," Selke wrote, "no father could be more solicitous of his brood than Toe Blake is over his hockey-playing charges."

In the Canadiens dressing room after their fourth consecutive championship, one big, happy family celebrated.

A fourth consecutive Stanley Cup title for the Canadiens was reason to celebrate for (from left) Ab McDonald, Ralph Backstrom and Bernie Geoffrion.

 

"It was one of the wildest dressing-room scenes in Canadiens history," Red Fisher wrote in the Montreal Star. "Hordes of newsmen and photographers and newsreel men clamored for photos. A television camera was moved into the room to record the festivities. Champagne appeared as if by magic and was poured liberally into the Stanley Cup. Everybody satisfied their thirst."

And the Canadiens hadn't finished drinking from hockey's holy grail. They won another championship in 1959-60 to run their streak to five.

The Canadiens' superbly balanced attack included (from left) Claude Provost, Henri Richard and Ralph Backstrom, who won the Calder Trophy in 1958-59 as the NHL's best rookie.

 

[Read all Etched in History stories: 1953-54 Red Wings | 1954-55 Red Wings | 1955-56 Canadiens |

1956-57 Canadiens | 1957-58 Canadiens | 1959-60 Canadiens | 1960-61 Black Hawks |

1961-62 Maple Leafs | 1962-63 Maple Leafs | 1963-64 Maple Leafs | 1964-65 Canadiens]

 

Stanley Cup Playoffs

Won Semifinal 4-2 vs. Chicago Black Hawks

Won Stanley Cup Final 4-1 vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Game 1: April 9 at Montreal: Canadiens 5, Maple Leafs 3
Game 2: April 11 at Montreal: Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 1
Game 3: April 14 at Toronto: Maple Leafs 3, Canadiens 2 (OT)
Game 4: April 16 at Toronto: Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 2
Game 5: April 18 at Montreal: Canadiens 5, Maple Leafs 3

Stanley Cup-winning goal: Marcel Bonin, Game 5, 9:55 of the second period

Canadiens' leading scorers in Final: Ralph Backstrom and Bernie Geoffrion (seven points each; three goals, four assists each)

Winning goalie: Jacques Plante (4-1 record, 310 minutes played, 12 goals against, 2.32 GAA)

 

Regular-season trophy winners

Art Ross Trophy: Dickie Moore

Norris Trophy: Tom Johnson

Calder Trophy: Ralph Backstrom

Vezina Trophy: Jacques Plante

Four Canadiens icons upon presentation of the Stanley Cup: retired Butch Bouchard (rear left) and injured Jean Beliveau (rear right) with captain Maurice Richard and alternate captain Bernie Geoffrion; the original NHL scoresheet from Game 5 of the Final.

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