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1971–72 NHL season: Wikis


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The 1971–72 NHL season was the 55th season of the National Hockey League. Fourteen teams each played 78 games. The Boston Bruins beat the New York Rangers four games to two for their second Stanley Cup in three seasons in the finals.

Four players were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame this year. They were recently deceased Toronto star Busher Jackson and Detroit legend Terry Sawchuk, oldtimer Gordon Roberts, and ex-Bruin and Senator star Cooney Weiland. Arthur Wirtz, the powerful long-time owner of the Chicago Black Hawks, was inducted as a Builder.


Regular season

Among notable first year players this season were Montreal's Guy Lafleur, who despite scoring 29 goals was felt lacking in comparison to newly-retired superstar Jean Beliveau by the Canadiens' faithful; Buffalo's Rick Martin, who set a new record for goals by a rookie with 44; Gilles Meloche, goaltender for the hapless California Golden Seals; and Ken Dryden, the sensational new goalie for the Canadiens, who despite winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP the previous season was awarded the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year, on the grounds that he had only played six prior regular season games.

43-year-old Gump Worsley, left unprotected (and unclaimed) in the waiver draft by the Minnesota North Stars, led the league with a 2.12 goals against average. Less fortunately, Philadelphia goaltender Bruce Gamble suffered a heart attack during a 3–1 win in Vancouver in February and was forced to retire from hockey.

In what was widely seen as preemptive moves to help forestall the incipient World Hockey Association, the NHL announced that Atlanta and Long Island had been granted expansion franchises to start in the 1972–73 season. The bids had been hastily put together in comparison with the 1967 and 1970 expansions.

Milestones this season included Gerry Cheevers setting an NHL record for the Boston Bruins (which has yet to be surpassed) with 33 straight undefeated games. On February 12, it was Gordie Howe Day in Detroit as his famous #9 was retired. On March 25, Bobby Hull scored his 600th NHL goal in a 5–5 tie with Boston at the Boston Garden.

An exciting scoring race in which Ranger Jean Ratelle had been leading Bruin Phil Esposito was shortcircuited when Ratelle broke his ankle in a game against Oakland, putting him out for over a month of play. Ratelle still ended up third in scoring behind Esposito and Bruin Bobby Orr, while his teammates Vic Hadfield and Rod Gilbert - all three linemates on the renowned GAG line -- finished fourth and fifth. A resurgent Frank Mahovlich, rejuvenated by a trade to Montreal, finished sixth, while Bobby Hull, in his final year in Chicago, finished seventh in points and second to Esposito in goals.

Although they had fallen somewhat from their overwhelming offensive dominance from the previous season, once again the Boston Bruins had the best record in the league, while the Chicago Black Hawks topped the West Division.


Final standings

Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against, PIM = Penalties in minutes
Note: Teams that qualified for the playoffs are highlighted in bold

East Division GP W L T Pts GF GA PIM
Boston Bruins 78 54 13 11 119 330 204 1112
New York Rangers 78 48 17 13 109 317 192 1010
Montreal Canadiens 78 46 16 16 108 307 205 783
Toronto Maple Leafs 78 33 31 14 80 209 208 887
Detroit Red Wings 78 33 35 10 76 261 262 850
Buffalo Sabres 78 16 43 19 51 203 289 831
Vancouver Canucks 78 20 50 8 48 203 297 1092
West Division GP W L T Pts GF GA PIM
Chicago Black Hawks 78 46 17 15 107 256 166 844
Minnesota North Stars 78 37 29 12 86 212 191 853
St. Louis Blues 78 28 39 11 67 208 247 1150
Pittsburgh Penguins 78 26 38 14 66 220 258 978
Philadelphia Flyers 78 26 38 14 66 200 236 1233
California Golden Seals 78 21 39 18 60 216 288 1007
Los Angeles Kings 78 20 49 9 49 206 305 719

Scoring leaders

Player Team GP G A Pts PIM
Phil Esposito Boston Bruins 76 66 67 133 76
Bobby Orr Boston Bruins 76 37 80 117 106
Jean Ratelle New York Rangers 63 46 63 109 4
Vic Hadfield New York Rangers 78 50 56 106 142
Rod Gilbert New York Rangers 73 43 54 97 64
Frank Mahovlich Montreal Canadiens 76 43 53 96 36
Bobby Hull Chicago Black Hawks 78 50 43 93 24
Yvan Cournoyer Montreal Canadiens 73 47 36 83 15
Johnny Bucyk Boston Bruins 78 32 51 83 4
Bobby Clarke Philadelphia Flyers 78 35 46 81 87

Leading goaltenders


Despite injuries to several key players, notably leading scorer Jean Ratelle, the New York Rangers beat the defending champions Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs, with strong play from unheralded players such as Walt Tkaczuk. The Rangers went on the sweep the Chicago Black Hawks in four straight games during the semifinals. Chicago had beaten the Pittsburgh Penguins in four straight games.

Boston easily handled the Toronto Maple Leafs in five games, facing a St. Louis Blues team that had eked out a hard-fought seven game victory against the North Stars in the quarter finals. The powerful Bruins set a record for the most goals in a four game series by pounding the Blues 28–8 over a four-game sweep.

Playoff bracket

  Quarter-finals Semi-finals Stanley Cup Final
  E1  Boston Bruins 4  
E4  Toronto Maple Leafs 1  
  E1  Boston Bruins 4  
  W3  St. Louis Blues 0  
W2  Minnesota North Stars 3
  W3  St. Louis Blues 4  
    E1  Boston Bruins 4
  E2  New York Rangers 2
  W1  Chicago Black Hawks 4  
W4  Pittsburgh Penguins 0  
  W1  Chicago Black Hawks 0
  E2  New York Rangers 4  
E2  New York Rangers 4
  E3  Montreal Canadiens 2  


New York Rangers vs. Boston Bruins

Date Away Score Home Score Notes
April 30 New York Rangers 5 Boston Bruins 6
May 2 New York Rangers 1 Boston Bruins 2
May 4 Boston Bruins 2 New York Rangers 5
May 7 Boston Bruins 3 New York Rangers 2
May 9 New York Rangers 3 Boston Bruins 2
May 11 Boston Bruins 3 New York Rangers 0

Boston Bruins win the best-of-seven series 4 games to 2 for the Stanley Cup

NHL awards

Prince of Wales Trophy: Boston Bruins
Clarence S. Campbell Bowl: Chicago Black Hawks
Art Ross Trophy: Phil Esposito, Boston Bruins
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy: Bobby Clarke, Philadelphia Flyers
Calder Memorial Trophy: Ken Dryden, Montreal Canadiens
Conn Smythe Trophy: Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins
Hart Memorial Trophy: Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins
James Norris Memorial Trophy: Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy: Jean Ratelle, New York Rangers
Lester B. Pearson Award: Jean Ratelle, New York Rangers
NHL Plus/Minus Award: Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins
Vezina Trophy: Tony Esposito & Gary Smith, Chicago Black Hawks
Lester Patrick Trophy: Clarence S. Campbell, John A. "Snooks" Kelley, Ralph "Cooney" Weiland, James D. Norris

All-Star teams

First Team   Position   Second Team
Tony Esposito, Chicago Black Hawks G Ken Dryden, Montreal Canadiens
Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins D Bill White, Chicago Black Hawks
Brad Park, New York Rangers D Pat Stapleton, Chicago Black Hawks
Phil Esposito, Boston Bruins C Jean Ratelle, New York Rangers
Rod Gilbert, New York Rangers RW Yvan Cournoyer, Montreal Canadiens
Bobby Hull, Chicago Black Hawks LW Vic Hadfield, New York Rangers


The following is a list of players of note who played their first NHL game in 1971–72 (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 1971–72 listed with their last team):

NOTE: McKenzie, Green, Tremblay, Fonteyne, Selby, Nesterenko, McDonald, Hicke and Paiement would continue their careers in the World Hockey Association.

See also



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