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The 1987-88 NHL season was the 71st season of the National Hockey League. It was an 80 game season with the top four teams in each division advancing to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The NHL introduced a new trophy, the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, which was to be awarded to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and who has made a significant humanitarian contribution in his community.
This was Wayne Gretzky's final season with the Edmonton Oilers, and as injuries held him out of 20% of the season, this would be the only season of the decade in which he was not the winner of the Hart Memorial Trophy and did not hold or share the league lead in points. Mario Lemieux would capture his first Hart Trophy and lead the league in scoring. This season would also see the Edmonton Oilers win their 4th Stanley Cup in 5 years by sweeping the Boston Bruins 4-0 (plus one cancelled game) in the Stanley Cup finals. In the process of their cup win, Edmonton lost only 2 games, a record for the "16 wins" playoff format.
Note: W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, GF= Goals For, GA = Goals Against, Pts = Points, PIM = Penalties in minutes
Prince of Wales ConferenceEdit
|New York Islanders||80||39||31||10||88||308||267||1732|
|New Jersey Devils||80||38||36||6||82||295||296||2315|
|New York Rangers||80||36||34||10||82||300||283||1775|
Clarence Campbell ConferenceEdit
|Detroit Red Wings||80||41||28||11||93||322||269||2391|
|St. Louis Blues||80||34||38||8||76||278||294||1919|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||80||21||49||10||52||273||345||1782|
|Minnesota North Stars||80||19||48||13||51||242||349||2313|
|Los Angeles Kings||80||30||42||8||68||318||359||2124|
|Mario Lemieux||Pittsburgh Penguins||77||70||98||168|
|Wayne Gretzky||Edmonton Oilers||64||40||109||149|
|Denis Savard||Chicago Blackhawks||80||44||87||131|
|Dale Hawerchuk||Winnipeg Jets||80||44||77||121|
|Luc Robitaille||Los Angeles Kings||80||53||58||111|
|Peter Stastny||Quebec Nordiques||76||46||65||111|
|Mark Messier||Edmonton Oilers||77||37||74||111|
|Jimmy Carson||Los Angeles Kings||80||55||52||107|
|Michel Goulet||Quebec Nordiques||80||48||58||106|
|Hakan Loob||Calgary Flames||80||50||56||106|
Stanley Cup playoffsEdit
Note: all dates in 1988
The 1988 Stanley Cup Playoffs started on April 6, and ended on May 26. The Presidents' Trophy winning Calgary Flames had home ice during the playoffs thanks in part to Edmonton's struggles without Gretzky. The Oilers, who had won the Cup in three of the previous four seasons, were still the favourites to repeat, with Gretzky's return.
- In spite of Lemieux's prolific offence, the Penguins missed the playoffs.
- Five of the North Stars' final six games were on the road. Minnesota went 1-4-1 in that stretch allowing Toronto survive their 1-8 finish.
- On March 18, Quebec was three points ahead of the Whalers (68-65). Quebec finished 0-7-1, costing themselves a chance to fend off Hartford who finished 6-3.
Adams Division semi-finalsEdit
Buffalo Sabres vs. Boston Bruins
The Boston Bruins were led by team co-captains Ray Bourque, Rick Middleton and the goaltending duo of Reggie Lemelin and the newly acquired Andy Moog. The Buffalo Sabres returned to the playoffs thanks to added depth provided by rookie Ray Sheppard.
Hartford Whalers vs. Montreal Canadiens
The Habs almost squandered a 3-0 series lead. The deep Habs roster was the best team in the Wales Conference during the season, consisting of six 20-goal scorers and another six with between 10 and 20 goals. Their best assets were goaltenders Patrick Roy and backup Brian Hayward who won 23 and 22 games respectively. The Ron Francis-led Whalers went 2-4-2 against the Canadiens during the season, twice losing by just one goal.
Patrick Division semi-finalsEdit
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Washington Capitals
The Flyers needed to beat Washington at home in their season finale to gain home ice advantage, but only managed to tie them 2-2. The Flyers were led by Vezina Trophy winner Ron Hextall who was playoff MVP the previous season. In a very physical series, Washington overcame a 3-1 deficit to advance to the second round for the first time in two years. Game 7 was a classic, ending with Dale Hunter beating Hextall on a breakaway in overtime.
New Jersey Devils vs. New York Islanders
This would be the last hurrah for both the Islanders and Denis Potvin whose departure would signal dark days for the Isles, as his arrival had brought them to prominence. The Isles would be upset by the Devils, who finished 7-0-1, including two wins over Pittsburgh in which they stifled Lemieux, and a 7-2 win over the Rangers, whom they edged out for the final Patrick Division playoff spot. The physical Devils would keep former MVP Bryan Trottier pointless, as they won in six.
Norris Division semi-finalsEdit
Chicago Blackhawks vs. St. Louis Blues
The Chicago Blackhawks were led by their three 40-goal scorers Denis Savard, Rick Vaive, and Steve Larmer. They were poor defensively, and were matched up against a similar St. Louis Blues squad that was better defensively if not in goal. Vaive had eight points, while Larmer and Savard had seven each.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Detroit Red Wings
The storied rivalry continued as the Detroit Red Wings met the Toronto Maple Leafs. While the seemingly lame-duck Leafs finished 1-8, the one win was 5-3 over Detroit in the season finale that pushed them into the playoffs. Game six in Maple Leaf Gardens was future Hall of Famer Börje Salming's final playoff game in the NHL. Toronto lost all three home games.
Smythe Division semi-finalsEdit
Winnipeg Jets vs. Edmonton Oilers
The high-flying offence of the Edmonton Oilers played exactly as they were expected to, averaging five goals a game. Despite their best efforts, the franchise that Oilers captain Wayne Gretzky would one day own and coach just could not keep pace with his Oilers.
Los Angeles Kings vs. Calgary Flames
The Kings fourth place finish in the Smythe Division tied their best finish in their history, since being moved to the Smythe. Their defence was the worst in the league, and they relied on offence. The Kings met Calgary twice in the week before the playoffs and triumphed 9-7 at home and 6-3 in Calgary. The Flames would make a mockery of the Kings' defence and would light the lamp 26 times, even more than the Oilers scored against the Jets. Four months after this series mercifully ended, the only NHL franchise in California would undergo a massive makeover, thanks to new uniforms and a savior from the north.
- Four of the five teams who trailed a series 2-0 won game three of the series at home (L.A., Winnipeg, Buffalo, Chicago). The fifth team was Hartford, who rallied to 3-2 from 3-0.
- Adams Division
Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens
The Wales Conference's two best teams, and the NHL's two best defensive teams, met in this series with equal rest time. The Habs had beaten Boston in the Adams Division Semi-Finals four years in a row, sweeping the Bruins in three of the past four seasons, and beating them 3-2 in a best-of-five the other year. This time, the Bruins' defence would wear down Montreal, as Ken Linseman, Ray Bourque and Cam Neely provided the offence to finally conquer the Canadiens. It was the first Bruins' playoff series win over the Habs in 44 seasons.
- Patrick Division
New Jersey Devils vs. Washington Capitals
After upsetting the Islanders, whose defence was second in the division, the Devils were now matched up with the number one defence in the division. Patrik Sundstrom and Kirk Muller led the Devils to a series win in seven games in a surprisingly high-scoring series. Sundstrom's eight-point effort in Game 3 (4 goals, 4 assists) set a new Stanley Cup playoff record.
- Norris Division
St. Louis Blues vs. Detroit Red Wings
In another case of a team down 2-0 rallying to win game three, the Red Wings got aggressive, unafraid of the Blues' offence and won in five.
- Smythe Division
Edmonton Oilers vs. Calgary Flames
In the "Battle of Alberta" the Oilers would claim the first sweep of the playoffs. In Game 2, Wayne Gretzky scored a short-handed overtime goal on a brilliant slapshot while streaking down the left wing.
- Prince of Wales Conference
New Jersey Devils vs. Boston Bruins
The Devils would take Boston to the limit, but their offence couldn't compete with the Bruins, who would make their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals since consecutive appearances in 1976-77 and 1977-78.
This series would also have the infamous confrontation between Devils coach Jim Schoenfeld and referee Don Koharski after Game 3, when, during an argument in the tunnel after the game, Koharski tripped and fell, accusing Schoenfield of pushing him. Schoenfield famously responded, "You tripped and fell you fat pig!" Then, he yelled "Have another doughnut! Have another doughnut!" The incident was played repeatedly on ESPN and has become part of NHL lore.
Schonefeld was suspended by NHL president John Ziegler for game four, but the Devils received an injunction from a New Jersey court, allowing Schoenfeld to coach the fourth game. In protest, the officials scheduled to work that game in the Meadlowands refused to take the ice, forcing the NHL to scramble for amateur officials to call the contest. The injunction was lifted and Schoenfeld served his suspension during game five in the Boston Garden.
- Clarence Campbell Conference
Detroit Red Wings vs. Edmonton Oilers
Steve Yzerman and the Wings were no match for the Oilers in Edmonton, and were edged out in five games.
The series pitted the Oilers' offensive juggernaut against the Bruins' more balanced team. The Oilers showed their defensive prowess, surrendering just 9 goals in the four completed games. Game 4 is well-known for fog that interfered with the game and a power outage that caused its cancellation before a faceoff. This would allow the Oilers to win the Cup at home in the Northlands Coliseum and complete the "sweep" in a rescheduled Game 4.
Ray Bourque was physical in defending against Gretzky, but that wouldn't ground the Great One on his way to claiming his second Conn Smythe Trophy and setting playoff records with 31 assists in just 18 games, and 13 points in the Finals series.
Boston Bruins vs. Edmonton Oilers
|May 24||Edmonton||3||Boston||3||Game suspended at 16:37 of 2nd period due to power failure.|
Edmonton wins best-of-seven series 4-0
Playoff scoring leadersEdit
The following is a list of players of note who played their first NHL game in 1987-88 (listed with their first team, asterisk(*) marks debut in playoffs):
- Craig Janney, Boston Bruins
- Glen Wesley, Boston Bruins
- Calle Johansson, Buffalo Sabres
- Pierre Turgeon, Buffalo Sabres
- Ray Sheppard, Buffalo Sabres
- Adam Graves, Detoit Red Wings
- Scott Young, Hartford Whalers
- Mathieu Schneider, Montreal Canadiens
- Brendan Shanahan, New Jersey Devils
- Sean Burke, New Jersey Devils
- Jeff Norton, New York Islanders
- Brian Leetch, New York Rangers
- Kevin Stevens, Pittsburgh Penguins
- Rob Brown, Pittsburgh Penguins
- Ron Tugnutt, Quebec Nordiques
- Tommy Albelin, Quebec Nordiques
- Luke Richardson, Toronto Maple Leafs
The following is a list of players of note that played their last game in the NHL in 1987-88 (listed with their last team):
- Rick Middleton, Boston Bruins
- Clark Gillies, Buffalo Sabres
- Doug Risebrough, Calgary Flames
- Dave Lewis, Detroit Red Wings
- Doug Jarvis, Hartford Whalers
- Tiger Williams, Hartford Whalers
- Richard Brodeur, Hartford Whalers
- Bob Bourne, Los Angeles Kings
- Steve Payne, Minnesota North Stars
- Denis Potvin, New York Islanders
- Pierre Larouche, New York Rangers
- Charlie Simmer, Pitttsburgh Penguins
- Gilles Meloche, Pittsburgh Penguins
- Wilf Paiement, Pittsburgh Penguins
- Brian Sutter, St. Louis Blues
- Perry Turnbull, St. Louis Blues
- Dave Semenko, Toronto Maple Leafs
- List of Stanley Cup champions
- 1987 NHL Entry Draft
- 1987 NHL Supplemental Draft
- 39th National Hockey League All-Star Game
- National Hockey League All-Star Game
- NHL All-Rookie Team
- Ice hockey at the 1988 Winter Olympics
- 1987 Canada Cup
|National Hockey League|
|1987–88 NHL season by team|
|Patrick||New Jersey · NY Islanders · NY Rangers · Philadelphia · Pittsburgh · Washington|
|Adams||Boston · Buffalo · Hartford · Montreal · Quebec|
|Norris||Chicago · Detroit · Minnesota · St. Louis · Toronto|
|Smythe||Calgary · Edmonton · Los Angeles · Winnipeg · Vancouver|
|See also||1987 NHL Entry Draft · All-Star Game · 1988 Stanley Cup Finals|