Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Momentum Turner or Misconception? A Closer Look Shultz versus Rolfe

It's become some type of urban legend that after Schultz/Rolfe the Rangers just rolled over against the Flyers in that 73/74 series. That whole 73-74 playoff series is completely blown out of proportion. Everyone seems to subscribe to this myth that the Flyers just pummeled the Rangers and they had no response. Truth is, the Rangers gave as good as they got in that series.

In Game 2 of that series, Kelly jumped Jerry Butler and put him out of the game. Ron Harris paid Kelly back in spades with an open ice hit that put Kelly out of the series. Harris was also put on the ice in place of Gilbert during a face-off when Schultz was looking to rough up Gilbert. Harris confronted Schultz and Schultz made some half-hearted attempts to get at him, but he somehow couldn't break free from the linesman. Additionally, both Ron Harris and Steve Vickers beat up Dornhoefer during that series.

That series was anything but a cakewalk for the Flyers. They won that series because of one guy, Bernie Parent. The most common misconception is that the Schultz/Rolfe fight took the heart out of the Rangers players. This seems to be one of those great myths that has multiplied over time. The Rangers ended up losing that game by 1 goal. Additionally, outside of a little blood and maybe some embarrassment, Rolfe was never the worse for wear after that fight; he never missed a shift and played just as effective after that fight as before. He wasn't hurt; he didn't need any help skating to the box.

Many have incorrectly brought up the notion that someone should have jumped in to save Rolfe from the Schultz mugging. However, you have to remember that this is Game 7 of the 73/74 playoffs and the Schultz/Rolfe fight takes place midway through the first period, with the scored tied at 1-1.

At the time of this fight, the Rangers had their number one line out there in Hadfield, Gilbert and Ratelle, with Park and Rolfe on defense. So the only toughness on the ice at the time was Park and Hadfield, two very skilled players that the Rangers could not afford to lose during a crucial Game 7 in exchange for a player of Schultz' caliber. As a fight fan, I wish someone would have jumped in too; but you have to look at this realistically. Who was going to jump in? Gilbert, Hadfield, Ratelle or Park, in game 7 of a tied series? That's exactly what Schultz was hoping for - take a skilled player off the ice with him. As for the fight taking the heart out of the Rangers and providing the spark for the Flyers, remember that this fight happened at around the 11:00 minute mark of the first period and neither team scored during the remaining 9:00 minutes in period one. So much for the Rangers folding their tent and the Flyers using this fight as any sort of momentum builder.

The Flyers did jump out to an early lead by scoring 2 goals in the second period and taking a 3-1 lead entering the third period. The Rangers come back and make it 3-2 on a goal by Vickers. Dornhoefer eventually scores to make it a 4-2 Flyers lead, but Pete Stemkowski scores with about 5 minutes to play in the third period to make it a one-goal game. The Rangers completely dominate the final 5 minutes as the Flyers are thoroughly disorganized and are just trying to hold on to this slim lead. But the Rangers are stonewalled by the outstanding goaltending of Bernie Parent and the Flyers barely hang-on and advance to the final round against the Bruins.

The Rangers also made one of the most bone-headed mistakes in their dreadful playoff history. With a minute to go in the third period of a one-goal game, the Rangers pull goalie Eddie Giacomin for an extra attacker. Immediately thereafter, they are whistled for a too many men on the ice penalty and Vic Hadfield serves the two-minute minor killing almost any chance the Rangers had at tying that game. This was also the end of the line for Hadfield as a Ranger as he was seen joking with fans while serving his minor penalty. He was traded to Pittsburgh in the off-season.

What the record books won’t show is that this was one of the most physical and well-played series in the history of the Stanley Cup. The series itself is often overshadowed by the Schultz/Rolfe altercation and the misconception that the Rangers failed to meet the physical challenge of the Flyers.

The difference in that series was Bernie Parent, not Schultz vs Rolfe. The Rangers didn't get run out of the building against the Flyers nor were they physically outplayed. Dornhoefer may have taken some runs at Giacomin, but both Ron Harris and Steve Vickers held him accountable. Ron Harris hit everything that moved that series and put Hound Kelly out of the series in Game 2 with a bone-jarring open ice hit. The Rangers lost to a better team that got outstanding goaltending from one of the game’s greatest, Bernie Parent.

Certainly the Rangers history is that of a soft team, especially those early 70s teams. But they matched the Flyers in 73/74 hit for hit and fight for fight. Now if you want to say that their lack of toughness cost them the Cup in 72 against the Bruins; I'd agree completely. Sanderson ran Giacomin with no accountability, Sanderson beat up Bobby Rousseau and Rod Gilbert and no one held him accountable. Ace Bailey ran everyone and everything and no one did a thing about it. Hodge and Cashman also had their way with the Rangers with no policeman to hold them accountable.

73/74 Rangers vs Flyers was a different story and the Rangers actually acquitted themselves quite well in the physical play. Much better than expected and much better than they've been given credit for.


Anonymous said...

But of course. You're a Rangers fan. Go figure.

the Q said...

Excellent and informative essay written by someone who obviously was around to see the events unfold. As for the 'anononymous' comment about you being a "Ranger fan", forget him...he's obviously an idiot who's ADD kicked in and left him wondering where he was after sentence 3. Ask Mommy for another pill ya goof.

Impressive work.

Posux said...

It's nice to be anonymous, huh?

Nice read.

Anonymous said...

Philly won. The Rags lost. Get over it. Go Flyers. Ben Eager is God.


Anonymous said...

Flyer fans are getting their panties in a bunch, yet cannot dispute the facts surrounding the game, the fight, or the series.

Harryman said...

Thanks for the topic, Your assement of the Shultz/Rolfe fight is "spot-on".