Ranking the Top 20 seasons in Boston Bruins history
The Boston Bruins have won six Stanley Cups over their near 100-year history as an NHL organization, and they have been to the Cup Final 14 other times in their nearly century of existence. The sheer number of seasons and editions of the team as an Original Six club makes it a chore to pick the best of the best when it comes to the best teams of all-time.
The 1970 edition is clearly at the top of the list with Bobby Orr flying through the air, and the 2011 Stanley Cup group gets a big nod for capturing the Cup for the first time in almost 40 years in spectacularly memorable fashion. But what about other memorable, likeable Bruins teams sprinkled with Hall of Fame players and elite-level personalities that have entertained us over the last century?
Certainly, we can give a break to the 1988 or 1990 teams that ran into a buzz-saw in the juggernaut Edmonton Oilers, or to the early 1980’s and 1990’s Bruins crews that never made it out of the East because of the Islanders and Penguins dynasties.
With all that in mind, we couldn’t narrow our list beyond the top 20 Bruins teams of all-time. So here they are with some time-honored immortal hockey clubs at the top and some cult-classic favorites toward the bottom.
20. 1974 Bruins
52-17-9 record, 113 points (Lost Stanley Cup Final)
The Bruins finished first in the NHL East with 113 points as Phil Esposito, Bobby Orr and Ken Hodge all finished with over 100 points for the season. Espo had 68 goals and 145 points and Orr was a plus-84 for the season while Hodge, Wayne Cashman and Johnny Bucyk all scored 30-plus goals. This was during the period when Derek Sanderson and Gerry Cheevers were going back and forth with the WHA, so Sanderson was only a part-time player by this point with Gilles Gilbert as the starting goaltender for this group.
The Bruins rolled through the Leafs and the Blackhawks in the first couple of rounds, but they ended up losing out to a rough-and-tumble Broad Street Bullies group of Flyers led by Bernie Parent and Bobby Clarke that began to usher in a different age of toughness. This was really the beginning of the end of the Orr-Era Bruins with Don Cherry and a 23-year-old Terry O’Reilly coming onto the scene in Boston the following season.
19. 1993 Bruins
51-26-7 record, 109 points
The Bruins finished first in the Adams Division with a 51-26-7 record under Brian Sutter and featured one of the best B’s seasons ever with Adam Oates posting 45 goals and 142 points in 84 games. Joe Juneau topped 100 points as well and Dmitri Kvartalnov scored 30 goals in a season where an injured Cam Neely only managed to play in 11 games.
Ray Bourque was brilliant as usual with 82 points and a plus-38 for the season and the B’s got some great veteran seasons from guys like Stephen Leach and Dave Reid, but they were DOA in the playoffs with a healthy enough Neely after allowing 19 goals in a four-game sweep at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres. Neely scored a goal per game in the playoffs and Oates averaged over two points per game and they still got smoked. That team had ended up having some serious defensive deficiencies.
18. 2008 Bruins
41-29-12 record, 94 points
This Bruins team wasn’t the most talented (Marco Sturm and Chuck Kobasew were the only 20-goal scorers on the team), certainly wasn’t the most successful (they finished third in the Northeast Division with 94 points) as they eventually fell to the Canadiens in the first round in seven games, plus they were also missing Patrice Bergeron for nearly the entire year after he suffered a nasty concussion at the hands of Philly’s Randy Jones.
But this was also a group of Bruins led by new coach Claude Julien that re-energized the Bruins fan base with young up-and-coming players like Milan Lucic, Phil Kessel and David Krejci combined with veterans like Zdeno Chara, Marc Savard and Tim Thomas. The Bruins won a classic Game 6 against Montreal on an epic third period game-winner from Marco Sturm and that served as the sneak preview of what this group would accomplish a few seasons down the line.
17. 1978 Bruins
51-18-11 record, 113 points (Lost Stanley Cup Final)
The Bruins went 51-18-11 under Don Cherry for the top spot in the Adams Division and were led by 26 goals and 90 points from the Tasmanian Devil, Terry O’Reilly. The Bruins had a crazy 11 players who ended up scoring 20-plus goals ranging from Peter McNab's 41 goals to Gregg Sheppard, Bob Miller and 37-year-old Jean Ratelle eclipsing the 20-goal mark as well.
O’Reilly, Stan Jonathan, Mike Milbury and John Wensink made them an absolute handful to deal with on a nightly basis and Ron Grahame, Gerry Cheevers and Gilles Gilbert all shared time between the pipes. Brad Park had an amazing playoff where he led the B’s with nine goals and 20 points in 15 postseason games, but the B’s fell to the Canadiens in a six-game series.
16. 1941 Bruins
27-8-13 record, 67 points (Won Stanley Cup)
The Bruins finished first overall in the NHL with 67 points and had seven future Hall of Famers on the team including leading scorer Bill Cowley, Roy Conacher, the Kraut Line and 33-year-old Dit Clapper. The Bruins led the NHL in scoring that season and finished second in goals against, which spoke to the dominant all-around game they featured that year.
They were once again led by 25-year-old goaltender Frank Brimsek in net for his second Stanley Cup with the Black and Gold, but it was 22-year-old Milt Schmidt who posted 11 points in 11 playoff games to help lead them to an eventual Stanley Cup with a sweep of the Detroit Red Wings.
15. 2004 Bruins
41-19-15-7 record, 104 points
This is a Bruins hockey team team that had so much possibility. The Bruins loaded up on their roster knowing they were headed for a salary cap system following the season, and they added Sergei Gonchar and Michael Nylander to a team that already boasted Joe Thornton, Sergei Samsonov, Glen Murray, Brian Rolston, Mike Knuble, Hal Gill, Nick Boynton and a couple of hotshot rookie players in 18-year-old Patrice Bergeron and Calder Trophy winner Andrew Raycroft. They finished first in the Northeast Division with 104 points and seemed destined for good things in the postseason.
Unfortunately, the Bruins couldn’t overcome a series-long injury that rendered Jumbo Joe Thornton ineffective and they couldn’t stop Jose Theodore (.938 save percentage in the series) and the Canadiens once they gained the momentum in the second half of the seven-game series. This was a talented, talented Bruins group that disappointed and probably started the movement that would eventually see the B’s trade Thornton away a couple of seasons later.
14. 2013 Bruins
28-14-6 record, 62 points (Lost in Stanley Cup Final)
It certainly was an odd season given that it was a 48-game shortened campaign due to the labor lockout for the first three months of the season. But the Bruins managed to finish second in the Northeast Division with a 28-14-6 record during the regular season. 21-year-old Tyler Seguin formed a productive line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci was still centering Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic after they had won the Stanley Cup together in 2011.
Tuukka Rask officially came into his own this year as well while winning the Vezina Trophy and the Bruins had one of the most thrilling comebacks in playoff history when they overcome a Game 7 three-goal deficit in the third period vs. Toronto in the first round. Unfortunately, the Bruins ran into a dynastic Chicago Blackhawks team in the Stanley Cup Final, and the Bruins collapsed in the third period of Game 6 while allowing two goals in 16 seconds.
13. 1990 Bruins
46-25-9 record, 101 points (Lost Stanley Cup Final)
Head coach Mike Milbury led the Bruins to a 46-25-9 record, 101 points, a first-place finish in the Adams Division, and a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final against the Edmonton Oilers after falling in 1988. Cam Neely was in his prime with 55 goals and 92 points and Ray Bourque captured his third Norris Trophy that season. After a highly entertaining first-round series against the Whalers that went the distance, the B’s breezed through the Canadiens and Capitals on their way to the Cup Final.
This time around the Oilers were without Gretzky, of course, and the Bruins showed a different kind of battle early on. Unfortunately, the Bruins dropped Game 1 in triple-OT — still the longest game in Cup Final history — with Petr Klima coming up with the game-winner. And they weren’t able to recover before falling in five games to the Oil.
12. 1929 Bruins
26-13-5 record, 57 points (Won Stanley Cup)
So many of the Hall of Fame names are here for the Bruins. Eddie Shore was 26 years old and Tiny Thompson allowed just three goals in the five-game series that awarded Boston their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Cooney Weiland and Dit Clapper were among the team’s leading scorers and Lionel Hitchman was a defensive stalwart for the Black and Gold.
The 1.15 goals against average and 12 shutouts for Tiny Thompson during the regular season really defies all explanation in a totally different era for the NHL. There were eight Hall of Famers on this team including leading scorer Harry Oliver, who put up 17 goals and 23 points in 43 games that season. Shore finished fourth in the Hart Trophy voting, but would go on to win four Hart Trophies in his Hall of Fame career.
11. 2014 Bruins
54-19-9 record, 117 points
The Bruins put up a 54-19-9 record with 117 points on their way to the Presidents' Trophy and added Jarome Iginla to the mix after they had failed to land him in a trade during the previous season’s run to the Stanley Cup Final. Iginla and Patrice Bergeron both scored 30 goals, and the Bruins added new players like Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith and Torey Krug to the core group that had won the Cup just a couple of seasons prior.
Part of the issue with this year’s team is that they pushed so far ahead of everybody else during the regular season that they couldn’t quite dig down deep when challenged by the Montreal Canadiens in the second round of the playoffs. They ended up losing to the Habs in a seven-game series that was followed by two seasons out of the playoffs entirely before they restocked the roster. But this was a fun group during the regular season that had a lot of promise.
10. 1994 Bruins
42-29-13 record, 97 points
This will forever be known as the season where Cam Neely scored 50 goals in 49 games while battling debilitating lower body injures as a 28-year-old power forward. It was the stuff of legendary toughness for No. 8 while playing through a painful injury and it was some pretty great seasons for those around him. Adam Oates finished with 112 points in 77 games to lead the Black and Gold, and Neely played on his all-time favorite line ever with Oates and Joe Juneau alongside him at times.
A 33-year-old Ray Bourque was still at the height of his Hall of Fame prime with 91 points and a plus-26 in 72 games, and a young cast including Glen Wesley, Ted Donato, Bryan Smolinski, Mariusz Czerkawski, Glen Murray, Brent Hughes, Jozef Stumpel and Don Sweeney rounded out a great team. They even had Al Iafrate for 12 games after the trade deadline, for goodness' sake. They beat the Canadiens in a seven-game series, but the Neely-less B’s fell to the Devils in six games before New Jersey lost in seven games to the eventual Cup champ Rangers led by Mark Messier.
9. 1979 Bruins
43-23-14 record, 100 points
Another heartbreaker group that was loved by the fans, the late 1970’s Bruins were raucous, tough and feared across the league. It was the perfect blend of winning hockey and doing it in exactly the way that Bruins fans expected. Rick Middleton and Peter McNab were in the middle of their NHL primes as scoring forces for the offense, and Terry O’Reilly, John Wensink, Mike Milbury and Al Secord pushed and shoved people around the ice. There were eight 20-goal scorers on that Bruins team providing them with depth up and down the lineup under head coach Don Cherry and Gerry Cheevers and Gilles Gilbert combined for one of the best goaltending combos in the league.
It was unfortunate that it came down to the Game 7 too many men on the ice penalty against the Canadiens in the semi-finals because many feel this Bruins group would have won the Cup that season if not for the self-inflicted stumble vs. Montreal. The only downside for this group is that the iconic incident with Mike Milbury beating a fan with his own shoe happened the following season.
8. 2019 Bruins
49-24-9 record, 107 points (Lost in Stanley Cup Final)
A team that makes it all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final certainly deserves plenty of love. Each member of the Perfection Line topped 30 goals with David Pastrnak perhaps on his way to 50 goals until he injured his thumb in an off-ice mishap after a team event. The group was a perfect mix of the old guard that won in 2011 (Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci) and young guns like Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy and Jake DeBrusk. The team finished 49-24-9 with 107 points to place second behind a juggernaut Tampa Bay Lightning bunch, but the pathway opened up to the Stanley Cup Final when top-seeded Tampa Bay, Washington, Calgary and Nashville all bowed out in the first round.
Tuukka Rask was a dominant force throughout the postseason, but the Bruins ran into a heavy, punishing wall vs. the St. Louis Blues after fending off Toronto, Columbus and Carolina in the first three rounds. The Game 7 loss to the Blues still stings the nostrils for Bruins fans, but it only hurts because this team was also beloved.
7. 1983 Bruins
50-20-10 record, 110 points
A Bruins team that managed to get to 50 wins, 110 points and first place in the Adams Division under head coach Gerry Cheevers, this was probably this humble hockey writer’s favorite team growing up as a 9-year-old fan. It was also one of several one-year wonder goaltenders in Bruins franchise history as Pete Peeters came on the scene as a 25-year-old puck-stopper with 40 wins and eight shutouts. A 21-year-old Barry Pederson and Rick Middleton powered the offense with Pederson finishing at 46 goals and 107 points, and 22-year-old Ray Bourque was just coming into his own as a dominant defenseman with a plus-49 that season.
Aside from guys like Brad Park, Peter McNab, Wayne Cashman, Terry O’Reilly and Mike Milbury, it was a very young team that wasn’t ready to take on the powerhouse Islanders of that generation. They ended up falling in the Wales Conference Final to Mike Bossy and Co., but that team still very much lives on in the memories of Bruins fans.
6. 1988 Bruins
44-30-6 record, 94 points (Lost in Stanley Cup Final)
The 1988 group wasn’t an overachiever during the regular season as they finished second in the Adams Division with 94 points and a 44-30-6 record under head coach Terry O’Reilly. But they did snap a playoff hex that the Montreal Canadiens had over them with a second-round victory in five games, and then managed to get all the way to the Stanley Cup Final against the Wayne Gretzky-led Edmonton Oilers.
Sure, they may have been swept by the dominant Oil bunch, but this was a team combining leading point-scorer Ray Bourque with a 22-year-old Cam Neely scoring 42 goals, and Ken Linseman, Steve Kasper, Geoff Courtnall, Randy Burridge, Bob Sweeney and Keith Crowder all providing big-time offensive depth. The goaltending duo of Reggie Lemelin and Andy Moog was born during that postseason run as well. This was probably the most accomplished and talented group for the Bruins during the entire decade of the 1980s.
5. 1971 Bruins
57-14-7 record, 121 points
Perhaps the single-biggest shocking team that didn’t win a Stanley Cup among all the different iterations of the Bruins. This team went 57-14-7 during the season for an eye-popping 121 points and dominated from beginning to end during the regular season after capturing the Cup during the previous season. The Bruins averaged 5.12 goals per game while racking up 399 goals during the regular season and playing the kind of run-and-gun scoring style that is actually more in line with the way the Bruins play these days.
They had an amazing four 100-point scorers with Phil Esposito finishing with an amazing 76 goals and 152 points and Bobby Orr finishing with 139 points. Johnny Bucyk racked up over 50 goals and 100 points and this was also one of only two 100-point seasons for Ken Hodge with the Bruins. The fact it all ended with a 23-year-old Ken Dryden stunning them in a first-round seven-game series loss to Montreal was a heartbreaking end.
4. 1939 Bruins
36-10-2 record, 74 points (Won Stanley Cup)
The 1939 Bruins Cup team featured some amazing, legendary Hall of Famers — whether it was Milt Schmidt, Woody Dumart and Bobby Bauer as the Kraut Line, a 36-year-old Eddie Shore on defense and young goaltender Frank Brimsek taking the NHL world by storm as a 23-year-old rookie. Amazingly none of those well-known names led the Bruins in scoring that year as Bill Cowley led the team with 42 points and Roy Conacher had 26 goals scored in 47 games.
But it was all about Mr. Zero in the playoffs as Brimsek had a 1.25 goals against average in the playoffs after putting up an amazing 10 shutouts in 43 games during the regular season. Obviously, this team isn’t on the tip of anybody’s tongue these days given that this was classic, old-time hockey, but a respectful stick tap to the Bruins players who helped build everything Boston has today.
3. 2011 Bruins
46-25-11 record, 103 points (Won Stanley Cup)
The first Stanley Cup in nearly 40 years was a memorable one for the Bruins. They became the first Stanley Cup team in NHL history to win three Game 7s on the way to capturing the Cup and pushed, punched and bullied the fast, skilled Vancouver Canucks during a memorable Stanley Cup Final win. Mark Recchi retired in the aftermath of winning the Cup in Boston, and this was the season where Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand formed into a two-man team that’s become arguably the best 1-2 linemate combo in B’s history.
There was also the character of the group. Recchi, Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Andrew Ference, Shawn Thornton, Chris Kelly and others formed into a tremendous leadership group that had character, personality and quite a bit of fun while they were winning. And at the end of it all was arguably the best goaltending season in the history of the NHL with Tim Thomas capturing the Vezina Trophy and Conn Smythe Trophy while somehow not finishing higher than fifth in the Hart Trophy voting.
2. 1972 Bruins
54-13-11 record, 119 points (Won Stanley Cup)
The encore to the 1970 team that featured an older, more-experienced group of Bruins players with Phil Esposito going for 66 goals and 133 points during the regular season. The Bruins had an amazing four point-per-game players that season with Orr (117 points), Esposito (133 points), Johnny Bucyk (32 goals and 83 points in 78 games) and Fred Stanfield (23 goals and 79 points in 78 games) all lighting the lamp early and often.
Truth be told, the Bruins probably should have enjoyed a three-peat given the talent level and where they were in their NHL careers, but they had faltered in 1971 before righting that wrong this postseason. Esposito led all players with nine goals, 24 points and a whopping 101 shots on net in 15 games during Boston’s dominant run to the Cup that postseason.
1. 1970 Bruins
40-17-19 record, 99 points (Won Stanley Cup)
The true high point of the Bruins franchise. The team’s signature player capped off a Stanley Cup victory with hockey’s most iconic moment and brought the first Stanley Cup back to Boston in almost 30 years. It was also an insanely talented group at the height of their young powers with Bobby Orr just 22 years old and still playing with healthy knees and Phil Esposito just beginning his run as the most dominant goal-scorer in Bruins franchise history.
This was the first of six straight 100-point seasons for No. 4 as he revolutionized the NHL’s back end position and the first of six straight seasons where Espo led the NHL in goals. The stats would get even gaudier and the rosters changed a little over the stretch, but the Cup that ushered this group in as rock stars in Boston was the sweetest of them all.