Bobby Orr scores the winning goal 40 seconds into sudden-death overtime to lift the Boston Bruins over the St. Louis Blues for the Stanley Cup title on this day in 1970. It was the Bruins’ first championship in 29 years.
The Bruins had finished dead last in their division in seven of the previous eight seasons. In 1967, the Bruins’ former head coach and new general manager, Milt Schmidt, on a quest to build a physically dominating team, told scouts “If they can fit through the door, I don’t want them.” The Bruins had placed hockey wunderkind Bobby Orr on their protected list when he was just 12 years old. He finally made his debut in the 1966-67 season and won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year. The Bruins then added to their lineup center Derek Sanderson, who won the Calder in 1967-68, and center Phil Esposito, who won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player in 1968-69. With this new core in place, the Bruins made the playoffs in 1968-69, but lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Montreal Canadiens in the semifinals.
In 1969-70, Bobby Orr became the first defenseman ever to win all three of hockey’s greatest awards: the Hart Trophy, the James Norris Trophy as the league’s outstanding defenseman and the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading scorer. Along with racking up 87 assists, he scored 120 points, six shy of the league record, and became the first defensive player ever to score 100 points in a season. That year, the Bruins beat the New York Rangers in a difficult six-game series to advance to the Stanley Cup semifinals, in which they faced a talented Chicago Blackhawks squad led by prolific scorer Bobby Hull. Center Derek Sanderson, a defensive stalwart, neutralized Hull, and the Bruins won four straight games to sweep Chicago and advance to the Stanley Cup finals, where they faced the St. Louis Blues.
Despite three straight appearances, the Blues had yet to win a game in the finals, and 1970 proved to be no exception: The Bruins dominated the first three games for a combined total score of 16-4. In Game 4, though, the Blues fought back, sending the game into sudden-death overtime tied at 3. In the first minute of overtime, Orr intercepted a St. Louis clear, which he passed to Sanderson. Sanderson sent it back to Orr who was body-checked hard by St. Louis’ Larry Keenan but still able to send the puck through the goalie’s legs. A shot of Orr celebrating the championship goal while seeming to fly parallel to the ice became the lasting image of his legendary career.