Retro Red Wings: When Crozier Bested Bernier By Blocking 56 SOG

Octopus Thrower

Considering how much time and space the Detroit Red Wings’ defense granted the Dallas Stars skaters to operate Saturday, goalie Jonathan Bernier must have felt besieged from the beginning of the deflating 2-1 overtime defeat.

The Red Wings goalie, who faced 41 shots on goal (SOG) after 40 minutes, finished with 50 saves, the sixth-most in team history.

In a way, Bernier should feel fortunate he didn’t experience what Roger Crozier did on April 5, 1970.

The former Red Wings netminder was forced to turn aside a team-record 56 SOG in a matinee match at Madison Square Garden which featured more dramatic sideshows than actual Detroit defense.

Red Wings Hung Out to Dry

This edition of Retro Red Wings considers Crozier was playing with several teammates who were hung-over from their playoff-clinching celebration the previous night (and that morning).

Also consider, Crozier faced a desperate Rangers team, focused on capturing the alternate playoff tiebreaker for team goals. They needed to both win and outscore the Montreal Canadiens, who were scheduled to face the Chicago Black Hawks later that evening, by five goals to earn a spot in the playoffs.

So desperate was Emile Francis. the Rangers coach planned on pulling goalie Ed Giacomin late in the third – no matter the score.

From the opening faceoff, Crozier could sense the Rangers’ determination – and his teammates’ dizziness.

After the first period, Crozier faced 17 SOG, yielding four goals.

It was fitting Garden organist Eddie Layton played the song, “More,” after each goal, according to The New York Times.

Crozier sure got more.

Through the second period, he faced 22 more SOG and the Rangers rolled up a 7-3 lead. The seven goals moved the Rangers past the Canadiens in goals scored.

Still, Francis wanted more.

So, with the Rangers leading by six late in the third period, Giacomin hustled to the bench for an extra attacker.

Later that night, with the Black Hawks leading 5-2, Canadiens coach Claude Ruel followed suit, pulling goalie Rogie Vachon for the remaining 9:16. The Black Hawks netted five empty-net goals.

After the match Ruel shrugged to the media: “What else could I do? We had to get goals.”

During that offseason, NHL executives ratified head-to-head results, replacing goals scored as the second postseason tiebreaker.

Five decades later, the whole event, and all the sideshow drama, remains comical.

Surprise Start

For Crozier, not so much.

He was not expecting to start the nationally televised afternoon matchup. Red Wings coach Sid Abel was planning to go with Roy Edwards, but the backup goalie reportedly was experiencing “headaches” and “chest pains.” Abel was forced to start Crozier for the second time in an 18-hour-span.

At least Bernier on Saturday had four days between starts.

Future Red Wings coach Brad Park, then a Rangers blueliner, put a comedic cap on the 1970 footnote in Red Wings history.

“I went out and bought everyone a round of drinks,” Park told The Times in 2016. “It was the most expensive round of drinks I ever had bought, and I was making only $11,000 that year.”

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