1977-78 team stands alone in Bruins lore
(Video by Peter Manderino, Bruins Daily)
Call them the “20-Karat Goal Club,” standard bearers of the record for 20-plus goal scorers in a single season in NHL history. Those 11 members of the 1977-78 Bruins roster with 20-plus goals each were honored prior to the team’s game against the Calgary Flames Tuesday night.
“Very difficult to have eleven 20-goal scorers,” team President Cam Neely said in a pregame press conference and a reunion of the gang that shot very straight 40 years ago. “You might see four or five or six [today].”
“Eleven 20-goal scorers will never be broken,” former Bruins coach and current Hockey Night in Canada analyst Don ‘Grapes’ Cherry said Tuesday. “I knew we had a shot at breaking it.”
The previous record was 10, a feat accomplished by three teams: 1970-71 Bruins, 1974-75 Montreal Canadiens and then the 1980-81 St. Louis Blues.
Wanna take a break to attempt the list of 11 before reading on? Five or six maybe a lock; 7-9 a likely challenge; 10 and 11 possible stumpers.
Only captain Wayne Cashman was not among the alumni reunion that included in descending scoring order: Peter McNab (41), Terry O’Reilly (29), Bobby Schmautz (27), Stan Jonathan (27), Jean Ratelle (25), Rick Middleton (25), Cashman (24), Gregg Sheppard (23), Brad Park (22), Don Marcotte (20) and Bob Miller (20).
Sheppard and Miller usually prove the stumpers.
“These guys maybe had more fun with it a lot more business-like [now], Neely said. “A lot more at stake. Plus these guys had a lot more fun on the road.”
How the list grew to 11 is a quick study in coaching philosophy then – and the imposing business aspect of today, not to mention that road factor.
“Every line I put out scored 20 goals,” Cherry said. “One major reason for 11 was when we got up three or four goals we’d play the third and fourth line. I knew we were setting a record.”
“Now you only have two units on the power play,” O’Reilly added, “but Don would roll all the lines on the power play. That kept everybody hungry. And our star guys like Jean Ratelle, Rick Middleton and Peter McNab didn’t have a problem with that. There weren’t as many specialists then.”
“It’s hard to explain in an era like today where statistics are out there every day,” McNab said. “We didn’t see stat sheets. All three lines had 20-goal scorers and one on the fourth [Miller] and one defenseman [Park].”
Two of the 11 would end in the Hall of Fame — Park and Ratelle — and one among the Garden rafters with the retirement of O’Reilly’s No. 24.
“If you take the average salary of a 25-goal scorer in the NHL today with the salary cap you could not afford more than a few,” McNab said about the business side.
No shortage of anecdotes and ironies from Cherry and the group. One that bantered back and forth was how number 11 was achieved to break the mark.
“Somebody mentioned it on the bench to get me out there,” Miller, who was stuck on 19 goals, explained. “Second to last game [of the season] in Toronto. I think ‘Schmautzy’ said to Don to get me out there.”
“They pulled the goalie; I don’t know why,” Cherry said, “and Greg Sheppard got the draw over to Bobby Schmautz and we worked on that 11th guy and he was going to pass it over to Miller.”
An empty-net goal became the bottom line for a record that will likely stand forever.
“I had 27, my best year,” Jonathan said with added irony. “And it was no power-play goals and no shorthanded.”
“Ten didn’t wear helmets,” McNab said. “The fans knew who their guy was. There was no mistaking Terry O’Reilly or “Nifty” [Middleton] or Schmautzy. We came in after Bobby and Phil winning those Cups and were a completely different hockey team.”
With a completely different coach.
“Don would be playing the crowd or the media and we’d just say, ‘What is he doing,’ McNab said. “He’d talk about his dog, ‘Blue.’ But it kept losses from being a big deal and allowed us to play our game. We didn’t start the season with: ‘You need to score so many or get X number.’ The season just moved itself along.”
The magic would end with a crushing six-game series loss to the arch-rival Canadiens in the Cup Final after Boston got it tied 2-2.
“It’s pretty special to have them here, walking around our locker room and talking to our players,” Neely said. “Original Six franchise and a lot of good players have come through here.”
“Being a part of this team I was surprised when [then GM] Harry [Sinden] called me to say they’re planning to retire my number,” O’Reilly said. “Why? Because I played with Brad Park and Jean Ratelle and Rick Middleton. All those numbers could be up there.”