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An easy reference guide to the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs

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Photo credit:Imperial Oil-Turofsky/Hockey Hall of Fame
Arun Srinivasan
17 days ago
We’re on the verge of witnessing a near-historic comeback, as the Edmonton Oilers attempt to pull a reverse sweep on the Florida Panthers entering Monday’s Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. Edmonton trailed 3-0 and appeared doomed to concede the Cup to Florida, but roared back on the strength of a tour-de-force performance from Connor McDavid.
You’re going to hear this invariably on the broadcast or from your know-it-all friend at the bar — your friendly neighbourhood author was guilty as such during Game 6 — but the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs are the only team in NHL history to come back from a 3-0 deficit during the Stanley Cup Final, roaring back against the Detroit Red Wings. They’re going to be tonight’s hot trivia item, you could probably hedge a bet as to when this factoid gets referenced on the respective broadcasts.
We’ve got you covered! Here’s an easy reference guide to the 1941-42 Toronto Maple Leafs!
Hall of Fame inductees: 
Syl Apps, forward, 1961
Sweeney Schriner, forward, 1962
Turk Broda, goaltender, 1967
Gordie Drillon, forward, 1975

Meet The Metz

Nick and Don Metz both played integral roles on the 1942 Maple Leafs, the latter rising to the occasion to play the best hockey of his career. Nick, two years senior to Don, was a regular fixture on the team, notching 11 goals and 20 points in 30 regular season games, while Don struggled offensively, recording two goals and five points in 25 regular season contests. It’s also worth noting that Don Metz missed 20 games earlier in the season with broken ankle and worked his way back into the shape during the playoffs.
After trailing 3-0, with Don as a healthy scratch throughout the Final, Maple Leafs head coach Hap Day reinserted the younger Metz into the lineup for Game 4, a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency manoeuvre that paid dividends almost immediately. Day’s tactical changes were considered controversial at the time, with Gordie Drillon, a perpetual 20-goal scorer coming out of the lineup for Don Metz. Drillon was a second-team NHL All-Star during the 1941-42 season but evidently didn’t see eye-to-eye with Day.
Jack Batten authored The Leafs: An Anecdotal History of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Batten insinuates that Drillon may have been defensively negligent. Perhaps that’s why Don Metz had a chance to begin with. Here’s a passage about Drillon from Batten’s authoritative account of the Maple Leafs:
He was tall, he was handsome, he was the pride of Moncton, New Brunswick, the pride of the entire Maritimes; he scored goals, winning the league points title in 1938; and he was officially a gentleman, winning the Lady Byng Trophy as the most gentlemanly player in ’38. So what was not to like about Gordie Drillon? Ask Maple Leaf fans of the day. They treated Drillon to more calumny, gave him more boos and nasty gestures than probably any player in Leaf history received. When a photograph appeared in the newspaper of Drillon serving as a pallbearer at a funeral, one fan sent Drillon a ripped-out photo with the worlds scribbled across it “Is Drillon carrying his share of the load?” Maybe that was it. Maybe the fans thought Drillon was a one-dimensional player who shone on offence but didn’t do his duty, carry his share on defense. 
Toronto defeated Detroit 4-3 in Game 4 with Nick Metz’s third-period marker standing as the winner. Per Batten’s account of events, Day read a letter to the team from a 14-year-old fan who was despondent about the Maple Leafs crumbling during the Final. It’s hard to conjure up the image of a modern-day coach trying to cater to his players with an appeal from the fans but this was the 1940s and Day successfully rallied his comrades together.
Red Wings head coach and impresario Jack Adams was so incensed by a too-many-men penalty called against Jack Wares that he punched referee Mel Hardwood after the game, earning an immediate suspension from league president Frank Calder! Tensions were running high, as the Maple Leafs avoided getting swept.
And then the improbable happened! Don Metz exploded for a three-goal, five-point outing against the Red Wings in Game 5, as the Maple Leafs skated away to a 9-3 victory at the Maple Leaf Gardens. Metz followed up his career-best performance by scoring Toronto’s second goal in the first minute of the second period of Game 6 in Detroit, as the Maple Leafs forced a Game 7 on the strength of the Metz brothers, rookie defenseman Bob Goldham — who like Don Metz, was inserted mid-series — and Turk Broda, who put together one of the finest performances of his Hall of Fame career.

Sweeney Schriner, Pete Langelle rise to the moment in iconic Game 7

Game 7 of the 1942 Stanley Cup Final was naturally one of the most important games in Canadian history and is still a resonant moment historically. The official attendance at Maple Leaf Gardens was 16, 218 — although if we went by anecdotal accounts, that number could skyrocket — and it was one of the most electric sporting moments of the decade.
Through the opening 40 minutes, the Red Wings were intent on spoiling the party. Syd Howe scored early in the second period and Detroit maintained the slim lead at the second intermission. And yet a rocking Maple Leaf Garden wouldn’t allow the home team to be denied.
Sweeney Schriner, a Hall of Fame forward who was one of Conn Smythe’s favourite players, rose to the occasion. Schriner, by some accounts told Smythe not to worry during the second intermission, then proceeded to tie the game in an ugly net-front battle, spurring Toronto’s efforts forward. Considering that this series was defined by contributions from Toronto’s Hall of Fame players (Schriner, Broda, Syl Apps, Drillon’s omission) and Other Guys (Don Metz, an 18-year-old Gaye Stewart), it’s only fitting that Pete Langelle emerged as the hero in his final NHL game.

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Langelle was a fringe player for the Maple Leafs, but he posted his best season in 1942, recording 10 goals and 32 points. He was relatively quiet throughout the playoffs, but he rose to the occasion, notching the series-winner in a frantic scramble near the goalmouth. Schriner scored his second goal of the period and the Maple Leafs received a hero’s welcome upon lifting the trophy.
“We did it the hard way,” Day said to the Ottawa Citizen, as recounted by Sports Illustrated in 2016. “I had my doubts right up until that final bell rang.”

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