Looking back at the 1951-52 Detroit Red Wings

The second Stanley Cup in Gordie Howe’s storied career, the 1951-52 season may have ended up being his most dominant on record. So many years in the league, this was the season where he effectively became “Mr. Hockey”.

Regular Season

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They finished first in almost every major category including goals for and goals against. Their 100 points was almost unheard of at that point in time and became a standard for excellence across the league.

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Howe won almost every award he was eligible for that year. He won the Art Ross Trophy, Maurice Richard Trophy and his first of many Hart Trophy’s. It was an impressive display for the young 23 year old.

Playoffs

After dominating the regular season, you would assume that in a six team league that they would get some sort of challenge in the playoffs. Well, your assumption would be wrong. They defeated the Maple Leafs in four games and the Canadiens in four games to win the Stanley Cup. 

Was it really that easy?

DetroitAthletic.com had this to say about the historic season:

“Detroit’s juggernaut made quick work of the 1952 postseason, sweeping the Maple Leafs and Canadiens behind a bulletproof blueline and Sawchuk’s sensational goaltending. Sawchuk surrendered but five goals in eight games. He posted four shutouts—two each against Toronto and Montreal, and all on home ice—as the Wings became the first team to skate through the playoffs undefeated.  Counting the last third of the regular season, the Wings dropped just three of their last 32 games. They seemed invincible. They could have played all summer and kept on winning.”

Impressive doesn’t even begin to describe this team. The Canadiens didn’t take it particularly well though and had a lot to say after the Wings won the cup.

This comes courtesy of DetroitAthletic.com as well:

“Montreal coach Dick Irvin refused to acknowledge the Wings’ superiority, despite being beaten decisively in the title round by scores of 3-1, 2-1, 3-0, and 3-0. “Why should I pretend something I do not feel?” he said bitterly. ‘Let them celebrate their victory if they wish. I don’t lose easily.'”

The two sweeps set the standard for Red Wings hockey and started to become the expectation rather than the hope. With names like Terry Sawchuk, Gordie Howe, Sid Abel and Ted Lindsay, why wouldn’t you expect a winning product every year they were out on the ice?

The winning was so great and so succinct many believe that the 1951-52 club is the best team the Red Wings ever iced. That debate will rage on at a later time and date, though the merits between for this club is tough to deny. They were surely one of the leagues best, six teams or not.

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(all stats via hockey-reference.com)