The NHL Network ran this game a couple of weeks ago, and naturally, I had to set the DVR so I could remind myself of the Islanders glory days. I’ve watched bits and pieces of the game over the last few days, and a few things occurred to me. I thought I would write them down, and see if anyone else agrees, or remembers differently.
1. Bob Bourne and Ken Linseman were simply faster, by a wide margin, than anyone else on the ice. I know there are some amazingly fast skaters in the league now, but the difference in speed between them and the rest of the players on the ice is nowhere near as noticeable as it was in 1980. This is one obvious area where the game has changed, everyone can skate.
2. Goaltenders and their equipment are ridiculous larger now than they were then. That is one reason the game features much less scoring now. I’d argue the size of the other players on the ice contributes just as much, there simply aren’t shooting lanes because there’s less space on the ice all the way around. On the other hand, ice conditions are much better now. As you watch an entire game from that era, watch how many poor passes are made due to the puck bouncing and just being difficult to control all the way around.
3. Clutching and grabbing got a lot of the blame for the low scoring prior to the 2004 lockout, but it had nothing on the hooking, slashing, holding, etc. that went on in this game. Granted, this was the Flyers and that was their SOP during those days, but both teams were guilty of a ton of things that would be penalties now. Even as it was, there were a ton of penalties in the game!
4. Watching the game reminded me that much of the Flyers success defensively came from the fact that they would simply hold, hook, mug, whatever you want to call it, all the time and dare the officials to call them all. There’s no doubt it was successful for years, because even though they took a lot of penalties, they knew they could still use those tactics to stop you more than you could take advantage of the powerplays. In the 1980 Finals the Islanders scored 15 powerplay goals in 6 games. I think that started the momentum away from that type of play, the 80’s era Oilers put it to death completely.
5. Butch Goring gets a lot of deserved credit for being the “final piece” to the Isles dynasty. But let’s look at something else. Just before that trade was made, the Isles added Ken Morrow from the US Olympic team. They then include Defenseman Dave Lewis in the trade, giving Morrow a top 6 spot in the lineup. Let’s not underestimate Ken Morrow as the piece that made the trade possible. As I watched the end of this game, I am struck by the fact that a kid with 18 regular season games of NHL experience is playing short-handed with 7 minutes left in a tie game 6 of the Finals, and had plenty of ice time in the final couple of minutes and overtime. How many times have you seen that? And what a difference does it make on the result that the Isles played 6 defensemen regular shifts while the Flyers, due to the injury to Joe Watson, and unwillingness to play McHilhargy, were only playing 4?
6. The Isles third line was Wayne Merrick centering Tonelli and Nystrom. As it was pointed out by the announcers, that line had gone -11 in the playoffs. About halfway through the game, Al Arbour switched Lorne Henning to that line and Merrick barely played after that. The weak line that Philly had hoped to take advantage of became the most dangerous line immediately, and well, you know the rest. Brilliant move by Arbour, but what took him so long? 😉
OK enough of my fond memories of the Isles glory years. Time to focus on the 2013 team in Pittsburgh tonight.