The Top Five Bruins Teams Of All Time: #4 1977-78
Coming in at number four on our list of the “Top Five Bruins Teams Of All Time” is the 1977-78 Boston Bruins team or as it is known historically; Don Cherry’s Lunch pail Bruins. This team is significant in Bruins history given despite not capturing a Stanley Cup Championship. After the Bruins traded Phil Esposito a few seasons prior to the New York Rangers and lost Bobby Orr due to some shady dealings, it was time for Don Cherry to enact his will in crafting the Boston Bruins as he saw fit. His team was going to be gritty, hardworking, talented unlike any Bruins team before it, and a team that would connect with the blue collar Boston crowd. Under his tenure the Bruins received the nickname “Lunch-Pail Gang” and the 1977-78 season was the peak of their reign.
Led by Bruins Legend Terry O’Reilly, the Lunch-Pail Gang was torture to play against in the 1977-78 NHL season. O’Reilly was having the best year of his career with 29 goals, 61 assists, a plus 40, and 211 penalty minutes in 77 games. While this year was impressive for him statistically speaking, it is his abrasive and aggressive style of play that endeared him to the Bruins and the fans. It is for this reason his number hangs up in the rafters at the now TD Garden in Boston.
Another significant piece on the team was Hall of Fame defenseman Brad Park. His arrival in Boston was not an easy one having played for the rival New York rangers for so long. Once he got settled in Boston he managed to help capture some of that end to end offense from the back-end the Bruins had been lost with the departure of Orr. The 1977-78 season was Park’s best as a member of the black and gold. During that season he scored 22 goals, 57 assists, and was a plus 68 in 80 games. He was also a first team all-star that year and finished as a runner up in the Norris Trophy voting.
Perhaps the most significant accomplishment of this team was the record they set that season. Eleven players on the team had twenty or more goals in the regular season which is an NHL record that still stands today. The eleven players were Peter McNab, Terry O’Reilly, Bobby Schmautz, Stan Jonathan, Jean Ratelle, Rick Middleton, Wayne Cashman, Gregg Sheppard, Brad Park, Don Marcotte, and Bob Miller.
There are plenty of players on this list to accomplish great things in the NHL whether it was with the Bruins or another team. Stan Jonathan won the 7th Player award that year as the player that exceeded all expectations. Jean Ratelle became a Hall of Famer and is still widely regarded as one of the most underrated players of all time. Rick “Nifty” Middleton became a dangerous goal scorer for the B’s in the coming seasons with 402 goals in 881 games which is good for third on the Bruins all-time list behind Esposito and Johnny “Chief” Bucyk.
Another component to the Bruins successful season was the goaltending which was done by committee. Ron Grahame played in the majority of the games with 40 and posted a record of 26-6-7 with 3 shutouts, and a 2.76 goals against average. Gerry Cheevers played in some games as well although he was entering the twilight of his career. He had a 10-5-2 record with one shutout, and a 2.65 goals against average in 21 games. The final goaltender of the committee was Gilles Gilbert; he had a record of 15-6-2 with 2 shutouts, and a 2.53 goals against average in 25 games. Don Cherry went with a goaltender that he felt gave them the best chance to win; this is the reasoning behind the many goaltender the Bruins employed in the 1977-78 season.
In the Playoffs the Bruins would sweep the Chicago Blackhawks then go on to beat the Philadelphia Flyers in five games. Unfortunately they would lose to the hated Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Finals in six games. The Bruins won their 13th Division Championship that year but that was the extent of their statistical accomplishments. Instead the focus on this team was the connection it made with the fans of Boston. This team is arguably the best representation of the “Big Bad” Bruins than any other team and for that reason it made the list. Don Cherry was a runner up for the Jack Adams that year because he crafted a beautiful thing in Boston… a perfect representation of both Bruins and “Old Time” Hockey.
Number three on our list debuts Monday but you can follow me on twitter here for any and all Bruins news until then: Mattjacob64