1970–71 NHL season

The 1970–71 NHL season was the 54th season of the National Hockey League. Two new teams, the Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks made their debuts and were both put into the East Division. The Chicago Black Hawks were moved to the West Division. The Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup by beating the Black Hawks in seven games in the finals.

1970–71 NHL season
LeagueNational Hockey League
SportIce hockey
DurationOctober 9, 1970 – May 18, 1971
Number of games78
Number of teams14
Draft
Top draft pickGilbert Perreault
Picked byBuffalo Sabres
Regular season
Season championsBoston Bruins
Season MVPBobby Orr (Bruins)
Top scorerPhil Esposito (Bruins)
Playoffs
Playoffs MVPKen Dryden (Canadiens)
Stanley Cup
ChampionsMontreal Canadiens
  Runners-upChicago Black Hawks

League business

The NHL added two expansion teams in Buffalo and Vancouver.

At the beginning of the season, the Oakland Seals were renamed California Golden Seals.

From this season through the 2002–03 season, teams wore their white (or yellow) jerseys at home and their colored jerseys on the road.

Regular season

For 1970–71 the NHL went to a balanced schedule, with each team playing each other team six times, three at home and three on the road, without regard to divisional alignment. Nevertheless, playoff qualification was determined entirely by divisional standings, with the top four teams in each division qualifying.

This season saw a marked increase in goal scoring, especially by the Boston Bruins, who shattered scoring records as they set the mark for most goals by a team (399) by nearly a hundred over the previous record holder. They also set records for most victories (57) and points (121). Phil Esposito set records for most goals in a season with 76 and for most points with 152. Defenceman Bobby Orr won his second consecutive Hart Memorial Trophy and set a new record for assists with 102. The Bruins also had the four league leading scorers, the first time in history this was achieved (the only other time being by the Bruins in 1974), and seven of the top eleven leading scorers, the only time in NHL history this has ever been achieved. They had 6 of the top 8 scorers in the league. Furthermore, the Bruins set marks for the highest scoring single season marks at every position: center (Esposito), left wing (Johnny Bucyk with 116), right wing (Ken Hodge with 105) and defense (Orr), as well as for a forward line (Esposito centering Wayne Cashman and Hodge).

Boston won the East Division championship in a runaway. In the West Division, the powerful Chicago Black Hawks had been moved there partially to accommodate the expansion Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks (both of which were placed in the East Division) but more in an effort to provide greater balance between the divisions. Chicago broke St. Louis' stranglehold over the division, winning handily over the Blues and advancing to the Stanley Cup finals.

The Montreal Canadiens, who missed the playoffs in 1969–70, appeared to be sinking once more. Players did not like Claude Ruel's dictatorial rule as coach, and Ralph Backstrom and John Ferguson retired. Ruel resigned and Al MacNeil took over. Both Ferguson and Backstrom returned, but Backstrom was later traded to Los Angeles for draft choices.

The Vancouver Canucks played well at first and were around the .500 mark at mid-season. Then Orland Kurtenbach was injured and the team sagged.

On October 29, Gordie Howe became the first player to record 1000 assists in a 5–3 win over Boston at the Detroit Olympia.

Detroit introduced a fine rookie goaltender, Jim Rutherford, who had bright moments despite the Red Wings last place finish. However, they suffered their worst defeat in franchise history January 2, when Toronto crushed them 13–0.

On March 12, Boston's Phil Esposito broke Bobby Hull's record for goals by a player in a season at 7:03 of the first period on Denis DeJordy of Los Angeles at the Forum in Inglewood, California. Then, at 15:40 he became the first player to score 60 goals. The Bruins won 7–2.

Buffalo had a star, Gilbert Perreault, who on March 18 broke Nels Stewart's (and Danny Grant's, and Norm Ferguson's) rookie record with his 35th goal in a 5–3 win over St. Louis. He went on to finish the season with 38.

Billy Taylor and Don Gallinger, now middle-aged, were finally forgiven for their gambling in 1948 and were reinstated to the NHL. However, they did not return to the NHL.

Final standings

East Division[1]
GP W L T GF GA DIFF Pts
1Boston Bruins7857147399207+192121
2New York Rangers78491811259177+82109
3Montreal Canadiens78422313291216+7597
4Toronto Maple Leafs7837338248211+3782
5Buffalo Sabres78243915217291−7463
6Vancouver Canucks7824468229296−6756
7Detroit Red Wings78224511209308−9955
West Division[1]
GP W L T GF GA DIFF Pts
1Chicago Black Hawks7849209277184+93107
2St. Louis Blues78342519223208+1587
3Philadelphia Flyers78283317207225−1873
4Minnesota North Stars78283416191223−3272
5Los Angeles Kings78254013239303−6463
6Pittsburgh Penguins78213720221240−1962
7California Golden Seals7820535199320−12145

Playoffs

Format change

Due to three straight years of non-competitive finals (where the Western Division winning St. Louis Blues were swept all 3 years by an established Eastern Division club); the NHL changed the matchups for the semifinals by having the winner of the series between the 1st and 3rd Eastern division teams play the winner of the 2nd and 4th Western division teams. Similarly, the other semifinal series pitted the winner of the 1st vs 3rd Western division teams against the winner of the 2nd vs 4th Eastern division teams. Combined with the transfer of the Chicago Black Hawks into the Western Division (which previously consisted only of expansion teams), the Stanley Cup Final series was expected to be more competitive. The realignment and change in playoff format brought the desired results in that each Stanley Cup Final for the next 3 years was either between two Eastern Division teams or Montreal vs Chicago. None of the finals were sweeps. Until realignment in 1974–75 when the original six and expansion teams were more thoroughly mixed, the Philadelphia Flyers were the only Western Division/1967 expansion team to reach a Cup final (they won).

A significant controversy arose before the playoffs. With 4 games to play, the Minnesota North Stars were in 3rd place with a record of 28–30–16 for 72 points while the Philadelphia Flyers were in 4th at 26–33–15 for 67 points. Minnesota then lost their final four games while the Flyers went 2–0–2 to jump ahead of Minnesota in the final standings by 1 point. It was widely rumored that Minnesota did so to avoid playing the far superior Chicago Black Hawks, since at this time in the playoffs the first place team played the third place team and the second played the fourth. Nothing was proven against the North Stars (who defeated their first round opponents, St. Louis, four games to two, while the Flyers were swept by the powerful Black Hawks), but the format was changed the following year to the 1 vs. 4/2 vs.3 format that prevailed thereafter.

Playoff bracket

Quarterfinals Semifinals Stanley Cup Finals
         
E1 Boston 3
E3 Montreal 4
E3 Montreal 4
W4 Minnesota 2
W2 St. Louis 2
W4 Minnesota 4
E3 Montreal 4
W1 Chicago 3
W1 Chicago 4
W3 Philadelphia 0
W1 Chicago 4
E2 New York 3
E2 New York 4
E4 Toronto 2

Quarterfinals

(E1) Boston Bruins vs. (E3) Montreal Canadiens

The Boston Bruins finished first in the league with 121 points. The Montreal Canadiens finished third in the East Division with 97 points. This was the fifteenth playoff series between these two teams with Montreal winning twelve of the fourteen previous series. They last met in the 1969 Stanley Cup Semifinals which Montreal won in six games. Boston won five of the six games in this year's regular season series.

The Montreal Canadiens were matched against the Boston Bruins, and in one of the most extraordinary upsets in hockey history, Ken Dryden was hot in goal for the Canadiens as they ousted the Bruins in seven games. Game 2 featured what many perceive as one of the greatest comebacks in NHL history. With the Bruins leading 5–2 heading into the third period, the Canadiens, who had trailed 5–1, scored 5 goals in the final session to win 7–5. The prominent Canadian sports journalist Red Fisher lists the Canadiens' comeback has the 8th most memorable moment in his over 49 years of covering hockey. In game 4, Bobby Orr became the first defenceman to get a hat trick in a playoff game when Boston won 5–2.

Montreal won series 4–3

(E2) New York Rangers vs. (E4) Toronto Maple Leafs

The New York Rangers finished second in the East Division with 109 points. The Toronto Maple Leafs finished fourth with 82 points. This was the eighth playoff meeting between these two teams with New York winning four of the seven previous series. They last met in the 1962 Stanley Cup Semifinals which Toronto won in six games. New York won five of the six games in this year's regular season series.

New York won series 4–2

(W1) Chicago Black Hawks vs. (W3) Philadelphia Flyers

The Chicago Black Hawks finished first in the West Division with 107 points. The Philadelphia Flyers finished third in the West Division with 73 points. This was the first playoff meeting between these two teams. Chicago won this year's six game regular season series earning nine of twelve points.

Chicago won series 4–0

(W2) St. Louis Blues vs. (W4) Minnesota North Stars

The St. Louis Blues finished second in the West Division with 87 points. The Minnesota North Stars finished fourth in the West Division with 72 points. This was the third playoff meeting between these two teams with St. Louis winning both of the previous series. They met in the previous year's Stanley Cup Quarterfinals which the Blues won in six games. Minnesota won this year's six game regular season series earning eight of twelve points.

Minnesota won series 4–2

Semifinals

(E3) Montreal Canadiens vs. (W4) Minnesota North Stars

This was the first playoff series between these two teams. Montreal won this year's six game regular season series earning eight of twelve points.

The Canadiens' upset of Boston was so sensational that the Canadiens nearly suffered a fatal letdown against the Minnesota North Stars. The Canadiens' 6–3 loss in Montreal on April 22 to Minnesota, led by the goaltending of Cesare Maniago was the first playoff defeat for an Original Six team at the hands of a 1967 Expansion franchise.

Montreal won series 4–2

(W1) Chicago Black Hawks vs. (E2) New York Rangers

This was the third playoff series between these two teams with Chicago winning both previous series. They last met in the 1968 Stanley Cup Quarterfinals which the Black Hawks won in six games. The teams split this year's six-game regular season series.

Bobby Hull and the Chicago Black Hawks were just too much for the Rangers and the Black Hawks advanced to the finals in seven games. Hull won two games with goals on face-offs, despite Glen Sather's coverage to check him.

Chicago won series 4–3

Stanley Cup Finals

This was the fifteenth series between these two teams with the Montreal Canadiens winning nine of the fourteen previous series. They last met in the 1968 Stanley Cup Semifinals which Montreal won in five games. The teams split this year's six-game regular season series.

The series went the full seven games, with the Canadiens winning in Chicago despite trailing 2–0 halfway into the second period of game seven. Jacques Lemaire took a shot from centre ice that miraculously escaped goaltender Tony Esposito cutting the Black Hawks' lead to 2–1. Henri Richard tied the game just before the end of the second period, and scored again 02:34 into the third, giving the Habs the lead. Montreal goalie Ken Dryden kept Chicago off the board for the rest of the game, and the Habs won their third Stanley Cup in four years. It was the final game for Canadiens superstar and captain Jean Beliveau who retired after the season. The Canadiens were the last road team to win a Game 7 of a Stanley Cup Final until the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009. It was Al MacNeil's final game as Montreal coach — after he had benched Richard for Game 5, The Pocket Rocket declared "[MacNeil] is the worst coach I ever played for!"[2] Although Richard retracted his "angry comment", as he called it, MacNeil still resigned.

Montreal won series 4–3

Awards

A new award for the most outstanding player as voted by the members of the NHL Players Association, the Lester B. Pearson Award, was introduced this season and the first winner was Phil Esposito.

1971 NHL awards
Prince of Wales Trophy:
(East Division champion)
Boston Bruins
Clarence S. Campbell Bowl:
(West Division champion)
Chicago Black Hawks
Art Ross Trophy:
(Top scorer, regular season)
Phil Esposito, Boston Bruins
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy:
(Perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication)
Jean Ratelle, New York Rangers
Calder Memorial Trophy:
(Top first-year player)
Gilbert Perreault, Buffalo Sabres
Conn Smythe Trophy:
(Most valuable player, playoffs)
Ken Dryden, Montreal Canadiens
Hart Memorial Trophy:
(Most valuable player, regular season)
Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins
James Norris Memorial Trophy:
(Best defenceman)
Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy:
(Excellence and sportsmanship)
Johnny Bucyk, Boston Bruins
Lester B. Pearson Award:
(Outstanding player, regular season)
Phil Esposito, Boston Bruins
Vezina Trophy:
(Goaltender(s) of team with best goaltending record)
Eddie Giacomin & Gilles Villemure, New York Rangers
Lester Patrick Trophy:
(Service to hockey in the U.S.)
William M. Jennings, John B. Sollenberger, Terrance G. Sawchuk

All-Star teams

First Team  Position  Second Team
Ed Giacomin, New York Rangers G Jacques Plante, Toronto Maple Leafs
Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins D Brad Park, New York Rangers
J. C. Tremblay, Montreal Canadiens D Pat Stapleton, Chicago Black Hawks
Phil Esposito, Boston Bruins C Dave Keon, Toronto Maple Leafs
Ken Hodge, Boston Bruins RW Yvan Cournoyer, Montreal Canadiens
Johnny Bucyk, Boston Bruins LW Bobby Hull, Chicago Black Hawks

Player statistics

Scoring leaders

Player Team GP G A Pts PIM
Phil EspositoBoston Bruins78767615271
Bobby OrrBoston Bruins783710213991
Johnny BucykBoston Bruins7851651168
Ken HodgeBoston Bruins784362105113
Bobby HullChicago Black Hawks7844529632
Norm UllmanToronto Maple Leafs7334518524
Wayne CashmanBoston Bruins77215879100
John McKenzieBoston Bruins65314677120
Dave KeonToronto Maple Leafs763838764
Jean BeliveauMontreal Canadiens7025517640
Fred StanfieldBoston Bruins7524527612

Source: NHL.[3]

Leading goaltenders

Note: GP = Games played; Min – Minutes Played; GA = Goals Against; GAA = Goals Against Average; W = Wins; L = Losses; T = Ties; SO = Shutouts

Player Team GP MIN GA GAA W L T SO
Jacques PlanteToronto Maple Leafs402329731.88241144
Eddie GiacominNew York Rangers452641952.16271078
Tony EspositoChicago Black Hawks5733251262.27351466
Gilles VillemureNew York Rangers342039782.3022844
Glenn HallSt. Louis Blues321761712.42131182
Gump WorsleyMinnesota North Stars241369572.5041080
Eddie JohnstonBoston Bruins382280962.5330624
Rogie VachonMontreal Canadiens4726761182.64231292
Doug FavellPhiladelphia Flyers4424341082.66161592
Cesare ManiagoMinnesota North Stars4023801072.70191565

Other statistics

Coaches

East

West

Debuts

The following is a list of players of note who played their first NHL game in 1970–71 (listed with their first team, asterisk(*) marks debut in playoffs):

Last games

The following is a list of players of note that played their last game in the NHL in 1970–71 (listed with their last team):

NOTE: Bathgate would finish his major professional career in the World Hockey Association.

See also

References

  • Diamond, Dan, ed. (2000). Total Hockey. Kingston, NY: Total Sports. ISBN 1-892129-85-X.
  • Dinger, Ralph, ed. (2011). The National Hockey League Official Guide & Record Book 2012. Toronto, ON: Dan Diamond & Associates. ISBN 978-1-894801-22-5.
  • Dryden, Steve, ed. (2000). Century of hockey. Toronto, ON: McClelland & Stewart Ltd. ISBN 0-7710-4179-9.
  • Fischler, Stan; Fischler, Shirley; Hughes, Morgan; Romain, Joseph; Duplacey, James (2003). The Hockey Chronicle: Year-by-Year History of the National Hockey League. Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International Inc. ISBN 0-7853-9624-1.
Notes
  1. "1970–1971 Division Standings Standings - NHL.com - Standings". National Hockey League.
  2. "Henri Richard". Archived from the original on 2007-10-08. Retrieved 2006-11-15. In the 1971 Stanley Cup finals he was reported to have called his coach, Al MacNeil, the worst coach he had ever played under in the NHL.
  3. Dinger 2011, p. 150.
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