A team known for their skill, grit and a goal that has transcended generations of hockey fans, the 1969-70 Boston Bruins are the greatest NHL team of all time. They compiled one of the greatest rosters of all time, which was full of future Hall of Famers. Here is why the 1969-70 Bruins should get your vote in the Best NHL Team of All-Time Bracket.
The Bruins’ roster featured four future Hockey Hall of Famers, one of the greatest coaches of all times and a player that many consider the greatest defenceman in history. This team was destined to win the Stanley Cup in 1970 not because of players they added to their roster but from a star being born.
Legendary coach and GM Harry Sinden knew he had a special team coming into the 1969-70 season. Phil Esposito was just coming into his prime, goaltender Gerry Cheevers was a rock in net, and they had this young up-and-coming defenceman named Bobby Orr who was about to change the league forever. The season, Sinden made one key acquisition. He traded Jim Harrison for Wayne Carleton. While Harrison never established himself in Toronto, Carleton became a crucial part of the Bruins Cup win. He played on the third line with Derek Sanderson and Ed Westfall and was on the ice for the Stanley Cup-clinching goal.
The team, however, was guided by players like Orr, Esposito, John Bucyk, John McKenzie, Cheevers and Ken Hodge. They were tough and could score, which gave them the nickname “The Big Bad Bruins.”
The Bruins finished second in the league with 99 points in 1969-70. They had the most goals scored with 277 and finished sixth in goals against with 216. This season, however, will be remembered as the year Bobby Orr became a star. He registered 120 points as a 21-year-old, including 87 assists. As for his supporting cast, Esposito finished second with 99 points, while McKenzie finished third with 70.
In goal, Cheevers recorded a 24-8-8 record and a .919% save percentage. The team was a powerhouse, averaging 3.6 goals a game while scoring 6 or more goals 15 times. The Bruins finished with the league’s best power play and registered the most shorthanded goals that season, and would constantly blow out other teams throughout the 76-game season.
End of Season Awards and Distinctions
By the end of the season, Bruins players dominated the awards. Bobby Orr won the Art Ross, Hart and the Norris. Orr is still the only player in NHL history to win all three awards not just in a season but in their career. As for All-Stars, four players participated in the All-Star Game. Orr, Esposito, Bucyk and McKenzie helped the East beat the West 4-1 in St. Louis. By the end of the season, Orr and Esposito were named to the NHL First Team, while McKenzie was named to the NHL Second Team.
In 1969-70, a Bruins player led the league in goals, assists, points, shots, power play goals and plus/minus. This was also the first season a defenceman scored 100 points. It was the start of a dominant career for Orr that saw him top 100 points on six separate occasions, a record that still stands today.
During the playoffs, The Bruins went 12-2 on their way to the Stanley Cup. They won 10 straight games and swept the St. Louis Blues in the Final. Although the record is impressive, the memory hockey fans still talk about to this day is Orr scoring in overtime and then flying through the air to win the Stanley Cup. And there was the famous call by Dan Kelly of “Sanderson to Orr, Bobby Orr, Scores, and the Boston Bruins have won the Stanley Cup!” The goal is one of the greatest moments in NHL history and will be remembered for the rest of the time.
Round One – New York Rangers
In round one, the Bruins went up against the New York Rangers, who were led by Walt Tkaczuk and Ed Giacomin. The Bruins took the first two games of the series 8-2 and 5-3. The Rangers would then take Game 3, 4-3, and Game 4, 4-2, to even out the series. The Bruins continued to pressure and won Game 5 by a score of 3-2. In Game 6, back at Madison Square Garden, the Bruins won 4-1 to move onto the next round.
Round Two – Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks finished first in the league, tied with the Bruins for overall points. They were led by Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull and Tony Esposito. Unfortunately for Chicago, the Bruins were too powerful, sweeping the series. They won 6-3, 4-1, 5-2 and 5-4. Despite having three future Hall of Famers on their team, Chicago was no match for the Bruins.
Stanley Cup Final – St. Louis Blues
The Blues were an older group that included 41-year-old Jacques Plante, 38-year-old Glenn Hall, 37-year-old Al Arbour and 36-year-old Phil Goyette. They were no match for the young and fast Bruins. The Bruins won the first three games 6-1, 6-2 and 4-1. They dominated St.Louis and headed into Game 4 with a chance to clinch the Stanley Cup in front of their home fans.
Game 4 back in Boston was close, as St. Louis was able to force the game into overtime. Going into the third, it was tied 2-2. Larry Keenan scored 19 seconds into the third, which gave St. Louis the lead before Bucyk scored at 13:28 of the third to force the game to overtime. Forty seconds into OT was all that was needed, as Sanderson found Orr in front of the net for the Cup-winning goal. The Blues were swept, and the Bruins took home their fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Awards and Final Statistics
Although Phil Esposito led the team with 27 points in 14 games, it was Orr that took home the Conn Smythe. He was the second-ever defenceman to win the Conn Smythe after Serge Savard had won it the year prior.
The goaltending was also a major key to the team’s success. Cheevers had a playoff to remember, finishing with a record of 12-1 and a .925 save percentage. The only playoffs in which Cheevers had a better save percentage was 1968-69, when he recorded a.947 save percentage in nine games. The Bruins had pulled off one of the greatest seasons in NHL history and one that is still remembered to this day.
Greatest Team of All-Time
It’s clear that the 1969-70 Bruins are the greatest team of all time. That season featured the emergence of one of the greatest players to ever play in the NHL, one of the best playoff runs of all time, and the start of a nickname that is still used today. Not to mention one of the most historic moments in the game history. When voting for the greatest team of all time, the answer is clear. It is the 1969-70 Boston Bruins.
Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks team. His work can also be found at dubnetwork.ca where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.