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Maven's Memories: Taming the Big, Bad Bruins

Stan Fischler looks into the Islanders-Bruins series in 1983

by Stan Fischler StanFischler /

  "Our club and the Bruins were the two hardest-working teams in the league." -- Clark Gillies

But the Bostonians were the better club in 1982-83; that is, until the playoffs.  

The Bruins finished first overall. They beat the Islanders twice and tied one in three games. And when it came to Isles scoring, well, forget about it.  

Over the trio of contests Al Arbour's shooters were firing too many blanks and wound up with a mere trio of goals over a trio of games.

What's more, Boston goalie Pete Peeters finished the campaign with the best goals against average.

"We weren't supposed to beat Boston," asserted Mike Bossy who merely was echoing the media line and not his own.

Considering that the Bruins had won the regular season championship, most analysts picked them as the club which could derail Al Arbour's express, which now was just one station -- or series, if you will -- away from the Final round.

Video: 1982-83 Islanders win fourth straight Stanley Cup

Considering that the Bruins won the regular season title with 110 points and the Isles had 96, a big 14 points behind, it was only natural for the media to favor the Beantowners.

Still, Al Arbour's sextet had reason for confidence. After all, we're talking about the three-time champs who, history had demonstrated, had a knack for turning adversity into just another challenge. Bruins future Hall of Fame defenseman Brad Park remained wary.

"Those Islanders have been on a roll ever since the playoffs started," Park warned. "Plus they've been through a lot of crucial series, We have a lot of young kids who haven't."

But they also had savvy vets such as Park and his sidekick Raymond Bourque, otherwise regarded in Beantown as The Second Coming of Bobby Orr."

As for goaltending, Pete Peeters enjoyed a Vezina Trophy-winning season on Causeway Street and he seemed to have the Islanders number (1.00 goals against average) during the regular season.

This was the same Pete Peeters who, as Philadelphia's goalie, was beaten by Bob Nystrom for the 1980 Stanley Cup-winning goal.

The series opened in Boston on April 26, 1983 with seasoned vets such as Bossy, Bryan Trottier and Clark Gillies leading the way. But there was more -- as captain Denis Potvin duly noted. 

"If we expect to make the Finals," said Potvin, "we'll need the second and third lines producing offensively and doing a great job defensively. We can't win with one line."

Fair enough. The Sutter Brothers, Duane and Brent along with their fleet center Bob Bourne each beat Peeters -- as did Bossy with the game-winner -- and in the end, a 5-2 defeat took any home ice "advantage" away from the Bruins.

Not that the team coached by Bruins icon Gerry Cheevers,had any white flag of surrender in their clubhouse. Peeters displayed Vezina form two nights later -- 4-1, Boston -- and the series was tied.

"It's one-one and we're going home," assured Bossy. "It's the first time we beat them all year.."

Bossy's verbal confidence resonated among his mates. Another "homecoming" on the last day of April was a festive occasion, to say the least. 

On the ice, Mike's stick did the talking. He set a playoff record thanks to his 27th career power-play goal. The final score was 7-3 for Arbour & Company.

As for Peeters, Barry Wilner of The Associated Press said that the Vezina-winner "was a bowl of Jello in the net." 

Video: Thank You Stan Fischler

In Game Four, the Islander ate him like apple pie. This time it was 8-3 and Bossy -- with another bonanza offense -- could rightfully declare, "My slump is over."

If the Bruins were to stay alive in Game Five -- May 5th at Boston Garden -- Cheevers would have to deduce a plan to dehydrate Bossy's goal stick. 

Cheevers' blueprint was simple enough. The Boston coach designated Luc Dufour, a rookie left wing from Chicoutimi, Quebec to "shadow" Bossy. Perhaps the term "shadow" was an understatement.

When Mike inhaled, Lou would inhale. Wherever Bossy would go, the French-Canadian Bruin would follow Mike's map. "He wasn't dirty," Boss explained in his autobiography, "but he wasn't subtle either."

Dufour: "Gerry told me not to give Bossy an inch. I stayed with him everywhere."

The strategy worked. Bossy went scoreless while Boston put five past Bill Smith. The 5-1 final score was both a setback for the lads from Uniondale but also a spur to get them galloping again.

"Maybe we expected them to lie down," moaned Captain Potvin. "We didn't stick the knife in."

Game Six was at the Coliseum, May 7, 1993; possibly a Lucky Seven.

Actually eight. 

The series was clinched with an 8-4 finale as the Old Barn reverberated to chants of WE WANT THE CUP. WE WANT THE CUP.

Bossy was, well, just Bossy; maybe even better as he outdid himself by scoring all of the Islanders game-winners. He tallied four goals in the series-clincher and tied a record for most goals in one playoff series with nine.

"No team has a gunner like Bossy," Potvin enthused. "What he does, he does best. Others may score more goals but nobody does it in the situations that Mike does as consistently and as well."

Video: Mike Bossy had record nine straight 50-goal seasons

This latest adventure now lifted the Islanders record to 15 consecutive playoff series victories. Only Scotty Bowman's Montreal Canadiens (1976-79) had come close with a total of 13 in a row.

"We want that fourth Cup," Bossy yelled over the dressing room din.

Fine but there was still another obstacle course to navigate and it was manned by Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers.

"This will be the toughest Final we've had," declared defenseman Stefan Persson who already had experienced three and the ensuing Cups. "Edmonton will give us a tougher run than Boston."

Maybe, yes; maybe no. 

This much was certain. Media and fans looked to the matchup as the NHL's Battle of the Century -- with the sub-title: Bossy vs. Gretzky.

Stay tuned!


1. EXPERIENCE: This would be the Islanders fourth straight run for the Cup. Denis Potvin and Company had no reason to be anything but confident. Edmonton had never reached the fourth playoff round. The Oilers were young and less experienced in the post-season crunch.

2. PRIME YEARS: Al Arbour's Hall of Famers -- Potvin, Bossy, Smith, Gillies, Trottier -- had reached the pinnacle of their careers. Some, like Bossy, were playing the best hockey of their lives.

3. MOTIVATION: No American NHL team ever had won four consecutive Stanley Cups. This would be an honor to end all honors for the Nassumen and they were ready for the challenge.

4. COACHING: Once again Al Arbour outsmarted his opposite. Gerry Cheevers thought he could stifle Bossy by putting a "shadow" on the sharpshooter. Nix to that; Bossy was at his very best. Arbour had that figured out. Cheevers had not!

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