The league changed the playoff qualification format for this season. Whereas before the first through third-place teams in every division qualified, the format was changed to only guarantee the first and second-place finisher in each division a playoff spot. The last four qualifiers were from the next-best four regular-season records from third and lower place finishers.
Teams were required to place the last names of players on the back of all jerseys starting with this season. Toronto owner Harold Ballard, believing that the move would cut into sales of programs, briefly attempted to render the names in white to blend in with the Maple Leafs white home jerseys, a plan quickly forbidden by the league.
Bobby Orr sat out the season to rest his oft-injured knee in the hope that rest would allow him to return to play in 1978–79.
On December 11, 1977, the Philadelphia Flyers' Tom Bladon became the first defenseman in NHL history to score eight points in one game. He scored four goals and four assists versus the Cleveland Barons. It was 25% of his point total for the entire season.
The Colorado Rockies qualified for the playoffs for the first and only time in franchise history. They would not make the playoffs again until after the team had moved to New Jersey, in 1988. The next time the playoffs came to Colorado would be the Colorado Avalanche's championship season of 1996.
The playoffs were held in four rounds, preliminary, quarterfinals, semifinals and final. In the preliminary round, the Detroit Red Wings were the only lower-placed team to win over the higher-placed team. The Red Wings were then defeated in five games by the first-place Montreal Canadiens. The Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Los Angeles Kings to advance to the quarterfinals, where the Leafs upset the third-place New York Islanders in seven games, setting up an "Original Six" playoff against Montreal. The upsets ended there as the Canadiens swept the Leafs to advance to the final. In the other groupings, the higher-placed team won each round, and the second-place Boston Bruins advanced to the final to playoff against the first-place Canadiens. In the final, the Canadiens defeated the Bruins in six games to win their third consecutive Stanley Cup.
The Colorado Rockies made their one and only playoff appearance in the preliminary round against the Philadelphia Flyers, and were swept in two games. It would take another ten years before they got to the playoffs again in New Jersey. The Chicago Black Hawks were swept in the other "Original Six" matchup of the playoffs, losing to Boston in the quarterfinals.
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