With the military conflict coming to a close, there was a flood of players returning to their respective National Hockey League clubs. In Toronto, the Leafs welcomed back Syl Apps and Boston did the same with their famed Kraut Line of Schmidt, Dumart and Bauer.
In addition to team rosters being turned over to accommodate returning veterans, their were changes at the management level. In Boston, Art Ross gave up his coaching responsibilities and turned the reins over to player-coach Dit Clapper. Ross wanted to dedicate 100 per cent of his efforts to being general manager. In New York, Frank Boucher was entering his first full season at the helm of the Rangers. In February 1945, he replaced general manager and hockey pioneer Lester Patrick.
On the ice, two teams, in particular, experienced difficulty in adjusting to the post-war game. The Maple Leafs, having to endure a contract dispute with goalie Frank McCool, struggled coming out of the gate. McCool would eventually put pen to contract in late November 1945. In January 1946, starting netminder Turk Broda would return, but it was too little, too late. For the first time since 1929-30, Toronto failed to make the playoffs. They finished in fifth place (45 Pts.), 16 points behind league leading Montreal Canadiens (61Pts.).
The other club which stumbled in '45-46 were the New York Rangers. Early in the season, it appeared as though New York had stabilized their goaltending situation. The Rangers had both Chuck Rayner and Sugar Jim Henry at their disposal. With one hole plugged, problems developed in other areas. The Rangers were crippled with injuries. Star forward Bryan Hextall was absent the entire year due to a liver problem. Defenceman Muzz Patrick was felled by a knee injury. One of the bright spots for New York was rookie Edgar Laprade. The Ranger finished in last place going 13-28-9 for 35 points.
Although Rocket Richard wasn't able to duplicate his numbers from the previous year, he did add NHL records to his resume. In his 145th game, Richard became the quickest player to reach 100 goals. In the playoffs, he went 8 straight games scoring a goal, thus setting a new NHL mark.
Max Bentley of Chicago won the scoring title, netting 31 goals and 30 assists for 61 points in 47 games. This feat earned him the Hart Trophy as MVP. Edgar Laprade was awarded the Calder Trophy as top rookie. The Vezina went to Montreal's Bill Durnan and the Lady Byng went to teammate Toe Blake.
The semi-finals pitted Chicago against Montreal in one series and Detroit and Boston hooking-up in the other. For Montreal it was a 4 game sweep over the Hawks. Boston had to play one additional game before ousting Detroit 4-1 in the best-of-seven series.
The Stanley Cup final opened up in the Montreal Forum with games one and two going into overtime. The Canadiens prevailed in both, defeating Boston 4-3 and 3-2. With play shifting to the Boston Garden, the teams split games three and four. Montreal won game four by a 4-2 margin over Boston. The Bruins staved off elimination by producing a 3-2 overtime victory in game four.
Stanley Cup fever hit Montreal when the series returned for game five. It was played on April 9, 1946. Montreal and Boston entered the final frame tied 3-3. In the third period, Montreal went into attack mode. Goaltender Frank Brimsek was the victim of Montreal's offensive assault. Scoring for Montreal were Toe Blake, Murph Chamberlain and Dutch Hiller. The Canadiens and their fans celebrated a 6-3 victory which produced another Stanley Cup banner for the Forum.
The Stanley Cup win marked the end of an era in one regard for the Habs. Executive Tommy Gorman would depart as general manager and be replaced by Frank Selke.