This season saw the first reduction in the total number of teams since the Brooklyn Americans folded following the 1941–42 season. Fearing that two teams were on the verge of folding, the league approved the merger of the financially unstable Cleveland Barons and Minnesota North Stars franchises, reducing the number of teams to 17. The merged team continued as the Minnesota North Stars, but assumed the Barons' place in the Adams Division.
This reduction would only be temporary, however, as negotiations continued toward an agreement with the World Hockey Association that would see it fold following this season, with four of its teams joining the NHL as expansion franchises for 1979–80.
For the past three seasons, the Montreal Canadiens had dominated the regular season, but times were changing. The New York Islanders had been steadily improving over the past few seasons and this season saw them beat out the Canadiens by one point for the best record in the league.
(2) Montreal Canadiens vs. (7) Toronto Maple Leafs
This was the fifteenth and most recent playoff series between these two Original Six teams, with the teams splitting the fourteen previous series. They last met in the 1978 Stanley Cup Semifinals where Montreal won in four games. The Canadiens won this year's season series earning seven of eight points.
(2) Montreal Canadiens vs. (3) Boston Bruins
Game seven of the Montreal-Boston semifinal is perhaps one of the most memorable in the history of the NHL. About a minute and a half after Boston's Rick Middleton scored with four minutes remaining in the third period to give the Bruins a 4–3 lead, linesman John D'Amico called a bench minor for too many men on the ice against the Bruins. Montreal's Guy Lafleur scored on the ensuing power play, sending the game to overtime where Yvon Lambert gave the Canadiens the win and a trip to their fourth straight Stanley Cup final.
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^ abcNational Hockey League Official Guide and Record Book 2006, p. 163, Dan Diamond & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, ISBN 0-920445-98-5