Like we did for Pac-12 Fridays, we took a little break last week for Covid vaccination, but NHL Saturday returns today with more of the dynastic dominance north of the border: What the New York Yankees and the Boston Celtics have been to MLB and the NBA, respectively, the Montréal Canadiens have been to the NHL. This new entry sees the on-ice dynasty skating on to yet another Stanley Cup title.
But what does it mean for our awards analysis?! Read on to find out …
1977 Hart: Guy Lafleur (original, confirmed)
The Canadiens had a season for ages, losing just eight times in 80 games (60-8-12), posting a record 132 points in the process. They outscored their opponents by 216 goals over the course of the year, which is mind numbing. At the heart of the offensive side of that equation was right wing Guy Lafleur, who won the Hart vote while also leading forwards in Point Shares (15.73). That makes this a straight-forward decision, giving Lafleur a third consecutive Hart from us.
He topped the NHL with 136 points and 80 assists, while registering a plus-86 rating. Yes, we know this roster was loaded, but there was a scoring leader for it on the way to setting the all-time records for team wins and points in the standings.
1977 Vezina: Ken Dryden & Michel Larocque (original), Rogie Vachon (revised)
At the time, this award automatically went to the primary goaltender(s) on the team that surrendered the fewest goals, so Montréal took the prize for its two goalies, Ken Dryden (41-6-8, league-best .920 save percentage) and Michel Larocque (19-2-4, league-low 2.09 GAA). But the most valuable goalies in the league, based on Point Shares, were Dryden (14.35 PS) and Los Angeles Kings veteran Rogie Vachon (14.35 PS). Yes, they actually tied, so we have to dig deeper here.
Dryden was obviously very good in his 56 games played, posting a 2.14 GAA, while Vachon (33-23-12) did a lot of dirty work for the Kings, the second-best team behind the Canadiens in the Norris Division—albeit 49 points (!) behind in the standings (34-31-15). But the truth is Los Angeles might have missed the Cup playoffs without Vachon and his 68-game effort in net for the Kings. The fact L.A. posted a terrible 1-8-3 record with its backup goalie(s) tells us all we need to know about value here.
Anyone could have played goalie for Montréal, and that team still would have cruised into the playoffs. That is not taking anything away from the stellar play of Dryden and Larocque at all; they were great. They both were better than Vachon on paper and ice, but the Kings netminder had more value, despite inferior counting stats (.903 save percentage, 2.73 GAA).
Vachon earned half the official Vezina in 1968, even though we stripped him of it. But he really earned this one, for sure.
1977 Norris: Larry Robinson (original, confirmed)
The Canadiens benefitted from the top player in the league, in defenseman Larry Robinson (16.94 PS). He also posted the highest defensive PS mark (9.86) in the NHL as well. That’s why he won this vote, and that’s why we will confirm it without hesitation. Robinson led the league in plus-minus rating (+120), while also notching 85 points (19G, 66A).
1977 Calder: Willi Plett (original, confirmed)
The best of the rookie class included Minnesota North Stars center Roland Eriksson (4.9 PS), New York Rangers right wing Don Murdoch (5.6 PS), and Atlanta Flames right wing Willi Plett (6.1 PS). The Flames finished 8 points ahead of the Rangers in the Patrick Division, and that difference was enough to get Atlanta into the postseason. Meanwhile, the North Stars made the playoffs despite posting 8 points less than the Rangers.
This means we will confirm the vote at the time, giving Plett the nod for his stats, too (56 points, plus-15 rating, and 123 penalty minutes). He also converted 21.2 percent of his shots on goal, which is pretty impressive for a guy with that many PIMs. Six game winners for a rookie is a nice bonus as well.
1977 Conn Smythe: Guy Lafleur (original), Ken Dryden (revised)
Montréal swept Boston in the Stanley Cup Finals, and Lafleur won the Conn Smythe vote at the time (26 points in 14 games). But two other skaters also notched more than a point per game in the playoffs for the Canadiens. We know Lafleur was the best, but he had a lot of help on the ice. Meanwhile, Dryden posted a 1.56 GAA and a .932 S% while posted 12 wins in 14 starts.
When push came to shove, Dryden was in net the whole time, without relief from Larocque. That GAA is insane, actually, and while Lafleur posted almost two points per game, three other skaters registered at least one point a game as well. We just think Dryden’s ability to stop the puck meant more here than Lafleur’s ability to score—especially with one of those Dryden losses coming in overtime against a team that would win four straight Cups itself from 1980-1983.