THN Rates ’76-’77 Habs The Best

For the last eight Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup wins, from 1971 to 1993, I managed to save the front pages and laminate them. (Although one, from 1977, is an inner page), and I did a little write up about each of those years.

And seeing how The Hockey News has chosen the Habs 1976-77 team as the greatest team ever, I thought I’d re-post that part of my series.

(THN’s other top five in order are the ’83-’84 Oilers, ’82-’82 Islanders, ’55-’56 Habs, and ’51-’52 Red Wings).

In the spring of 1977, as I was on the verge of getting married for the first time, Jacques Lemaire scored the overtime goal to give his team their second straight Stanley Cup in this late 1970′s run, and it was done with a lovely four-game sweep against Don Cherry and his Boston Bruins.

Is this one of the reasons you’re not crazy about the Habs, Don?

It had been quite a year for this dominating bunch. Montreal only lost eight times in 80 games and racked up a record 132 points. Nobody was going to beat them in the playoffs. You didn’t have to be Kreskin to figure it out. In fact, the team swept the Blues, took out the Islanders 4 games to 2, and then swept the Bruins. Fourteen games in total, and very similar to the 13 it had taken them the year before.

Guy Lafleur won the Conn Smythe trophy for playoff MVP and managed nine goals and 17 assists throughout. But he had this to say: “It’s my third Cup and it’s always nice, but it’s not the same excitement. I don’t think I’m the best player. It’s just that everything went well for me.”

Jacques Lemaire was the quiet hero on this ride. His teammates had told him to shoot more, and on this night, he delivered with the overtime marker. “Why shouldn’t I be happy,” said Lemaire. “I’m on a holiday. I’m on a holiday starting now. It’s about time. It still is Lafleur and Shutt, except tonight. Tonight was a mistake. They said, shoot the puck, you look good.”

Coach Scotty Bowman talked about Lafleur and Shutt. “They play more like Europeans. I’m not knocking the NHL style of play, but the Europeans make more plays on the move. That’s what Lafleur and Shutt do.”

And last word to Don Cherry. “It’s hard to believe we kept outshooting them and still can’t win a game. I still say the whole thing boiled down to those three defensemen.”

5 thoughts on “THN Rates ’76-’77 Habs The Best”

  1. I’ve had this argument (the greatest “single season” NHL team) with so many people. I’ve had friends suggest that it was one of the Oilers teams of the late 80s, or one of the Islanders teams from the early 80s, or one of the Red Wings teams from the last 90s, and one delusional friend who keeps insisting that had the Flyers been “healthy’ in 1976, they would have beaten the Canadiens that year and won their third straight Cup, thereby scuttling the Montreal dynasty before it even got started.

    Personally, I agree with the THN. Eight losses in 80 games, and just 12 ties. If they’d had overtime back then and shootouts, you have to figure that Montreal would have at least split the 12 games that it tied (realistically, it would probably have won 8-10 of those games), meaning that Montreal might conceivably have won 68-70 games, an absolutely ridiculous figure. The Habs had a better than 2-1 goals ratio that season. Nobody could touch that team, and it never had a letdown (which is why, in my opinion, it was better than any of those other teams). I was at one game that season–a 10-0 destruction of the Washington Capitals. Ken Dryden called it the most embarrassing shutout of his career, because the Habs outshot the Capitals by something like 57-8 margin……………..

  2. Excellent comment, Ian. And the person who talked about the Flyers winning their third Cup but had injuries is definitely delusional. Montreal had everything the Flyers had and much more of everything, including toughness. Flyers fans are the San Quentin convicts of hockey fans.

  3. Thanks for the kind words, Dennis. The Habs of 1976-77 couldn’t be touched. Boston would have won the Cup pretty much any other season, but not that year……..

    :-D

  4. I have always been a Montreal fan and have very good memories regarding that incredible 76-77 season. Ironically one of them concerns that 10-0 shutout against the Capitals above mentioned in Ian’s comment. Believe it or not, I was disappointed with the score. After 2 periods, the Habs simply stopped its offensive roller over the poor Washington team. Bowman abusively played his defensive squad, the Jarvis, Gainey and company. He always did. I honestly think that if it hadn’t been the case, Montreal would have won the game by 14 or 15 goals. As a matter of fact, I think they could have scored easily 50 or 60 mores goals that year just playing the “good guys” in the third all season long. You might think I was a bit too hard on the opponent… But I was a kid, I new that team had no limits, and just wanted to see how far it could rewrite the record books. They did indeed, but without forcing too much… That’s as good they were.

  5. Thanks Marc. That team was just so well-balanced. There were several superstars, premier checkers, veterans, youngsters, a crafty coach, and great goaltending. And some of the guys like Robinson provided world class muscle. How could any team match all that? People who hate the Habs say we as fans were smug, but with a team like that, it’s was easy to feel good about them. Right now I’m hoping Galchenyuk blossoms into a 40 or 50 goal scorer and brings back some of that superstar magic.

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