The Franchise Best Series comes to you to dive into the all-time best single season for every organization. This, of course, includes post-season results. Join us for a look back at some of the most memorable moments in each franchise’s history. Here is the Montreal Canadiens best season.
It’s almost impossible to have a conversation about hockey without talking about the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs are the NHL’s most storied franchise. Winning 24 Stanley Cups to date as well as producing some of the most memorable names in hockey history such as Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau, Howie Morenz, Georges Vezina, Jacques Plante, Ken Dryden, Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson, Patrick Roy; the list goes on. All these players were able to raise Lord Stanley’s Cup while dawning the bleu, blanc, et rouge. While there are many great years to choose from as the Habs best season, there is none better than the Montreal Canadiens 1976-77 season.
Montreal Canadiens 1976-77 Season
The 68th season in franchise history, the Canadiens were regarded as one of the best teams ever assembled. The Habs finished with a record of 60-8-12 setting a league record which still stands today with 132 points. They also outscored their opponents by a whopping 216 goals, which also stands as a record. 40 more than the next best, which was also set by the Habs the following season. The most impressive part of it all was other than Pete Mahovlich, the entire team was homegrown. Every player on the roster was drafted or developed by the Canadiens.
The Previous Year
After finishing first place in the NHL, the Habs went on to win their 19th Stanley Cup. It was the first of what would turn out to be four consecutive Cup wins after they beat the Philadelphia Flyers in four straight games. Guy Lafleur won his first of three Art Ross and Lester B. Pearson trophies and Ken Dryden won his second of five Vezina trophies. Both players were also named to the NHL first all-star team. It was the beginning of a dynasty.
Keeping Up the Compete Level
When you’re walking through so many teams with ease, it can be easy to lose focus. The team got to the point where the league didn’t have the competition, so they created their own internal competition. With having so many of the top players in the game, scrimmages became more intense and more difficult than some of the opponents the Habs would face. The player’s felt as though they always had to be at the top of their game because they had two or three extra players who could take their place in the lineup. Mahovlich credits Coach Scotty Bowman for being able to create the atmosphere where everyone was still on pins and needles.
However one player, in particular, had a hard time keeping his competitive drive going, and that was Ken Dryden. Dryden was on the record for saying that he didn’t enjoy the 76-77 season very much. Dryden said that although he was happy they won so many games, it sometimes felt as it was without any difficulty at all. It left Dryden thinking about his future and wanting more. Dryden would play two more seasons, winning two more Stanley Cups before he retired at age 31.
The Habs had a ton of offence that season, having 2 players finishing in the top 5 and 3 in the top 20. They were led by Guy Lafleur, who led the entire league in scoring with 136 points. Followed by Steve Shutt who scored 60 goals and had 105 points. Defenceman Larry Robinson was the other player in the top 20. He finished with 85 points. The top 5 scorers were as follows:
- Guy Lafleur 56 goals, 80 assists, 136 points
- Steve Shutt 60 goals, 45 assists, 105 points
- Larry Robinson 19 goals, 66 assists, 85 points
- Guy Lapointe 25 goals, 51 assists, 76 points
- Jacques Lemaire 34 goals, 41 assists, 75 points
- Ken Dryden 2.14 GAA, 0.920 SV %, 10 Shutouts. Record: 41-6-8
The Canadiens walked through the Stanley Cup Playoffs only losing two games in those three series. In the quarterfinals, the Habs handled the St. Louis Blues quite easily, as they swept the blues and outscored them 19-4. Lafleur led the way with five goals and 12 points in four games.
In the semifinals, the Habs ran into a tougher New York Islanders team who handed the Habs their first two losses of the playoffs, but that would be it. Although the games were closer, the Habs managed to shutout the Islanders twice and outscore them 19-13. Steve Shutt and Jacques Lemaire were the Habs leading scorers in this series with six points apiece.
The Habs met the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final and much like the series against the Blues, they put them away rather easily. The Habs swept the Bruins in the final, outscoring them 16-6 along the way to their 20th Stanley Cup Championship. Lafleur lead the way in the series with nine points and finished with 26 points over the course of the playoffs, capturing the Conn Smyth Trophy for playoff MVP. The Habs proved to be too much for the competition, outscoring them all by a total of 54-23.
Bringing Home All the Hardware
Not only did the Habs win the Stanley Cup that season, they basically won every individual trophy as well. Guy Lafleur walked home with the Art Ross, the Hart and the Conn Smythe. Dryden and Larocque won the Vezina, Robinson the Norris and Bowman won the Adams. If there was a Rocket Richard trophy at the time, Steve Shutt would have won that as well. The Selke trophy started being awarded the following season, where Gainey claimed the first of four consecutive.
Greatest Team in NHL History?
The 76-77 Habs are said to be the greatest team ever assembled, and really, who could argue it. After only losing a total of 10 games in the regular season and playoffs combined and outscoring their opponents by 216 goals the Habs certainly earned that title. Not to mention winning their second of four consecutive Stanley Cup’s that season with next to no trouble. They had nine players get inducted into the Hall of Fame (Guy Lafleur, Yvan Cournoyer, Ken Dryden, Bob Gainey, Guy Lapointe, Jacques Lemaire, Larry Robinson, Serge Savard and Steve Shutt) along with Coach Scotty Bowman and GM Sam Pollock. They also became one of two teams to have 4 players named to the NHL First All-Star team (Dryden, Robinson, Lafleur and Shutt). It’s a team that is certainly classified as a juggernaut, and now with the league in a Cap Era, will go down as the greatest team in NHL history.
Embed from Getty Images