40 years ago the NHL was in its 54th season. The 1970-71 season would see the debut of the Vancouver Canucks and the Buffalo Sabres and both would be in the Eastern Division. This season saw the Detroit Red Wings suffer the worst defeat in franchise history by being shut out 13-0 by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Also that season the rookie Sabres had the Calder Trophy winner for Rookie of the Year, Gilbert Perrault, who broke the rookie goal scoring mark of 35 by scoring 38 goals.
A bright spot for the last place Red Wings was Gordie Howe being the first player to reach 1,000 career assist, and it was in a 5-3 win against Boston.
The Chicago Black Hawks had been moved to the newly reorganized Western Division and promptly manhandled that division and won going away 107 points. St Louis was second with 87. In the Eastern Division the defending Stanley Cup champions, Boston Bruins, finished atop that division with 121 points and the NY Rangers in 2nd with 109.
Boston ruled the scoring ranks with Phil Esposito winning the Art Ross Trophy with 152 points, but he was chased by 7 teammates in the top ten scoring race. Bobby Orr was 2nd, John Bucyk 3rd, Ken Hodge 4th, Wayne Cashman 7th, John McKenzie 8th and Fred Stanfield 10th.
With all that firepower the Bruins fell victim to a hot goaltender in Montreal's Ken Dryden in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, losing 4 games to 3. Montreal moved on to down the Minnesota North Stars in the 2nd round 4-2 which put them in the Finals against the Chicago Black Hawks.
The Black Hawks had opened the playoffs with a drubbing of the Philadelphia Flyers 4-0 and then a 4-3 series win over the New York Rangers.
The Finals were a hotly contested 7 games series with the Canadiens fighting back to get a 3-2 game seven win at Chicago. This would be the last road team to win a game 7 before the 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins did it against the Detroit Red Wings. The only other team and first team to accomplish this was the 1945 Toronto Maples, who won game 7 in Detroit.
Ken Dryden would win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP, Bobby Orr would win his 2nd of 3 straight Hart Trophies as league MVP and also his 4th of 8 straight Norris Trophies as the NHL's top defenseman.