Detroit-Pittsburgh re-match? A look back at the Oilers-Islanders of 1983 1

Flashback to May 1983. Stanley Cup Final, Game 4. The setting is Long Island, New York.

After winning the first 3 games of the series, the New York Islanders are trying to clinch their 4th straight Stanley Cup title.

Their opponent is the young and talented Edmonton Oilers, the highest scoring team in NHL history, featuring Wayne Gretzky and company.

Trailing late in the third period 3-2, the Oilers are doing everything they can to tie the game and avoid being swept in 4 games.

With the clock winding down and with goalie Andy Moog on the bench, the Oilers are applying good pressure.

But the Islanders, 3-time winners of the Cup and the best defensive team in the NHL, manage to gain control of the puck.

Defenceman Ken Morrow skates the puck out of the Isles zone and fires the puck down the ice into the empty Oilers cage.

The goal clinches Cup number 4 for the Isles.

Meanwhile, the Oilers bench is in total disbelief. How could a team that features Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson, and Paul Coffey be held to just 6 goals in the entire Final?

After all, this team still holds the NHL record for most goals per game in a season, at 5.7!

Mind you, the Islanders were also stacked with great players: Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy, Clark Gillies, John Tonelli, Bob Nystrom, Bob Bourne, Butch Goring, Denis Potvin, Morrow, and ‘Battling’ Billy Smith.

However, the key reason the Islanders swept the Oilers in ’83 was because they had poise and experience. They simply knew what had to be done to win in the playoffs.

The young Oilers, in contrast, were still learning. They had just been taught a valuable lesson by the defending champs.

Fast forward to May 2008

The Pittsburgh Penguins have breezed their way through the first 3 rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs with a 12-2 record. Their speed and skill is put on full display. Their offence is seemingly unstoppable.

They feature a slew of talented players, including Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marian Hossa, Jordan Staal, Petr Sykora, Sergei Gonchar, and Ryan Whitney

Their opponents in the Cup Final are the Detroit Red Wings, a team that resembles a dynasty as we’re ever going to see in today’s parity era.

The Wings feature a team with vast skill and playoff experience. Their core stars include Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall. Their supporting cast features Tomas Holmstrom, Valtteri Filppula, Mikael Samuelsson, Daniel Cleary, and Jiri Hudler.

In other words, a wealth of talent and experience.

Right off the bat, one could say that the experienced Wings of ’08 strongly resemble the Islanders of ’83, while the young Penguins of ‘08 resemble the ’83 Oilers.

Today we know that the Wings went on to defeat the Penguins in 6 games to win their fourth Cup in 10 seasons.

Detroit managed to shut down Crosby and Malkin in much the same way the Islanders completely neutralized Gretzky and Messier.

The Wings played with poise and confidence while the Penguins could not develop any flow in their game. Although the Penguins won 2 games, they were clearly over-matched. They were simply not ready.

Flashback again – May 1984

Going back in time again, 25 years ago this month.

The Islanders and Oilers meet again in the Stanley Cup Final.

The Islanders won all 3 regular season meetings in 1983-84 against the high-scoring Oilers. Not to mention the 4-game sweep in the previous Final.

But the Oilers believe they are ready this time. They feel the experience of losing to the Islanders last season will make them much better this time.

After the Oilers win Game 1 on Long Island by a 1-0 score (Grant Fuhr stood on his head), the Islanders storm back with a 6-1 rout of the Oilers.

The series then moves to Edmonton for Game 3. About half-way through the game, with the Islanders up 2-1, the tide begins to change.

Messier picks up the puck at his own blue line and begins to motor toward the Isles zone facing not 1, but 2 defenders. He then badly dekes one defender, and before the second defender can respond, he fires a strong, quick wrist shot past Billy Smith to tie the game.

From that point forward, the Oilers go on to skate circles around the Islanders. They defeat the Islanders in 5 games to capture their first Stanley Cup.

A completely different result from the previous Final. What happened?

Clearly the Oilers had the talent to win in ’83. But they simply weren’t ready and did not fully understand what it took to win it all.

With the experience of ’83, the ‘84 Oilers managed to become ‘a team’.

Edmonton eventually won Cups again in ’85, ’87, ’88 and ’90. But it was the ’83 Final that gave the Oilers the needed experience to learn how to win.

Fast forward to May 2009

The Penguins appear to be headed to another Stanley Cup Final bout with the Red Wings.

This would be the first Cup Final re-match in successive seasons since the Oilers-Islanders met 25 years ago.

The similarities are quite apparent.

No team has the playoff experience of the Red Wings, much like the Islanders way back when.

Arguably no team can run a high tempo offense like the Penguins, much like the Oilers in the past.

The Red Wings are trying to win another Cup, like the Islanders.

The young Penguins are trying to avenge their loss from the previous year, like the Oilers.

The Pens feature a high-scoring offence led by Crosby and Malkin. Ditto the Oilers with Gretzky and Messier.

It remains to be seen whether the Penguins will follow in the Oilers footsteps, or whether the Red Wings will prevail again.

Nevertheless the parallels are as glaring as they are intriguing.

38 Responses to Detroit-Pittsburgh re-match? A look back at the Oilers-Islanders of 1983 1

  1. habswinthecup-again says:

     I see what you are getting at Leafy, but what you didn't mention is that the Islanders were older than Detroit by a lot, they had a tougher road to the Finals, and they had a few key injuries in the Finals as well. Detroit will beat Pittsburg 4 games to 2 again this year.

  2. reinjosh says:

    no they wont
    it WILL be pittsburgh this year
    they are way to talented and strong
    and leafy makes a really good point
    with Malkin and Crosby playing with Conn Smythe ability
    they will be way to much for the Wings

  3. mojo19 says:

    Great read! Cool article leafy that was fun. But I believe Detroit will win it all again this year.

    Ya the vets Lidstrom, Draper, and Rafalski, are a year older. Ditto Chris Osgood. But the core of the team are in their prime. Zetts, Dats, Franzen, younger guys like Hudler and Filpulla.

    Its interesting because this year Tomas Holmstrom has really slowed down and isn't the force he was in last years playoffs, but his hasn't been a problem for the Red Wings at all because Dan Cleary has been a machine. He and Holmstrom have essentially flipped roles. Lots of the younger guys on Detroit are stepping up too like Darren Helm and Jonathon Ericsson.

  4. hockey_lover says:

    Great article dude.

    I had actually thought of this a few days ago but didnt know all the details about the Oilers vs. Isles ALL that clearly. I was too wee a lad 🙂

    But, as it PAINS me to freaking say it, I think Pittsburgh will have to step it up even ANOTHER notch if they want to win the cup over Detroit.

    Right now, its the Crosby and Malkin show. If they keep up this play and they lose the cup, I guarantee you one of them wins the Conn Smythe, despite the loss. THATS how good they are. Having said that, Guerin and Fedotenko have 6 and 5 goals respectively. Then thats really it. Tablot, Kunitz, and Kennedy and Satan combine for 9 goals in 16 games. In just not enough to get in done.

    Detroit is taking down their opponents with poise and skill …. with withs like Holstrom, Datsyuk, and Hossa .. not really doing much.

    IF those 3 keep playing the same and continue to do little on the scoresheet, the Pens have a shot. If those 3 heat up, the Pens are in trouble.

    The flip side to that is if the 4 Pens I mentioned above heat up a bit and chip in a bit more, they can definitely take it. but thus far, they combined havent done ALL that much.

    It will be interesting to see how it plays out though, thats no doubt.

  5. intelligentscorpio says:

    The Wings are a complete team, as were the Islanders then. The Oilers did beat them for the Cup, and the Pens can do the same now.

    Pens have the 1, 2 punch and Lidstrom is getting long in the tooth and Rafalski is getting there, so is Brad Stuart. If the Pens speed and skill prevail, I think they can beat the Wings this Cup finals. The Pens defensive corps are underrated and mostly no name, but they have withstood the Flyers, Caps, and Canes. I also believe that Fleury is more talented and acrobatic than Osgood, who hasn't really had a good year.

    Everything is pointing to a new champion, i.e. the Pens. If Crosby, Malkin can continue their torrid scoring pace, then I am sure the Pens will prevail. 

    It won't be easy by any means, but it can be done. There is a natural precedent in the Oilers win and the Pens are poised to take the Wings down.

  6. mojo19 says:

    I agree with a lot of the things you're saying, and assuming Det and Pitty are in the finals together it is anyone's series to win.

    However I disagree with your comments about Chris Osgood. All year he was having the worst year of his life statistically, and he kept saying 'its okay i'll be ready for the playoffs'. Steve Yzerman even said on OTR that everyone was a bit nervous because he wasn't bringing his 'A' Game but come playoff time Ozzy is Ozzy. He's been nothing but spectacular throughout these playoffs and there are not many goalies I would want in goal for me ahead of him. M-A Fleury would be way down my list.

  7. leafy says:

    Honestly the way Pittsburgh attacks is really scary. Even the reliable Carolina defence is way over their heads trying to contain the Penguin forwards coming in at high speeds.

    As good as David Krejci and Marc Savard are, they are clearly not Crosby and Malkin. These guys are unbelievable and seem to have elevated their game from last year.

    Also the Pens defensive game seems to be in high gear, although I also think Carolina has run out of gas this round.

  8. leafy says:

    Thanks Mojo, I like these historical type articles myself too.  Ya Cleary has been excellent in these playoffs. That Ericsson kid has also caught my eye, he looks really good back there. Where does Detroit find these guys?

  9. leafy says:

    Thanks bud, the Oilers-Islanders wars of '83 and '84 were classic.  The young high-scoring Oilers against the experienced playoff machine of the Islanders (19 straight playoff SERIES won!).

    Great analysis on the inevitable Finals match-up.  You really hit the nail on the head, the Pens have a dynamic 1-2 punch, whereas Detroit has much more balance.

    For the reasons you mention, I'd probably put my money on Detroit.  But there's one wild card: goaltending.

    As much as Mojo likes him, Osgood is no longer in his prime (although Mojo's right that he's stepped up his game in the playoffs).  But I think the Pens have a marked advantage in goal with MA Fleury.  In a close series, the goaltending often makes the difference.

    I'm still officially undecided, but I'm leaning toward Detroit slightly…but not by much.

  10. leafy says:

    Well I hope the Final goes 7 games with OT, first time since the early '50s.

    I agree with your take on Crosby and Malkin. Stopping both of them will be extremely difficult.

    On the other hand, Detroit doesn't have to rely on 2 or 3 guys like the Penguins, they're extremely well balanced.

    Ultimately you could be right and the Pens could take it. This will largely depend on how the aging D on the Wings are able to handle the slick Pens attack, and of course Ozzie's ability to hang in there for one more round.

    This year's final is a really tough call. I have a hunch it will go down to the wire.

  11. hockey_lover says:

    God dammit.

    A few hours after my post, Hossa goes and gets two goals. DOH.

  12. intelligentscorpio says:

    You should take into account that the Wings played against some pretty weak teams this playoffs. First, the Jackets who were in the playoff first time ever, and are offensively challenged except for Nash. Secondly, anaheim gave them fits, but simply did not have offensive forwards to take care of Osgood. Now, Hawks have a young group of offensively gifted forwards, with no experience to deal with the Detroit team prowess. 

    Osgood still has not won them a single game on his own, has not been tested by a powerful juggernaut similar to the Penguins.

    I say, Fleury is atleast as good as Osgood, if not better.

  13. intelligentscorpio says:

    Wings would be tough to beat in a Game 7 OT situation, plus the fact that my heart may not be able to take that much excitement all at once. So, I hope that Pens can win in 6.

  14. Hatyfranco says:

    This is not Rocky 1 and 2 where Rocky Balboa loses to Apollo Creed, only to come back and win the second time. Detroit will remind Pittsburgh who they're dealing with.

    I don't care if Lidstrom is 80 years old or 25, he's shown year after year that he can consistently keep up with the best of them. He's seen it all and nothing will surprise him.
    Just because Pittsburgh "undertands" what it takes to win now, it doesn't mean Detroit will suddenly forget.
    I'm not saying that it will be easy for Detroit, but let's not be too quick to jump on the Pittsburgh wagon. Even if Malkin nd Crosby play amazing….remember one thing…they are playing DETROIT
  15. hockey_lover says:

    Its interesting how you tell us to not to get too confident about Pittsburgh but yet you are THAT confident about Detroit.

    In one breathe you say "im not saying it will be easy for Detroit," but it seems like, in your mind, its a foregone conclusion that they will win.

    A little bit amusing.

  16. Hatyfranco says:

    Amazing how you think you can somehow read minds. Show me how to do that sometime.

    And it's not a foregone conclusion,  just likelyhood.
  17. leafy says:

    HOLY CRAP!!!  Way back on March 17th, I called it on Carolina and Chicago!!!

    I said they'd be big trouble in the playoffs!!!!  Check out the link:

    And on Feb 4th, I said that Florida is a big over-rated dud going nowhere!  Here's the link for that.

    Sorry, it's hard to be humble.

  18. mojo19 says:

    Everything you've said has been said 1000 times before. This is the tragedy Chris Osgood has to face. All the credit goes to the team in front of him and none of the credit to him. With lesser goaltending the Red Wings don't get past Anaheim.

    Last year at work everyone said the Penguins would get to Osgood and that would be the difference in the series. So I put up $10 saying that Ozzy would shut out the Penguins at least once. In return I get $5 for every shutout he gets (so maximum of $20). As you already know, I won $10. And Osgood was making point blank stops on Crosby, Hossa, and Malkin. Crosby in alone was stopped. Glove saves, kick saves, everything. But at the end of the day people like you (not trying to be offensive its just a reality) look at the series and say, Osgood was average and Detroit would have won with anyone in net.

    Chris Osgood gets no respect even though all he does is make saves. He's just about the most reliable goalie in hockey. To say that MA Fleury is better is a joke. And I like Fleury, I took him in my pool for the playoffs this year. (He hasn't produced though with ZERO shutouts).

  19. mojo19 says:

    atta boy. I was wrong about Chicago but my cup final prediction of Detroit and Carolina almost came true (technically still could…. but very unlikely)

    Nice comments. I also said Florida sucks. In my 'coach of the year' article someone brought up DeBoeurs and I said that he didn't make the team any better than they were last year, same 10-11th place kind of team. But you made that call before me.

    But for all the things you are right about you also make some weird comments like giving a goaltending edge to MA Fleury over Conn Smythe candidate Chris Osgood (not just me talking they said on TSN that he should be a legit candidate). I hope that injury isn't going to carry over into next game.


    Peace, Love, Chris Osgood

  20. leafy says:

    To his credit, Osgood has redeemed himself in the playoffs.  Given his play in the regular season, I lost confidence in him, but so far he's atoned for that.

    Osgood kind of reminds me of Billy Smith around '84 or '85. Smith's regular season stats started to take a beating, but when the playoffs started, he was the solid playoff goalie we've known.

  21. cam7777 says:

    Meh, Anaheim almost knocked them out, they clearly are not invincible.  if the players were to have switched jersey's in that series, the victory would have gone in favor of getzlaf and co.  Not much the Ducks could do when Bettman is in attendance texting away, making sure the Wings get all the calls, making sure the final "goal" isn't reviewed, and re-assuring himself of the largest possible tv audience for the semi-finals.  You can tell me I'm a Wing hater all you want, but that entire series was just total bullshit from the referees.  Don Cherry has said it all year, that Anaheim is getting screwed, and lo and behold the Red Wings were never called for anything.

    I suspect that if the Pens play the Wings in the final again this year, the referees will suddenly remember what interference is, and maybe occasionally call penalties against detroit.  the nhl would love to see the oilers renewal story told, so expect the going to be harder for detroit this year.

  22. mojo19 says:

    People always say how amazing Detroit plays as a team. Granted, they definitely do. However, goaltending is the most important position in hockey. Period. I can't stess this point enough. A weak goalie will be exposed eventually. Chris Osgood has proven time and time again that he is not a weak goalie.

    This myth started in 1998 when Osgood, who was a fairly young goalie at the time (like 25?), and fairly inexperienced, allowed 3 bad goals on route to winning his 2nd stanley cup and first as a starter. Because of those goals, everyone considered Osgood to be an average goalie at best and basically said that the '98 Red Wings are the only team in history to win the cup with sup-par goaltending. I recommend everyone watch a great do*****entary called "return to hockeytown" about the 1998 Red Wings. It really shows how amazing Osgood played in those playoffs, albeit inconsistant.

    But after all three of the games where he surrendered a bad goal he came to win the following game and play exceptional. Since then his reputation has been tarnished even though he has never had a bad season until this year.

    Giving all the credit to Detroit is fooish too as Ozzy is the only 10 year vet in the league to have never finished lower than 5th in his conference, including time spent with NYI (4th most points, bumped to 5th because of weak SE division) and his time with St.Louis (4th and 5th place in his two seasons with the Blues). He simply wins everywhere he goes.

    The bottom line is Detroit could have easily lost last year if not for great goaltending by Osgood. If "good enough" goaltending was all it took because Detroit was so good they would have won anyway's, then why did Hasek get bulled after game 4 of the the first round vs. Nashville last year? Detroit got average 'tending from Dom and was tied 2-2. Ozzy came in, won two in a row vs. Nashville, 4 in a row vs. Colorado and 3 in a row vs Dallas. The rest is history. Cup ring #3.

    So a little respect please.

  23. bbruins37 says:

    yeah there really is that huge comparison. this puts alot more pressure on the pens though.

    if you look at it outside of this context though: the pens lost in 6 WITHOUT hossa last year…and now he's on the wings. although i like hossa, it would be pretty funny if he lost to the pens with the wings…

    the pens offense is rolling over ward right now, who has gotten worse as the playoffs has gone on (great against new jersey, decent against boston, and awful against the pens). can we now agree that ward is not an elite goalie now???

    it'll be a great finals though. not really sure who to root for…crosbyand datsyukare two of my favourite players, the edge going to crosby. but i will want the pens to win due to the fact that detroit winningis getting to be too predictable.

  24. bbruins37 says:

    and for that thomas-ward argument:

    ward 2.36 gaa, .918 save percentage in the playoffs
    thomas 2.16 gaa, ,926 save percentage in the playoffs

    hahahah it gets better everyday doesnt it? cam ward…seriously

  25. AHLoldie says:

    The only thing I have to say about this upcoming series is the same thing I said about last years series.  The officials have to call the penalties on the ice.  I spent six weeks scouting in Europe during January and February, and a good bit of it was in Sewden.  The folks there are greatly amused at the officiating in the NHL, or the lack of it in the finals last year.  They are used to the obstruction tactics of European players, which are called constantly in the international games, but for some reason are totally ignorred by NHL referees.  These tactics are used exclusively by the Wings, and were used against the Black Hawks in the current series, and you can bet they will use every obstruction they can when they meet the Pens.  This will make for another boring Stanley Cup Final series.  Watch what happens when the Pens try to dump the puck during a power play.  The dumper will be held up.  This is obstruction.  They never call it.  There were over twenty in one game last year.  The officiating will decide the finals.

  26. hockey_lover says:

    It DOES get better .. cause watch THIS one:

    Ward – 1 Stanley Cup, 2009 Conference Finals
    Thomas – 0 Stanley Cups, no Conference Finals

    Ward has also played 40 playoff games to Thomas' 18. Which one could extrapolate and say that Ward is carrying his team in the playoffs more than Thomas (cause Ward made it to the finals .. Thomas hasnt). Ward also has a higher winning %-age compared to Thomas.

    hahahahahaha .. it got better…seriously.

  27. hockey_lover says:

    I'll also add that Thomas' GAA and %-age MIGHT be a tad bit inflated after  having played Montreal .. who only scored 6 goals in 4 games because their two of their top scorers werent playing (Lang and Tanguay) – and not to mention their top Dman and PP guy (Markov).

  28. hockey_lover says:

    I agree with you on the Hossa part. While I still have this gut feeling that the Wings will take it, it will be a much harder series for them to win. There will be no jumping out to a 2-0 series lead on two consecutive shutouts.

    Also, while I am not at all pissed with Hossa for leaving the Pens and going to the Wings (hey, a one year contract for less money just to win the cup – I have respect for that), it would be pretty funny for the Pens to lift the cup, only to have Hossa wondering what could have been .. teehee.


  29. leafy says:

    I felt that Cam Ward was excellent against Boston…a major reason why the Bruins lost that series.

    But I will say this. I really believe Boston would have given Pittsburgh a much tougher time than what Carolina is doing….they have more depth, more scoring and a better D than Carolina.  Yet Carolina won the series.  Go figure.

    Clearly Carolina is burned out from that Boston series. Right now it's like shooting fish in a barrel for the Pens.

  30. hockey_lover says:

    Then can you explain how it is that in the time he left Detroit to play in Long Island and St. Louis, he didnt do anything? Sure the regular season numbers are ok (average at best) but did not manage to win a playoff round?

    In 02-03, St. Louis finished with 100pts so they were obviously a pretty good team. But they couldnt win a playoff round with Ozzy on goal? How come? In 03-04, they had over 90 points but STILL lost in the first round against a team who is notorious for playoff suckitude (San Jose). Why is that?

    Ozzy is a good goalie, without a doubt. But he certainly isnt one of the elite. You could put Raycroft in Detroit and his numbers would rise meteorically.

  31. hatterson says:

    I don't think the age comparison holds.  The NHL is much more of a young mans game today than it was 25 years ago.  The Wings average age of over 31 is ancient by todays standards, almost a full 4 years above Pittsburghs.

    Regarding injuries, didn't Lidstrom and Datsyuk just miss a game?
    Granted no one thinks these injuries are really severe but a couple missed games in the finals could easily turn the tide.
  32. mojo19 says:

    It might happen tonight but I'm still waiting for Cam Ward to lose his first ever playoff series.

    First time in the playoffs he wins 4 out of 4 rounds for the cup and is named MVP.

    Second time in the playoffs he wins 2 out of 2, and in all likelihood will finally lose a round in the 7th of his career. I don't know if any goalies can claim that.

    And I like Thomas but GAA is not a very telling stat when you beat an 8th place team and then lose to a low scoring team that is backed by great goaltending.

  33. mojo19 says:

    Yes I can explain it.

    2002 he brought the Islanders into the playoffs for the first time in years. They finished 5th in the Eastern conference but unfortunately there is a flaw in the system for standings and they had to face the 3rd overall team in the NHL in the first round. (#1 Detroit, #2 Boston, #3 Toronto, bumped to 4th in the East because same division as Boston).

    Toronto was heavily favoured and was expected to win in 5 or 6 games, but Osgood went 3-0 at home forcing a game 7, where the Leafs won. Home teams won every game of that gruling series. Osgood out goaltended Joseph but Toronto was just too much for the inexperienced Islanders.

    The St.Louis-Vancouver series was a heart breaker. I thought Osgood was great in that series too, but Vancouver was the better team, let's face it. Bertuzzi and Naslund ran the show.

    As for the San Jose-St.Louis series I can't comment on it, I don't think I caught any of that one, but I'm sure Osgood played well.

    Your Raycroft arguement can be nullified easily. I will remind you, that with let's say average goaltending, or Raycroft calibre goaltending Detroit was tied 2-2 vs. Nashville last year. Hasek was playing pretty good but was not solid enough. Osgood came in and closed the door. Raycroft simply doesn't have a big league calibre glove to win a cup. If your arguement was just that his stats would be better with Detroit you are right. If your arguement is that they could have done just as well with Raycroft as they did with Osgood you're crazy. The end.

    Anyone else?

  34. futurebruin says:

    I don't know about Bettman making sure of it, but maybe it was the mafia.  They can't afford the big hit in revenue in the playoffs.  If they say one team is going to win, it will happen.  For example, I think Boston should have won their Game 7 against Carolina.  But the mafia got involved and made sure that Walker wasn't suspended for Games 6 and/or 7 and they also made sure that Boston drew all the calls and Carolina suffered merely a few turns in the box.  Just following Kramer's route.

  35. hockey_lover says:

    Oh well since you said "the end," I'll just give up and applaud you.

  36. mojo19 says:

    Thank you.

    Peace, Love, Chris Osgood.

  37. Radio says:

    And there we have it.

    Man, Huet stood on his head tonight and put on a goaltending clinic. It was not only a great rebound from Game 4, but the 1st period he played was the most impressive I've seen any NHL goalie play in 5 years.

    If the Habs had kept him instead of banking on Carey what's-his-face, they might have got out of the first round — and also would not have struggled to eek into the playoffs.

  38. bbruins37 says:

    the thing was that ward was excellent in half of the games against boston and bad in the other half. that's why i gave him a "decent" overall

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