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1977–78 NHL season

1977–78 NHL season

The 1977–78 NHL season was the 61st season of the National Hockey League. The Montreal Canadiens won their third Stanley Cup in a row, defeating the Boston Bruins four games to two in the Stanley Cup Finals.

1977–78 NHL season
LeagueNational Hockey League
SportIce hockey
DurationOctober 12, 1977 – May 25, 1978
Number of games80
Number of teams18
Top draft pickDale McCourt
Picked byDetroit Red Wings
Regular season
Season championsMontreal Canadiens
Season MVPGuy Lafleur (Canadiens)
Top scorerGuy Lafleur (Canadiens)
Playoffs MVPLarry Robinson (Canadiens)
Stanley Cup
ChampionsMontreal Canadiens
  Runners-upBoston Bruins

League business

Clarence Campbell retired as NHL President, prior to this season. John Ziegler succeeded him.

A trophy for the top defensive forward, the Frank J. Selke Trophy, made its debut this season and went to Bob Gainey, who played left wing for Montreal.

On June 14, 1978, the league approved the merger of the financially struggling Cleveland Barons and Minnesota North Stars franchises, reducing the number of teams to 17, with the North Stars (now the Dallas Stars) assuming the Barons' place in the Adams Division. It was the only instance of a league franchise to dissolve since the Brooklyn Americans ceased operations in 1942. The next time the NHL had a team in Ohio would be the expansion Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2000–01 season.

The league changed the playoff qualification format for this season. Whereas before the first through third-place teams in every division qualified, the format was changed to only guarantee the first and second-place finisher in each division a playoff spot. The last four qualifiers were from the next-best four regular-season records from third and lower place finishers.

Teams were required to place the last names of players on the back of all jerseys starting with this season, but Toronto Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard initially refused, fearing that he would not be able to sell programs at his team's games. The NHL responded by threatening to levy a fine on the team in February 1978, so Ballard complied by making the letters the same color as the background they were on, which for the team's road jerseys was blue. The League threatened further sanctions, and despite playing more than one game with their "unreadable" sweaters, Ballard's Maple Leafs finally complied in earnest by making the letters white.[1]

Regular season

Bobby Orr sat out the season to rest his oft-injured knee in the hope that rest would allow him to return to play in 1978–79.

On December 11, 1977, the Philadelphia Flyers' Tom Bladon became the first defenseman in NHL history to score eight points in one game.[2] He scored four goals and four assists versus the Cleveland Barons. It was 25% of his point total for the entire season.

The Colorado Rockies qualified for the playoffs for the first and only time in franchise history. They would not make the playoffs again until after the team had moved to New Jersey, in 1988. The next time the playoffs came to Colorado would be the Colorado Avalanche's championship season of 1996.

Final standings

GP = Games Played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals For, GA = Goals Against, PIM = Penalties In Minutes

Teams that qualified for the playoffs are highlighted in bold

Prince of Wales Conference

Adams Division
Boston Bruins80511811333218113
Buffalo Sabres80441917288215105
Toronto Maple Leafs8041291027123792
Cleveland Barons8022451323032557
Norris Division
Montreal Canadiens80591011359183129
Detroit Red Wings8032341425226678
Los Angeles Kings8031341524324577
Pittsburgh Penguins8025371825432168
Washington Capitals8017491419532148

Clarence Campbell Conference

Patrick Division
New York Islanders80481715334210111
Philadelphia Flyers80452015296200105
Atlanta Flames8034271927425287
New York Rangers8030371327928073
Smythe Division
Chicago Black Hawks8032291923022083
Colorado Rockies8019402125730559
Vancouver Canucks8020431723932057
St. Louis Blues8020471319530453
Minnesota North Stars801853921832545


The playoffs were held in four rounds, preliminary, quarterfinals, semifinals and final. In the preliminary round, the Detroit Red Wings were the only lower-placed team to win over the higher-placed team. The Red Wings were then defeated in five games by the first-place Montreal Canadiens. The Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Los Angeles Kings to advance to the quarterfinals, where the Leafs upset the third-place New York Islanders in seven games, setting up an "Original Six" playoff against Montreal. The upsets ended there as the Canadiens swept the Leafs to advance to the final. In the other groupings, the higher-placed team won each round, and the second-place Boston Bruins advanced to the final to playoff against the first-place Canadiens. In the final, the Canadiens defeated the Bruins in six games to win their third consecutive Stanley Cup.

The Colorado Rockies made their one and only playoff appearance in the preliminary round against the Philadelphia Flyers, and were swept in two games. It would take another ten years before they got to the playoffs again in New Jersey. The Chicago Black Hawks were swept in the other "Original Six" matchup of the playoffs, losing to Boston in the quarterfinals.

Playoff seeds

The twelve teams that qualified for the playoffs are ranked 1–12 based on regular season points.

Note: Only teams that qualified for the playoffs are listed here.

  1. Montreal Canadiens, Norris Division champions, Prince of Wales Conference regular season champions – 129 points

  2. Boston Bruins, Adams Division champions – 113 points

  3. New York Islanders, Patrick Division champions, Clarence Campbell Conference regular season champions – 111 points

  4. Philadelphia Flyers – 105 points (45 wins)

  5. Buffalo Sabres – 105 points (44 wins)

  6. Toronto Maple Leafs – 92 points

  7. Atlanta Flames – 87 points

  8. Chicago Black Hawks, Smythe Division champions – 83 points

  9. Detroit Red Wings – 78 points

  10. Los Angeles Kings – 77 points

  11. New York Rangers – 73 points

  12. Colorado Rockies – 59 points

Playoff bracket

Preliminary RoundQuarterfinalsSemifinalsStanley Cup Final
3NY Islanders3
6Los Angeles0
7NY Rangers1
  • Division winners earned a bye to the Quarterfinals

  • Teams were re-seeded based on regular season record after the Preliminary and Quarterfinal rounds

Preliminary Round

(1) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (8) Colorado Rockies

Philadelphia won series 2–0

(2) Buffalo Sabres vs. (7) New York Rangers

Buffalo won series 2–1

(3) Toronto Maple Leafs vs. (6) Los Angeles Kings

Toronto won series 2–0

(4) Atlanta Flames vs. (5) Detroit Red Wings

Detroit won series 2–0


(1) Montreal Canadiens vs. (8) Detroit Red Wings

Game 4 was the final playoff game at the Detroit Olympia

Montreal won series 4–1

(2) Boston Bruins vs. (7) Chicago Black Hawks

Boston won series 4–0

(3) New York Islanders vs. (6) Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto won series 4–3

(4) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (5) Buffalo Sabres

Philadelphia won series 4–1


(1) Montreal Canadiens vs. (4) Toronto Maple Leafs

Montreal won series 4–0

(2) Boston Bruins vs. (3) Philadelphia Flyers

Game five was Fred Shero's last game as head coach of the Flyers, and Gerry Cheevers left the ice without shaking hands with any of the Flyers.[4]

Boston won series 4–1

Stanley Cup Finals

Montreal won series 4–2


The league introduced the Frank J. Selke trophy this season. It rewards the forward judged to be the best at defensive abilities.

1978 NHL awards
Prince of Wales Trophy:
(Wales Conference regular season champion)
Montreal Canadiens
Clarence S. Campbell Bowl:
(Campbell Conference regular season champion)
New York Islanders
Art Ross Trophy:
(Top scorer, regular season)
Guy Lafleur, Montreal Canadiens
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy:
(Perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication)
Butch Goring, Los Angeles Kings
Calder Memorial Trophy:
(Top first-year player)
Mike Bossy, New York Islanders
Conn Smythe Trophy:
(Most valuable player, playoffs)
Larry Robinson, Montreal Canadiens
Frank J. Selke Trophy:
(Best defensive forward)
Bob Gainey, Montreal Canadiens
Hart Memorial Trophy:
(Most valuable player, regular season)
Guy Lafleur, Montreal Canadiens
Jack Adams Award:
(Best coach)
Bobby Kromm, Detroit Red Wings
James Norris Memorial Trophy:
(Best defenceman)
Denis Potvin, New York Islanders
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy:
(Excellence and sportsmanship)
Butch Goring, Los Angeles Kings
Lester B. Pearson Award:
(Outstanding player, regular season)
Guy Lafleur, Montreal Canadiens
Vezina Trophy:
(Goaltender(s) of team(s) with best goaltending record)
Ken Dryden & Michel Larocque, Montreal Canadiens
Lester Patrick Trophy:
(Service to hockey in the U.S.)
Phil Esposito, Tom Fitzgerald, William Thayer Tutt, William W. Wirtz

All-Star teams

First Team  Position  Second Team
Ken Dryden, Montreal CanadiensGDon Edwards, Buffalo Sabres
Denis Potvin, New York IslandersDLarry Robinson, Montreal Canadiens
Brad Park, Boston BruinsDBorje Salming, Toronto Maple Leafs
Bryan Trottier, New York IslandersCDarryl Sittler, Toronto Maple Leafs
Guy Lafleur, Montreal CanadiensRWMike Bossy, New York Islanders
Clark Gillies, New York IslandersLWSteve Shutt, Montreal Canadiens

Player statistics

Scoring leaders

GP = Games Played, G = Goals, A = Assists, Pts = Points, PIM = Penalties In Minutes

Guy LafleurMontreal Canadiens78607213226
Bryan TrottierNew York Islanders77467712346
Darryl SittlerToronto Maple Leafs804572117100
Jacques LemaireMontreal Canadiens7636619714
Denis PotvinNew York Islanders8030649481
Mike BossyNew York Islanders735338916
Terry O'ReillyBoston Bruins77296190211
Gilbert PerreaultBuffalo Sabres7941488920
Bobby ClarkePhiladelphia Flyers7121688983
Lanny McDonaldToronto Maple Leafs7447408754
Wilf PaiementColorado Rockies80315687114

Source: NHL.[5]

Leading goaltenders

Note: GP = Games played; Min – Minutes Played; GA = Goals Against; GAA = Goals Against Average; W = Wins; L = Losses; T = Ties; SO = Shutouts

Ken DrydenMontreal Canadiens5230711052.0537775
Bernie ParentPhiladelphia Flyers4929231082.22296137
Gilles GilbertBoston Bruins251326562.5315622
Chico ReschN.Y. Islanders4526371122.5528973
Tony EspositoChicago Black Hawks6438401682.632822145
Don EdwardsBuffalo Sabres7242091852.643816175
Billy SmithN.Y. Islanders382154952.6520882
Michel LarocqueMontreal Canadiens301729772.6722341
Mike PalmateerToronto Maple Leafs6337601722.74341995
Dan BouchardAtlanta Flames5833401532.752512192

Other statistics

  • Guy Lafleur, Montreal Canadiens


Patrick Division

  • Atlanta Flames: Fred Creighton

  • New York Islanders: Al Arbour

  • New York Rangers: Jean-Guy Talbot

  • Philadelphia Flyers: Fred Shero and Bob McCammon

Adams Division

  • Boston Bruins: Don Cherry

  • Buffalo Sabres: Marcel Pronovost

  • Cleveland Barons: Jack Evans

  • Toronto Maple Leafs: Roger Neilson

Norris Division

  • Detroit Red Wings: Bobby Kromm

  • Los Angeles Kings: Ron Stewart

  • Montreal Canadiens: Scotty Bowman

  • Pittsburgh Penguins: Johnny Wilson

  • Washington Capitals: Tom McVie

Smythe Division

  • Chicago Black Hawks: Bob Pulford

  • Colorado Rockies: Johnny Wilson

  • Minnesota North Stars: Andre Beaulieu and Lou Nanne

  • St. Louis Blues: Leo Boivin

  • Vancouver Canucks: Orland Kurtenbach


The following is a list of players of note who played their first NHL game in 1977–78 (listed with their first team, asterisk(*) marks debut in playoffs):

  • Doug Wilson, Chicago Black Hawks

  • Barry Beck, Colorado Rockies

  • Dale McCourt, Detroit Red Wings

  • Vaclav Nedomansky, Detroit Red Wings

  • Dave Taylor, Los Angeles Kings

  • Mike Bossy, New York Islanders

  • Ron Duguay, New York Rangers

  • Glen Hanlon, Vancouver Canucks

  • Murray Bannerman, Vancouver Canucks

  • Robert Picard, Washington Capitals

Nedomansky began his major professional career in the World Hockey Association.

Last games

The following is a list of players of note that played their last game in the NHL in 1977–78 (listed with their last team):

  • Johnny Bucyk, Boston Bruins

  • Eddie Johnston, Chicago Black Hawks

  • Jim Neilson, Cleveland Barons

  • Dennis Hull, Detroit Red Wings

  • Ed Giacomin, Detroit Red Wings

  • Bill Goldsworthy, New York Rangers

  • Dallas Smith, New York Rangers

  • Ken Hodge, New York Rangers

  • Rod Gilbert, New York Rangers

  • Gary Dornhoefer, Philadelphia Flyers

  • Derek Sanderson, Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Claude Larose, St. Louis Blues

  • Bob Plager, St. Louis Blues

  • Jim Roberts, St. Louis Blues

  • Red Berenson, St. Louis Blues

  • Cesare Maniago, Vancouver Canucks

NOTE: Goldsworthy and Neilson would finish their major professional careers in the World Hockey Association.

See also

  • List of Stanley Cup champions

  • 1977 NHL Amateur Draft

  • 31st National Hockey League All-Star Game

  • National Hockey League All-Star Game

  • 1977–78 WHA season

  • 1977 in sports

  • 1978 in sports


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