Boston Bruins fans are having a postseason to remember. Their team is three wins away from the Stanley Cup after a 4-3 victory against the St. Louis Blues in Game 1 of the Cup Final. Game 2 is at TD Garden on Wednesday (8 p.m.; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).
But 66 years ago, forward Jack McIntyre also helped the Bruins give their fans reason to celebrate during the playoffs.
McIntyre, a native of Brussels, Ontario, helped Boston pull off one of the most significant upsets in NHL history in 1953. The Bruins defeated a Detroit Red Wings team led by future Hall of Famers Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, Red Kelly and Terry Sawchuk that was going for its third championship in four seasons and was considered one of the most powerful in NHL history.
It was the relatively inconspicuous McIntyre who scored the overtime goal that turned the series in favor of the Bruins. Not that McIntyre didn't have help: Sawchuk, a Hall of Fame goalie, was outplayed by Boston's Jim Henry, whose career never came close to reaching those proportions.
The Red Wings entered the 1953 playoffs as the defending NHL champions, having swept the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens on the way to the Cup in 1952. Detroit then dominated the 1952-53 regular season, finishing first in the six-team League at 36-16-18; the Red Wings' 90 points were 15 more than the second-place Canadiens.
Detroit had gone 10-2 with two ties against Boston during the regular season. That was a big reason the third-place Bruins couldn't even reach the .500 mark; at 28-29-13, they finished third with 69 points, 21 behind the NHL-leading Red Wings. While Howe topped the NHL in goals (49), assists (46) and points (95), Boston's top scorer was Fleming Mackell with 44 points (27 goals, 17 assists); no one else had more than 35.
Sawchuk was his usual brilliant self, finishing with an NHL-best 1.89 goals-against average; Henry was fourth among six qualifying goalies with a GAA of 2:43. The Sawchuk-Henry matchup looked like a no-brainer, with a few critics even mocking "Sugar Jim."
There appeared to be no doubt as to which team would win the series; it had to be the Red Wings. The only question appeared to be whether coach Tommy Ivan's team would roll to a third consecutive playoff sweep.
That certainly looked possible after the opening game on March 24, 1953. The crowd at Olympia Stadium in Detroit enjoyed a 7-0 win.
Perhaps overconfidence enveloped the defending champs. Or maybe the genius of Bruins coach Lynn Patrick was the decisive factor in Boston's comeback. Patrick had pulled off a similar upset in the 1950 NHL Semifinals against Montreal while coaching the seemingly overmatched New York Rangers.
Whatever the reason, the Bruins defeated the Red Wings 5-3 at the Olympia in Game 2, sending the best-of-7 series to Boston Garden for Games 3 and 4 even at 1-1.
Enter McIntyre, who had scored all of seven goals in 70 games during the regular season. With the score tied 1-1, he beat Sawchuk at 12:29 of overtime to give the Bruins a 2-1 victory and a 2-1 series lead.
"Sure, McIntyre hurt us," Ivan said, "but it was Henry's great goaltending that hurt us the most."
Game 4 was never close. McIntyre scored two goals to help the Bruins race off to a 5-0 lead and win 6-2, putting them one victory away from eliminating the defending champions.
Back home on April 2, the Red Wings looked more like champs in Game 5. They led 4-0 before the nine-minute mark of the second period and won 6-4, cutting Boston's lead in the series to 3-2. But three nights later, the Bruins closed out the series at Boston Garden with a 4-2 victory in Game 6.
How could this have happened? One big reason was that Henry outplayed Sawchuk. Or as Bruins beat writer Roger Barry of the Quincy Patriot-Ledger so aptly put it, "There may be ways of beating the Bruins but one of them was not by belittling Jim Henry."
But any Bruins fan who was around for that series in 1953 -- as I was throughout -- will tell you that the man of the hour was McIntyre, who scored the goal that turned the series in Boston's favor.
Alas for the Bruins, their magic didn't carry over into the Stanley Cup Final; the Canadiens defeated them in five games. McIntyre's lone offensive contribution was scoring Boston's last goal of the series during a 7-3 loss in Game 4. It turned out to be his final goal with the Bruins; he started the 1953-54 season in the minors and was traded to the Chicago Black Hawks (then two words) on Jan. 21, 1954. Ironically, he finished his NHL career with the Red Wings in 1960.
L to R in Photo: Call ups from the Hershey Bears of the AHL during Boston's practice are Red Sullivan, Jack McIntyre, Bruins' Captain Milt Schmidt, goalie Gord Henry and Sam Bettio on April 6, 1951 at Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.