Peter Forsberg had missed the entire 2001-02 season but returned to the Colorado Avalanche for the playoffs and led all scorers in post-season play. A healthy Forsberg picked right up from there to lead the NHL in scoring with 106 points, winning the Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player. It was one of the closest scoring races in history. Going into the final week of the season, five players were in contention. When it ended, Forsberg led by 2 points over Markus Naslund of Vancouver, while Boston's Joe Thornton was 3 points behind Naslund.
Three of the six division races were even closer. In the Eastern Conference, the New Jersey Devils edged the Philadelphia Flyers, 108-107, to take first place in Atlantic Division and Tampa Bay had 93 points to 92 for the Washington Capitals to lead the Southeast Division. The Colorado Avalanche also won the Western Conference's Northwest Division by 1 point, 105-104, over the Vancouver Canucks.
The three top regular-season teams had it easier. Ottawa was the top team with 113 points to lead the Northeast, the Dallas Stars had 111 to finish first in the Pacific, and Detroit's 110 points led the Central Division.
It's commonly said that a team with a hot goaltender can go farther than expected in the playoffs. Never was it better illustrated than by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and their goalie, Jean-Sebastien Griguere. He ranked only 11th in goals-against average during the regular season, but Griguere was more than ready for the playoffs. The Ducks won at Detroit in the third overtime of Game 1, 2-1, and went on to sweep the Red Wings, with Griguere giving up just 8 goals in the four games.
Then they went into Dallas for the first two games of the Western Conference semifinals. The Ducks won the first game, 4-3, in the fifth overtime and the second, 3-2, in the first overtime. The Stars came back by winning Game 3 in Anaheim, but Griguere shut them out, 1-0, in Game and the Ducks went on to win the series in six games. In the conference championship series against Minnesota, Griguere came up with three shutouts in a row, including a 1-0, double-overtime win in Game 1 at Minnesota. The Wild finally scored 4:37 into Game 4, but Anaheim won that game, 2-1, to complete the sweep.
The two top Eastern Conference teams met in the championship finals, where New Jersey took a 3-1 lead, only to see Ottawa win two in a row to even it up. The Devils then won Game 7 at Ottawa, 3-2.
New Jersey had a pretty good goaltender, too, in Vezina Trophy winner Martin Brodeur. He shut out the Ducks in the first two games of the Stanley Cup championship series, both 3-0 wins. Anaheim came right back with two overtime wins at home, including another Griguere shutout. The teams then split two high-scoring games and Brodeur came up with another 3-0 win in Game 7 to give New Jersey its third Stanley Cup championship and second in four years.
Despite the loss, Griguere won the Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs for his 15-6 record, 1.62 goals-against average, and 5 shutouts.