I watched the single best game all year last night . . . it was a Islanders and Oilers match up. No, not the current version of these two once proud franchises, but the pivotal game in the changing of the guard, the shift between the last two dynasties the NHL has seen. It was the first game in the 1984 Stanely Cup Champions Series, and I game that played when I was still technically 2 years old (oh, that is embarrassing). Needless to say, I don't remember the game per se, but I have been told many things about this series by my father over my life (but I'll include these stories in a latter post about game five).
First, the most recurring thought while I watched this game was not 'will the current Oilers ever be one tenth this good again?', but 'when did they make the head lock illegal in the NHL?'. I have to say that I really do like the obstruction stick penalties in the post-lockout NHL, but I would be for bringing back some good ol'fashion head locking in the corner or in front of the net.
Actually the highlight of the entire game, came in the second period, when Bryan Trottier ended up standing alone in the slot. He had three outstanding chances on Fuhr, including the third in a Randy Gregg head lock (even though I knew the outcome of the game, I still thought the man was going to score, fuck was he good). That was magic, watching a talent of a generation play through a World Wrestling Federation power move. More Head Locks = More Excitement.
I never really appreciated the play of Denis Potvin, till last night. Man, did he have an active stick: a little too active in the first with two stick minors, but between get it in passing lanes and his one hand slashes, it was a terrifyingly beautiful thing to see. His skating ability really impressed me, as only Coffey was a better skating dman in that game. But he could carry the puck out of his zone with equal brilliance to his outlet passes. He skated over the whole surface of the ice, from end to end, and never seemed out of position. I would rather skate towards the net facing Huddy or Lowe then Potvin (since I am sure I would fear less for my life, against any of the oil drops then big number 5). If only the current Oilers had a defense men like Potvin . . . oh wait we did, his name was Chris Pronger!
Another Note for the History Buffs: when did the NHL coaches start matching dmen against forwards? Al Arbor seemed to have Trottier out against Gretz all night, but the dmen where rotating. I wonder if the game was played today, if 99 would have seen a minute without Potvin glaring at him and trying to spear him to death.
To the really stars of this game: Grant Fuhr and Billy Smith. I was kind of disappointed that the first classic game I choose to watch only had one goal, and none by Bossy, Trottier, the Moose, Kuri, or the Great One. But to watch that goaltending battle was a sight to see, all by itself. I don't have a modern day comparison for it, it was really out of this world. I kinda wish, goaltending hadn't advance so much since them. The way Fuhr would jump to save the puck with his shoulder, or the kicking splits and glove save (by both goalies), truly mesmerized me all night long. I don't care if JDD would have 15-0 loses this season (with 14 of those going through his five hole), I'd rather watch this old style of 'tending then the butterfly.
Little other tidbits that deserve mentioning is the excellent penalty killing from Brent Sutter and the checking presence from Dave Hunter. I will most likely never like Brent Sutter, but other then the give away that cost the Islanders the game, I was really impressed with his nose for the puck all night long. I know he was only 21 at the time, but this is the prototype veteran centre that Mr. Dithers needs to go and find for the current Oilers. Also, I always assumed that Dave Hunter was just a goon (especially based on his play that I could actually remember), but I was impressed by his skating ability (I mean he is still a better skater then big Georges Larague or Derek Boogaard and they play in 2010) and his overall positioning and checking was impressive. If I had an onion on my belt, I would be making Zorg watch some tape of Dave Hunter while standing over his shoulder screaming did you see that.
Well I can't wait to start watching a few of the games where the Boys on the Bus demonstrate their offensive talent, but this games is one truly for the ages. Actually, I am going to re-watch the second period before I go back to reading Adorno . . .