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1970-71: The National Hockey League's Breakout Year

By Edited Sep 4, 2015 0 0

1970-71 marked the year the offensive flood gates opened in National Hockey League arenas. In no other venue, did this take place like it did at the Boston Garden. The Boston Bruins put pucks into the net at an alarming rate. However, an amazing regular season did not equate to playoff success for the boys in black and yellow.

Boston finished first overall, winning 57 of their 78 games. Their 121 points put them twelve points ahead of the second place New York Rangers. The Bruins met up with the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs and were eliminated after a tough seven game series.

1970-71 marked the first time four players surpassed 100 points. All four players were from Boston. The only other team in NHL history to have four players achieve the 100 point plateau in the same season is the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers did it three times during the 1980’s.

Phil Esposito led the league with 152 points, a record at the time. His 76 goals also established a new NHL record. Bobby Orr was second with 139 points. He was the first player to ever surpass 100 assists in a single season, with 102. His points and assists totals from 1970-71 still stand as NHL records for defensemen.  John Bucyk had a career year and finished third with 116 points, followed by Ken Hodge with 105.

The non-Bruins that rounded out the top eleven (there was a three way tie for ninth) included Bobby Hull of the Chicago Black Hawks, Norm Ullman and Dave Keon of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Jean Beliveau of the Montreal Canadiens. Hull finished fifth with 96 points, aided by his career high 52 assists. Ullman and Keon both had career years, finishing sixth and ninth with 85 and 76 points. The duo gave the Toronto faithful at Maple Leaf Gardens something to cheer about as the team continued to slide from their Stanley Cup winning form from four years previous.

Going out in amazing fashion was Jean Beliveau of the Montreal Canadiens. Beliveau finished his 18th and final full season in the National Hockey League by finishing tied for ninth in the race for the Art Ross Trophy with Keon and Boston’s Fred Stanfield. His team made it to the Stanley Cup finals and knocked off the Chicago Black Hawks in seven games.

Seven of those top eleven scorers in 1970-71 are now enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Just Ken Hodge, Wayne Cashman, John McKenzie and Fred Stanfield have not been honoured. Jean Beliveau was the first of the group to enter, being inducted the following year, 1972.

Never again would a team dominate the scoring race like those Boston Bruins did. It is unlikely it will ever happen. With 30 teams and potentially two more on the way with the NHL’s plans for re-alignment, the talent is just too spread out. Add in the fact that teams carry four lines and a salary cap bars teams from getting too stacked and it’s luck any one team would have more than one player in the top ten.

 

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