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The Habs were lucky that they didn't face the Sabres in the playoffs 1976-78?

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07-31-2014, 03:04 AM
  #1
VMBM
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The Habs were lucky that they didn't face the Sabres in the playoffs 1976-78?

In boxing there's that saying, "styles make fights" = for example, look at Muhammad Ali; he would always have a tough fight against Joe Frazier and Ken Norton (both beat him once & lost two close fights), whereas Ali beat George Foreman fairly 'easily'*, who in turn destroyed both Frazier and Norton without breaking much sweat.

* Ali himself didn't count it among his toughest fights

In international hockey, Czechoslovakia had a winning record vs. the Soviets in the World Championships 1968-1972, even though only in the 1972 WHC did they finish ahead of them. So even though USSR struggled vs. Czechoslovakia, they could dominate the other teams more easily, i.e. they were superior overall.

Now, look at the Sabres vs. the Canadiens record in the 1975-76, 1976-77 and 1977-78 NHL seasons...

1975-76 regular season:

03-Nov-75 Buffalo Sabres 2 Montreal Canadiens 3
09-Nov-75 Montreal Canadiens 1 Buffalo Sabres 5
05-Jan-76 Buffalo Sabres 4 Montreal Canadiens 2
22-Feb-76 Montreal Canadiens 4 Buffalo Sabres 2
06-Mar-76 Buffalo Sabres 2 Montreal Canadiens 3

The Sabres' record: 2 wins, 3 losses.

1976-77 regular season:

10-Oct-76 Montreal Canadiens 1 Buffalo Sabres 3
01-Nov-76 Buffalo Sabres 2 Montreal Canadiens 3
06-Jan-77 Montreal Canadiens 9 Buffalo Sabres 2
29-Jan-77 Buffalo Sabres 3 Montreal Canadiens 3
06-Mar-77 Montreal Canadiens 1 Buffalo Sabres 4

The Sabres' record: 2 wins, 2 losses, 1 tie

1977-78 regular season:

30-Oct-77 Buffalo Sabres 4 Montreal Canadiens 0
24-Nov-77 Buffalo Sabres 1 Montreal Canadiens 4
01-Dec-77 Montreal Canadiens 1 Buffalo Sabres 3
20-Feb-78 Buffalo Sabres 2 Montreal Canadiens 4
06-Mar-78 Montreal Canadiens 1 Buffalo Sabres 2

The Sabres' record: 3 wins, 2 losses

These teams never faced each other in the playoffs 1976-78.

So, during those 3 seasons - when the Habs were at their strongest - the Sabres had an even record head-to-head (I would've liked to have said, 'winning record', but there you go ). I haven't exactly checked it, but I doubt that any other team did as well or better against the Canadiens than the Sabres did back then.

Okay, of course I understand that the playoffs is a totally different world compared to the regular season, and while the Canadiens flourished also in the playoffs, the Sabres never advanced too far during those 3 seasons. And even in the regular season, the Habs' overall record was always much better. So this is probably just a little curiosity...

BUT is it at all surprising that the Sabres did so well vs. the dynasty Habs during the regular season? Could they have upset the Canadiens also in the playoffs? Was there any discussion at the time along the lines of "the Canadiens have problems with the Sabres" etc?

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07-31-2014, 03:16 AM
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The Panther
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I was born in 1976, so I can't comment on what people were saying back then.

But I wanted to say two things:

- I read a book when I was a kid about Gil Perreault and the Sabres in the 70s. I really like that team and that franchise in that decade. It's easy to see why Buffalo sports fans went crazy for them and why they were so successful at establishing a great, loyal fan-base.

- Buffalo had 'The French Connection', as their stars. It's not uncommon, I think, for players from Montreal/QC to do well against Montreal. They get so 'up' for the games, knowing they're playing their childhood team and that their friends/family are watching.

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07-31-2014, 06:14 AM
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Theokritos
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Buffalo Sabres vs Canadiens
overall: 7 wins, 1 tie, 7 losses / 15 points in 15 games (50%)
at Buffalo: 5 wins, 2 losses / 10 points in 7 games (71.4%)
at Montreal: 2 wins, 1 tie, 5 losses / 5 points in 8 games (31.25%)

For comparison vs Montreal Canadiens (same three seasons, only regular season):

Philadelphia Flyers
overall: 2 wins, 3 ties, 7 losses / 7 points in 12 games (29.2%)
at Philadelphia: 2 wins, 1 tie, 3 losses / 5 points in 6 games (41.7%)
at Canadiens at Montreal: 2 ties, 4 losses / 2 points in 6 games (16.7%)

Boston Bruins
overall: 3 wins, 2 ties, 8 losses / 8 points in 13 games (30.8%)
at Boston: 2 wins, 2 ties, 3 losses / 6 points in 7 games (42.9%)
at Montreal: 1 win, 5 losses / 2 points in 6 games (16.7%)

New York Islanders
overall: 1 win, 1 tie, 10 losses / 3 points in 12 games (12.5%)
at New York: 1 win, 5 losses / 2 points in 6 games (16.7%)
at Montreal: 1 tie, 5 losses / 1 point in 6 games (8.3%)

Playoffs results vs Montreal do nothing to improve any of the records above, except the Islanders home record to 27.3% (3 wins, 8 losses / 6 points in 11 games).

The one number that really stands out among them all is the Sabres' home record against the Canadiens. Was there talk of the Canadiens having problems with the Sabres at Buffalo? From a report on the game between Buffalo and Krylja Sovietov in January 1976:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Theokritos View Post
Jim Coleman, Calgary Herald: „Kulagin pointed out, with considerable justice, that the Wings were baffled by Buffalo Auditorium's very small centre ice area. He said that long-striding players such as Yakushev couldn't get loose in the small centre ice area. Kulagin certainly had a point: The Montreal Canadiens, who love to free wheel like the Russians, never play one of their really top-form games in the Buffalo Auditorium.“
EDIT: The Sabres' record at Montreal is very solid too compared to the other teams, so there must be more to it than only the ice size at Buffalo.


Last edited by Theokritos: 07-31-2014 at 09:28 AM.
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07-31-2014, 10:05 AM
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They were lucky to have avoided the opponent most likely to have defeated them. They'd probably still win, but would have a much harder time of it, especially in Buffalo (in Montreal, Buffalo beat the Habs twice in three years, which puts them in sole possession of most road wins in Montreal in that time period.)

Many championship teams have that kind of luck where they avoid their Joe Frazier team. i.e. The 70s Bruins never beat the Canadiens and only won once the Habs were gone.

Here's a link to H-R for those years:
NHL vs Canadiens 1976-78

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07-31-2014, 11:15 AM
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Yes, they were lucky not to have faced the Sabres in the playoffs during the mid-to-late 70's. Buffalo was most definitely Montreal's Kryptonite; it's one thing to see the statistics above but I still have recollections as a young kid of how hard it was for Montreal to play against Buffalo. It always felt to make like Montreal could easily beat every other team on a good night. With the exception of:

51/49 Montreal/Boston
60/40 Buffalo/Montreal

As a young kid, and a Montreal fan, I still remember my emotions regarding other teams very well. I didn't mind the Leafs because they were never really a threat. I hated the Bruins - and it's partly why Guy Lafleur will always be my favourite player. I was afraid of the Sabres - and for some reason Jim Schoenfeld sticks out more in my mind even more so than the French Connection line.

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07-31-2014, 02:35 PM
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LeBlondeDemon10
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They did meet in the 1975 playoffs, Buffalo winning 4 games to 2. Montreal won both of their home games by lopsided scores, 7-0 and 8-2. This Montreal team was just beginning to emerge as the powerhouse they would become. The previous 2 years were transition years; waiting for Lafleur, Shutt and Robinson to reach their potential. Plus the absence of Dryden in 73-74. I think this series was key for the Montreal dynasty that was to come. It taught them that it takes more than just offensive firepower to win games.

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07-31-2014, 04:52 PM
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I loved that 70s Sabre team as a kid, but I don't think they could've beaten Montreal in the playoffs.

The French Connection line always played well against the Habs, but the Sabres were a team that could be easily intimidated. They could never beat the hard-hitting physical teams like the Flyers or Islanders. Montreal didn't prefer to play that style, but they were big enough and capable of doing it if necessary, and in a playoff series things will invariably get physical.

Buffalo did beat Montreal in '75; but while Montreal's two wins were one-sided decisive victories, Buffalo's four wins were all close games that could've gone either way. Those games tend to even out over the long run. And as mentioned by LeBlondeDemon10, the Canadiens in '74-'75 were not as their dynasty level yet. A year later, they were a machine.

If they played a playoff series between '76 and '78, Montreal would be the home team, so Buffalo would need to win at least one game at the Forum. In those three seasons, Montreal's playoff home record was 21-1. Buffalo's road record was 1-10. I know who I'd bet on.

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07-31-2014, 07:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by reckoning View Post

Buffalo did beat Montreal in '75; but while Montreal's two wins were one-sided decisive victories, Buffalo's four wins were all close games that could've gone either way. Those games tend to even out over the long run. And as mentioned by LeBlondeDemon10, the Canadiens in '74-'75 were not as their dynasty level yet. A year later, they were a machine.
Interesting stat about that Habs team: 23 game consecutive unbeaten streak on the road and only 6 road losses all year.

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07-31-2014, 11:00 PM
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Big Phil
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I'll have to look it up, but during their record setting 1976-'77 season the Habs had a 2-3-1 record against the Bruins. This is who they met in the final - and swept. So it just goes to show you that the regular season doesn't mean everything. I would say Boston was the next best team in the NHL in those years. They were more well rounded than the Sabres. I know that Dryden had a hard time with the Sabres in his career but the Sabres didn't have the goaltending or the defense to compete with Montreal. 1975 was the first year where Lafleur really took off. After that, he was in full flight. I doubt the Sabres would have an answer for that. I suppose Perreault would be that answer, but then again the depth Montreal had was astounding.

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08-01-2014, 02:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Big Phil View Post
I'll have to look it up, but during their record setting 1976-'77 season the Habs had a 2-3-1 record against the Bruins.
I think they lost 3 and won 2 in 5 games? That's a very good record (for Boston, that is) for that season, but maybe significantly, the Habs won the last two games by a blowout. ("Calisse, they've beaten us 3 times in a row, let's get mad, tabarnac!")* ??!

I guess it's fair to say that the Bruins was the 2nd best team in the NHL at the time, and those late '70s games between Boston and Montreal are fun to watch even to this day (different styles of play and all that), but it became obvious that they could never win a playoff series vs. the Canadiens (even though they were so very close in 1979). So maybe a Buffalo vs. Montreal series would've been more exciting than the 1977 and 1978 finals were. Fast, freewheeling, uberskilled hockey it must have been. On the other hand, there would've been the Habs' defensive players (Gainey, Houle...) vs. the French Connection line, and Ramsay, Gare etc vs. the Dynasty line. I agree, though; in the end, Montreal's depth would've likely prevailed.

BTW, before I checked it, I had the impression that the Sabres had even a better record vs. the Canadiens than it actually was, so I was a bit disappointed and thought about scrapping this thread. But going especially by the reminiscences of posters who were around back then (I was barely around, and didn't know anything about the NHL), there seems to be something in this after all.

* yes, I've read The Game and yes, that's a poor imitation of the the Habs' 'locker room talk'


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