1971–72 NHL season

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1971–72 NHL season
League National Hockey League
Sport Ice hockey
Duration October 8, 1971 – May 11, 1972
Number of games 78
Number of teams 14
Regular season
Season champions Boston Bruins
Season MVP Bobby Orr (Boston Bruins)
Top scorer Phil Esposito (Boston Bruins)
Playoffs Playoffs MVP Bobby Orr (Boston Bruins)
Stanley Cup
Champions Boston Bruins
  Runners-up New York Rangers
NHL seasons

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.

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 California Golden Seals who acquired him from Chicago; 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 a preemptive move to help forestall the incipient World Hockey Association, the NHL announced that Atlanta and Long Island had been granted expansion franchises to begin play 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 California, 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

East Division[1]
1 Boston Bruins 78 54 13 11 330 204 +126 119
2 New York Rangers 78 48 17 13 317 192 +125 109
3 Montreal Canadiens 78 46 16 16 307 205 +102 108
4 Toronto Maple Leafs 78 33 31 14 209 208 +1 80
5 Detroit Red Wings 78 33 35 10 261 262 −1 76
6 Buffalo Sabres 78 16 43 19 203 289 −86 51
7 Vancouver Canucks 78 20 50 8 203 297 −94 48
West Division[1]
1 Chicago Black Hawks 78 46 17 15 256 166 +90 107
2 Minnesota North Stars 78 37 29 12 212 191 +21 86
3 St. Louis Blues 78 28 39 11 208 247 −39 67
4 Pittsburgh Penguins 78 26 38 14 220 258 −38 66
5 Philadelphia Flyers 78 26 38 14 200 236 −36 66
6 California Golden Seals 78 21 39 18 216 288 −72 60
7 Los Angeles Kings 78 20 49 9 206 305 −99 49


Format change

In response to the prior year when the Minnesota North Stars appeared to purposely lose games to finish fourth instead of third and avoid a tougher matchup with first-place Chicago, the first round matchups were changed so that the first-place team played the fourth-place team and second played third. Previously, the first-place team played the third-place team and the second-place team played the fourth-place team.

In addition, a change was made to the way the semi-final matchups were determined as well. Instead of having the winner of the series between the first and third-place Eastern division teams play the winner of the second and fourth-place Western division teams and the winner of the first versus third-place Western division teams against the winner of the second and fourth-place Eastern division teams, the semi final would pit the highest remaining seed in the Eastern division play the lowest remaining seed from the West and vice versa.

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 semi-final. 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-final. 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


(E1) Boston Bruins vs. (E4) Toronto Maple Leafs

Boston won series 4-1

(W2) Minnesota North Stars vs. (W3) St. Louis Blues

St. Louis won series 4-3

(W1) Chicago Black Hawks vs. (W4) Pittsburgh Penguins

Chicago won series 4-0

(E2) New York Rangers vs. (E3) Montreal Canadiens

New York won series 4-2


(E1) Boston Bruins vs. (W3) St. Louis Blues

Boston won series 4-0

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

New York won series 4-0


Boston won series 4-2


1972 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)
Bobby Clarke, Philadelphia Flyers
Calder Memorial Trophy:
(Top first-year player)
Ken Dryden, Montreal Canadiens
Conn Smythe Trophy:
(Most valuable player, playoffs)
Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins
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)
Jean Ratelle, New York Rangers
Lester B. Pearson Award:
(Outstanding player, regular season)
Jean Ratelle, New York Rangers
Vezina Trophy:
(Goaltender(s) of team with best goaltending record)
Tony Esposito & Gary Smith, Chicago Black Hawks
Lester Patrick Trophy:
(Service to hockey in the U.S.)
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

Player statistics

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
Jacques Lemaire Montreal Canadiens 77 32 49 81 26

Source: NHL.[2]

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
Tony Esposito Chicago Black Hawks 48 2780 82 1.77 31 10 6 9
Gilles Villemure New York Rangers 37 2129 74 2.09 24 7 4 3
Lorne Worsley Minnesota North Stars 34 1923 68 2.12 16 10 7 2
Ken Dryden Montreal Canadiens 64 3800 142 2.24 39 8 15 8
Gary Smith Chicago Black Hawks 28 1540 62 2.42 14 5 6 5
Gerry Cheevers Boston Bruins 41 2420 101 2.50 27 5 8 2
Jacques Caron St. Louis Blues 28 1619 68 2.52 14 8 5 1
Bernie Parent Toronto Maple Leafs 47 2715 116 2.56 17 18 9 3
Jacques Plante Toronto Maple Leafs 34 1965 86 2.63 16 13 5 2
Cesare Maniago Minnesota North Stars 43 2539 112 2.65 20 17 4 3

Other statistics


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


  • Diamond, Dan, ed. (2000). Total Hockey. Kingston, NY: Total Sports. ISBN 1-892129-85-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Dinger, Ralph, ed. (2011). The National Hockey League Official Guide & Record Book 2012. Toronto, ON: Dan Diamond & Associates. ISBN 978-1-894801-22-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Dryden, Steve, ed. (2000). Century of hockey. Toronto, ON: McClelland & Stewart Ltd. ISBN 0-7710-4179-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  1. 1.0 1.1 "1971–1972 Division Standings Standings - NHL.com - Standings". National Hockey League.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Dinger 2011, p. 150.

External links