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The 2003–04 NHL season was the 87th regular season of the National Hockey League. The thirty teams played 82 games in a revamped format that increased divisional games from 5 to 6 per team (24 total), conference games from 3 to 4 (40 total), and decreased inter-conference games to at least one per team, with three extra games (18 in total). The Stanley Cup winners were the Tampa Bay Lightning, who won the best of seven series 4–3 against the Calgary Flames. This was the first season since the 1969–70 season that teams would wear their dark jerseys at home. For the fourth time in eight years, the all-time record for total shutouts in a season was shattered, as 192 shutouts were recorded. The 2003–04 regular season was also the first one (excluding the lockout-shortened regular season of 1994–95) since 1967–68 in which there was neither a 50-goal scorer, nor a 100-point scorer.

This was the final season that ABC and ESPN televised NHL games. It was also the final NHL season before the 2004–05 NHL lockout, and the final season in which games could end in ties.

Regular season

The 2003–04 season was one overhung by concern over the expiry of the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement. It would lead to a shuttering of the league for the entirety of the next season. During the entire season, Commissioner Gary Bettman and Players Association head Bob Goodenow waged a war of words with no agreement being signed.

On September 26, just before the season was to begin, young Atlanta Thrashers star Dany Heatley crashed his Ferrarimarker in suburban Atlanta. The passenger, Thrashers workhorse Dan Snyder, was killed. Heatley himself was badly injured and eventually charged with vehicular homicide. The entire NHL thus began the season in mourning.

Going into the season the two favorites were the Ottawa Senators in the east, who had won the Presidents' Trophy and come within a win of the Stanley Cup finals the year before; and the Colorado Avalanche in the west, who despite losing legendary goaltender Patrick Roy to retirement, added both Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya to an already star-studded lineup. Neither of these teams was as successful as expected, with Ottawamarker finishing fifth in the conference and Coloradomarker finishing fourth, losing the Northwest Division title for the first time in a decade when the Nordiques were still around.

The greatest disappointments were the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, who, despite making it to game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals the year before and adding Sergei Fedorov and Vaclav Prospal, failed to make the playoffs. In the East the star-studded New York Rangers again failed to make the playoffs. The Washington Capitals, who were regarded as a contender, also stumbled early and never recovered. The end of the season saw two of the most extensive housecleanings in league history as the Rangers and Capitals traded away most of their stars and entered rebuilding mode. The Capitals dumped Jaromir Jagr, Peter Bondra, Sergei Gonchar, Robert Lang, Steve Konowalchuk, and Anson Carter. The Rangers moved Petr Nedved, Brian Leetch, Anson Carter, and Alexei Kovalev.

The most surprising teams were the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference and San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference. The Lightning, who had a remarkable season with only 20 man-games lost to injury, finished atop the Eastern Conference. The Sharks, who were firmly in rebuilding mode after a disastrous 28–37–9–8 campaign the last season, came second in the Western Conference and won the Pacific Division.

Two other teams that did better than expected were carried by surprising young goaltenders. The Calgary Flames ended a seven-year playoff drought backed by the solid play of Miikka Kiprusoff. The Boston Bruins won the Northeast Division by a whisker over the Toronto Maple Leafs with the help of eventual Calder Memorial Trophy winner Andrew Raycroft.

Goaltending was also the story of the Presidents' Trophy-winning Detroit Red Wings as the return from retirement of legend Dominik Hasek bumped Curtis Joseph to the minor leagues. At the same time long time back up Manny Legace put up better numbers than both veterans and won the starting job in the playoffs.

Of note is the fact that the Nashville Predators made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. They put up a valiant effort but were unable to overcome the Hockey Hall of Famemarker-bound roster of the Red Wings in the first round.

Final standings

Detroit Red Wings won the Presidents' Trophy and home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.

For rankings in conference, division leaders are automatically ranked 1–3. These three, plus the next five teams in the conference standings, earn playoff berths at the end of the season.

Eastern Conference

Western Conference

Scoring leaders

Note: GP = Games played, G = Goals, A = Assists, Pts = Points
Player Team GP G A Pts
Martin St. Louis Tampa Bay 82 38 56 94
Ilya Kovalchuk Atlanta 81 41 46 87
Joe Sakic Colorado 81 33 54 87
Markus Naslund Vancouver 78 35 49 84
Marian Hossa Ottawa 81 36 46 82
Patrik Elias New Jersey 82 38 43 81
Daniel Alfredsson Ottawa 77 32 48 80
Cory Stillman Tampa Bay 81 25 55 80
Robert Lang Washington / Detroit 69 30 49 79
Brad Richards Tampa Bay 82 26 53 79

Leading goaltenders

Note: GP = Games played; Mins = Minutes played; W = Wins; L = Losses: OT = Overtime losses; GA = Goals allowed; SO = Shutouts; GAA = Goals against average
Player Team GP Mins W L T GA SO SV GAA
Martin Brodeur New Jersey 75 4554 38 26 11 154 11 .917 2.03
Marty Turco Dallas 73 4359 37 21 13 144 9 .913 1.98
Ed Belfour Toronto 59 3444 34 19 6 122 10 .918 2.13
Tomas Vokoun Nashville 73 4221 34 29 10 178 3 .909 2.53
Dan Cloutier Vancouver 60 3539 33 21 6 134 5 .914 2.27


Note: All dates in 2004.

The 2004 playoffs were considered to be wide open with no clear favorite. All of the top teams had weaknesses. Tampa Bay and Boston were both young teams with no history of recent postseason success. Detroit, Ottawa, Colorado, and Philadelphia all had major questions in goal. New Jersey was marred by injuries to Scott Stevens and Brian Rafalski, while Vancouver was missing the suspended Todd Bertuzzi.

The first-round Eastern Conference matchups were notable for the number of heated rivalries. The Ottawa Senators met the Toronto Maple Leafs for the fourth time in five years in the always passion-filled Battle of Ontario. The Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens met in a resumption of the most common of all NHL playoff series, and one which the Canadiens have thoroughly dominated, including an upset win two years prior. The Philadelphia Flyers also played a hated division rival in the New Jersey Devils. The only non-rivalry was the Tampa Bay-New York Islanders series.

The West saw the resumption of the Vancouver-Calgary rivalry, which had been somewhat dormant as the Flames made the playoffs for the first time since 1996. In a less passionate but still interesting matchup, Detroit played division rival Nashville (whom they had struggled against during the regular season) in Nashville's first ever franchise visit to the playoffs. San Jose met the St. Louis Blues, while the always difficult four-five matchup saw Colorado and Dallas meet.

The Calgary Flames, a sixth seed, defeated the Canucks, the Red Wings and the Sharks to become the first Canadian team to reach the Stanley Cup Finals in ten years, since the Canucks lost to the Rangers in the Finals in 1994. They faced the Tampa Bay Lightning, who defeated the Islanders in five, swept the Canadiens and defeated the Flyers in seven games.

The Flames and the Lightning battled hard in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Flames took a 3-2 series lead back to Calgary for Game 6, with the Stanley Cup in the building. With the game tied 2-2 in the third, Martin Gelinas of the Flames (who scored the series winning goals in the Flames three previous series) appeared to have scored the go-ahead goal. Gelinas tipped a pass towards the Tampa net that was kicked out by Lightning goalie Nikolai Khabibulin. It appeared that before Khabibulin kicked the puck out, it had already crossed the goal line. The play was reviewed and found inconclusive. To this day, many flames fans argue that the puck was in. The game eventually went into double overtime where Lightning winger and former Flame Martin St. Louis scored the overtime winner and broke the hearts of Flames fans everywhere. The series went back to Tampa for Game 7 where Ruslan Fedotenko scored the series winning goal as the Lightning beat the Flames 2-1 to win the Stanley Cup. Brad Richards with 12 goals and 26 points won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

Playoff bracket

Conference Quarter-finals

Eastern Conference Quarter-finals

Tampa Bay vs. NY Islanders
Date Away Home OT Score
April 8 NY Islanders Tampa Bay 3 – 0
April 10 NY Islanders Tampa Bay 3 – 0
April 12 Tampa Bay NY Islanders 3 – 0
April 14 Tampa Bay NY Islanders 3 – 0
April 16 NY Islanders Tampa Bay OT 3 – 2
Tampa Bay wins series 4–1
Philadelphia vs. New Jersey
Date Away Home Score
April 8 New Jersey Philadelphia 3 – 2
April 10 New Jersey Philadelphia 3 – 2
April 12 Philadelphia New Jersey 4 – 2
April 14 Philadelphia New Jersey 3 – 0
April 17 New Jersey Philadelphia 3 – 1
Philadelphia wins series 4–1
Boston vs. Montreal
Date Away Home OT Score
April 7 Montreal Boston 3 – 0
April 9 Montreal Boston OT 2 – 1
April 11 Boston Montreal 3 – 2
April 13 Boston Montreal 2OT 4 – 3
April 15 Montreal Boston 5 – 1
April 17 Boston Montreal 5 – 2
April 19 Montreal Boston 2 – 0
Montreal wins series 4–3
Toronto vs. Ottawa
Date Away Home OT Score
April 8 Ottawa Toronto 4 – 2
April 10 Ottawa Toronto 2 – 0
April 12 Toronto Ottawa 2 – 0
April 14 Toronto Ottawa 4 – 1
April 16 Ottawa Toronto 2 – 0
April 18 Toronto Ottawa 2OT 2 – 1
April 20 Ottawa Toronto 4 – 1
Toronto wins series 4–3

Western Conference Quarter-finals

Colorado vs. Dallas
Date Away Home OT Score
April 7 Dallas Colorado 3 – 1
April 9 Dallas Colorado 5 – 2
April 12 Colorado Dallas OT 4 – 3
April 14 Colorado Dallas 2OT 3 – 2
April 17 Dallas Colorado 5 – 1
Colorado wins series 4–1
San Jose vs. St. Louis
Date Away Home OT Score
April 8 St. Louis San Jose OT 1 – 0
April 10 St. Louis San Jose 3 – 1
April 12 San Jose St. Louis 4 – 1
April 13 San Jose St. Louis 4 – 3
April 15 St. Louis San Jose 3 – 1
San Jose wins series 4–1
Vancouver vs. Calgary
Date Away Home OT Score
April 7 Calgary Vancouver 3 – 5
April 9 Calgary Vancouver 2 – 1
April 11 Vancouver Calgary 2 – 1
April 13 Vancouver Calgary 0 – 4
April 15 Calgary Vancouver 2 – 1
April 17 Vancouver Calgary 3OT 5 – 4
April 19 Calgary Vancouver OT 2 – 1
Calgary wins series 4–3
Detroit vs. Nashville
Date Away Home Score
April 7 Nashville Detroit 3 – 1
April 10 Nashville Detroit 2 – 1
April 11 Detroit Nashville 3 – 1
April 13 Detroit Nashville 3 – 0
April 15 Nashville Detroit 4 – 1
April 17 Detroit Nashville 2 – 0
Detroit wins series 4–2

Conference Semi-finals

Eastern Conference Semi-finals

Tampa Bay vs. Montreal
Date Away Home OT Score
April 23 Montreal Tampa Bay 4 – 0
April 25 Montreal Tampa Bay 3 – 1
April 27 Tampa Bay Montreal OT 4 – 3
April 29 Tampa Bay Montreal 3 – 1
Tampa Bay wins series 4–0
Philadelphia vs. Toronto
Date Away Home OT Score
April 22 Toronto Philadelphia 3 – 1
April 25 Toronto Philadelphia 2 – 1
April 28 Philadelphia Toronto 4 – 1
April 30 Philadelphia Toronto 3 – 1
May 2 Toronto Philadelphia 7 – 2
May 4 Philadelphia Toronto OT 3 – 2
Philadelphia wins series 4–2

Western Conference Semi-finals

Detroit vs. Calgary
Date Away Home OT Score
April 22 Detroit Calgary OT 1 – 2
April 24 Detroit Calgary 5 – 2
April 27 Calgary Detroit 3 – 2
April 29 Calgary Detroit 2 – 4
May 1 Detroit Calgary 0 - 1
May 3 Calgary Detroit OT 1 - 0
Calgary wins series 4–2
San Jose vs. Colorado
Date Away Home OT Score
April 22 Colorado San Jose 5 – 2
April 24 Colorado San Jose 4 – 1
April 26 San Jose Colorado 1 – 0
April 28 San Jose Colorado OT 1 – 0
May 1 Colorado San Jose OT 2 – 1
May 4 San Jose Colorado 3 – 1
San Jose wins series 4–2

Conference Finals

Eastern Conference
Tampa Bay vs. Philadelphia
Date Away Home  
May 8 Philadelphia 1 3 Tampa Bay  
May 10 Philadelphia 6 2 Tampa Bay  
May 13 Tampa Bay 4 1 Philadelphia  
May 15 Tampa Bay 2 3 Philadelphia  
May 18 Philadelphia 2 4 Tampa Bay  
May 20 Tampa Bay 4 5 Philadelphia OT
May 22 Philadelphia 1 2 Tampa Bay  
Tampa Bay wins series 4–3

and Prince of Wales Trophy
Western Conference
San Jose vs. Calgary
Date Away Home  
May 9 Calgary 4 3 San Jose OT
May 11 Calgary 4 1 San Jose  
May 13 San Jose 3 0 Calgary  
May 16 San Jose 4 2 Calgary  
May 17 Calgary 3 0 San Jose  
May 19 San Jose 1 3 Calgary  
Calgary wins series 4–2 and

Clarence S.
Campbell Bowl

Stanley Cup Finals

Tampa Bay vs. Calgary
Date Away Home  
May 25 Calgary 4 1 Tampa Bay  
May 27 Calgary 1 4 Tampa Bay  
May 29 Tampa Bay 0 3 Calgary  
May 31 Tampa Bay 1 0 Calgary  
June 3 Calgary 3 2 Tampa Bay OT
June 5 Calgary 2 3 Tampa Bay 2OT
June 7 Calgary 1 2 Tampa Bay  
Tampa Bay wins series

4–3 and Stanley Cup

Scoring leaders

Note: GP = Games Played, G = Goals, A = Assists, Pts = Points
Player Team GP G A Pts
Brad Richards Tampa Bay 23 12 14 26
Martin St. Louis Tampa Bay 23 9 15 24
Jarome Iginla Calgary 26 13 9 22
Fredrik Modin Tampa Bay 23 8 11 19
Craig Conroy Calgary 26 6 11 17
Vincent Lecavalier Tampa Bay 23 9 7 16
Keith Primeau Philadelphia 18 9 7 16
Martin Gelinas Calgary 26 8 6 14
Vincent Damphousse San Jose 17 7 7 14
Alexei Zhamnov Philadelphia 18 4 10 14

NHL awards

The NHL Awards presentation took place in Torontomarker.
Presidents' Trophy: Detroit Red Wings
Prince of Wales Trophy: Tampa Bay Lightning
Clarence S. Campbell Bowl: Calgary Flames
Art Ross Trophy: Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy: Bryan Berard, Chicago Blackhawks
Calder Memorial Trophy: Andrew Raycroft, Boston Bruins
Conn Smythe Trophy: Brad Richards, Tampa Bay Lightning
Frank J. Selke Trophy: Kris Draper, Detroit Red Wings
Hart Memorial Trophy: Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning
Jack Adams Award: John Totorella, Tampa Bay Lightning
James Norris Memorial Trophy: Scott Niedermayer, New Jersey Devils
King Clancy Memorial Trophy: Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy: Brad Richards, Tampa Bay Lightning
Lester B. Pearson Award: Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning
Lester Patrick Trophy: Mike Emrick, John Davidson, Ray Miron
Maurice 'Rocket' Richard Trophy: Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames;
Rick Nash, Columbus Blue Jackets;
Ilya Kovalchuck, Atlanta Thrashers

NHL Plus/Minus Award: Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning;
Marek Malik, Vancouver Canucks
Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award: Dwayne Roloson, Minnesota Wild
Vezina Trophy: Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils
William M. Jennings Trophy: Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils

All-Star teams

First team   Position   Second team
Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils G Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers
Scott Niedermayer, New Jersey Devils D Chris Pronger, St. Louis Blues
Zdeno Chara, Ottawa Senators D Bryan McCabe, Toronto Maple Leafs
Joe Sakic, Colorado Avalanche C Mats Sundin, Toronto Maple Leafs
Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning RW Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames
Markus Naslund, Vancouver Canucks LW Ilya Kovalchuk, Atlanta Thrashers


The following is a list of players of note who played their first NHL game in 2003–04 (listed with their first team):

Last games

The following is a list of players of note that played their last game in the NHL in 2003–04 (listed with their last team):

See also


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