Photo via Sports Ecyclopedia
The 1942-43 season was a historic season for the NHL. It was the beginning of the Original Six era, an era where the league ran with six teams in the league for 25 years, with all six teams remaining in the league to this day.
As for Detroit, they were suffering from a bit of a drought. While six years without a Cup may not seem like much, in a six to eight team league, that’s a bit of a longer drought, about the equivalent of a 20-30 year drought today. But, the Wings performed quite admirably, and managed to get their third Stanley Cup in eight years, as well as their team history.
Stats via Hockey Reference
Like both of their previous Cup wins, the Wings sat atop the league standings after the regular season. However, this year was a little bit different, as they had the best goals against in the league, but had the second worst offense after the last place New York Rangers. Not ideal, but allowing 35 fewer goals than the next best team helps towards the best record.
With Jack Adams behind the bench, and captain Sid Abel leading the way, the Red Wings were pretty consistent with their record, as they always seemed to win a couple, then lose one and tie one, as their longest win streak was three games, and their longest losing streak was two (although they had a winless stretch of five games, going 0-3-2). They were consistent against their opponents, getting 10-12 points off of each team, except for the Rangers, where they got 16 points.
As part of their spectacular defense, Johnny Mowers won the Vezina trophy after playing in all 50 games, and garnering a 2.47 GAA and six shutouts.
The bizarre seeding would continue in this Cup run, as they would face off against the third place Toronto Maple Leafs, instead of the fourth place Montreal Canadiens.
The Toronto Maple Leafs may have been the worst possible opponent for the Wings to face, as they were the second best team defensively (albeit, a difference of 35 goals), and they had the league’s best offense. However, the Wings did have the edge in the season series, going 5-4-1 against the Leafs.
The teams split the first two games in Detroit, with the Wings winning 4-2, but then they suffered a heart breaker in game two, as the teams battled for six whole periods, and a bit of a seventh before the Leafs got the decisive goal from Jack McLean to win 3-2 in 4OT.
As was the case in Detroit, the teams split the games in Toronto as well, taking game three by a score of, once again, 4-2, before losing 6-3 in game four, and returning home with a 2-2 tie in the series.
However, that would be the closest that Toronto would sniff of victory in that series, as Detroit won game five by another score of 4-2, and closing off the series in game six with a 3-2 OT victory to move on to the Finals, with Adam Brown chipping in the series winner.
The Wings would get the toughest opponent in terms of the standings in the Finals, as the second place Boston Bruins had beaten the Canadiens 4-1 in their first round series. The Bruins were the only team that season to go .500% against the Wings, with a 4-4-2 record. They also had the league’s second best offense, and the leagues third best defense, so it would be another difficult challenge for the Wings.
Or, at least, it should’ve been.
The Wings took pretty easy care of the Bruins, considering it was a matchup between the two top seeded teams. Detroit would sweep Boston for a 4-0 series, and the Bruins didn’t stand a chance. Game one was a blowout, with the Wings notching six goals past the Bs for a 6-2 win, while game two was the closest game of the series, a 4-3 victory for the Wings. Detroit would take care of business in Boston, as the goal horn wouldn’t go off once, beating the Bruins 4-0 and 2-0 to complete the sweep, and the Red Wings would win the first Stanley Cup of the Original Six era.