May 21, 2008

1983: Islanders and Oilers Collide

The year is 1983. The most anticipated Stanley Cup final in years takes place, as the 3 time defending Stanley Cup champion New York Islanders face off against the highest scoring team in NHL history - the Edmonton Oilers.

The Islanders had worked hard to establish themselves as perhaps the greatest team in NHL history, but they had a serious dislike for the cocky Oilers. This as much as anything motivated the Islanders on to their 4th Stanley Cup title in as many years.

The Islanders didn't just win, they completely humbled the high scoring Edmontonians. The Oilers scored 424 goals in the regular season, but could only must 6 in the 4 game finals loss. Wayne Gretzky scored 71 goals in the regular season, and another 12 goals and 38 points in these playoffs. But the Islanders great checking and the belligerent goaltender Billy Smith kept #99 off of the score sheet.

Smith was the story of the finals, slashing and hacking at Oilers forwards and infamously taking a dive to draw a five minute spearing major against Glenn Anderson. His 1.50 GAA against the Oilers scoring machine was a convincing argument for his Conn Smythe trophy win.

Denis Potvin played this series with a heavy heart. His ailing father was near death, but the two made a pact: Denis would win the Cup if his father fought for his life. In a happy ending, Denis' father was in attendance when his son lifted the Stanley Cup for the 4th and what proved to be final time.

The Sutter brothers, Duane and Brent, were the unlikely scoring heroes in the finals, with Duane leading all players with 7 points in 4 games, and Brent right behind with 5.

As for the Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Paul Coffey and the Edmonton Oilers, they learned a great lesson in their Stanley Cup set back. Kevin Lowe said it best in his autobiography when he and Gretzky were shocked as they walked by the Islanders dressing room on the way out of the rink. The Islanders were not in the midst of a grand celebration, but rather busy attending to their numerous bumps and bruises. Lowe said that was when they realized what it took to be champions.

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