1976-77 MONTREAL CANADIENS
Home is where Les Habitants struck fear into the hearts of opponents throughout the 1976-77 NHL season.
En route to a league-record 60 victories and 132 points in 80 regular-season games, the Montreal Canadiens compiled a home record of 33-1-6. One loss at home all season. It happened on Oct. 30, 1976, against the Boston Bruins, by a score of 4-3.
In the long term, it was the worst thing that could have happened to the Bruins that evening.
The Canadiens, in the midst of their last dynastic run, promptly launched the longest home unbeaten streak in NHL history -- 34 games (28-0-6), beginning Nov. 1 and lasting until April 2, 1977.
After sweeping St. Louis in the quarterfinals and eliminating the New York Islanders in six games in the semifinals, the Canadiens met up again with the Bruins in the Stanley Cup finals. Boston did not have a chance.
Montreal won Game 1, 7-3, and the sweep was on. The Bruins scored only six goals and were outscored by 10 in the four games.
The Canadiens have won the Stanley Cup 24 times, 10 during a 15-year romp from 1965-1979. Choosing one “greatest” team from that tradition is challenging work, and the Canadiens were so good in the 1970s that their record-setting season was taken for granted by many at the time. After all, hadn’t the 1975-76 Canadiens broken NHL records with 58 victories and 127 points? So they broke those records again the following season? That’s what the Canadiens do, right?
But by any standard, Montreal’s 1976-77 season was special. Guy Lafleur led the league in scoring with 56 goals and 80 assists and Steve Shutt was third with 60 and 45. Lafleur was most valuable player of both the regular season and playoffs, Larry Robinson won the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman, Scotty Bowman was coach of the year and goaltenders Ken Dryden and Michel Larocque won the Vezina Trophy with a 2.09 goals-against average.
The postseason first-team NHL All-Star team featured two-thirds of the Montreal starting lineup: Lafleur and Shutt as wingers, Robinson as a defenseman, Dryden in goal. Guy LaPointe was a second-team defenseman.
Of note to local hockey fans: Kings center Marcel Dionne, second in the league in scoring that season, joined Lafleur and Shutt on that first-string All-Star forward line. Dionne scored 53 goals for a Kings team that placed second in the Norris Division with 83 points -- keeping them within 50 points of the first-place Canadiens.