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May 21, 2008

1981: Cinderella North Stars Can't Upset Islanders

The year is 1981. The New York Islanders successfully defend their first Stanley Cup championship, knocking off the Minnesota North Stars 4 games to 1.

The North Stars were an interesting team blessed with talent that, for whatever reason, never really had much success. But the stars were aligned for them in 1981, as their playoff road was smooth until meeting the Islanders in the finals.

The North Stars are led by Bobby Smith, Al MacAdam and the surprising Steve Payne. Payne equals the Islanders' Mike Bossy with 17 goals in just 19 games, the second best total in NHL history. Payne would finish second to Bossy in the point scoring derby, with 29 compared to 35.

Another key Minnesota North Star is rookie winger Dino Ciccarelli. While Dino would become one of the greatest goal scorers in NHL history, in 1981 he was an undrafted rookie coming off of a badly shattered leg injury in junior. This spring he would prove he could play, setting NHL rookie playoff records with 17 goals and 21 points.

Goalie Gilles Meloche would prove to be no match for the Islanders net keeper Billy Smith, as the Islanders outscored the North Stars 26-16 in the 5 game finals. Butch Goring would lead the Islanders with 5 goals in the finals, enough to earn him the Conn Smythe Trophy.

By the way, the Stanley Cup engravers badly misspelled the championship entry, referring to them as the "New York Ilanders."

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