Superteams Smackdown: 1980 Islanders vs. 1994 Rangers

Hot Stove New YorkSenior Writer IMarch 16, 2009

Here is the third installment of our Super teams Smack down series (for the first two, click here and here).

The Islanders won their first Stanley Cup in only their eighth season and the Rangers won their first in their second season, but nobody remembers that one.

Their 1994 Cup win was the Blue shirts’ first in 54-years, so it felt like the first time.

If the team that started the Islanders dynasty faced the Rangers Cup-winning team that “will last a lifetime,” who would win?

Would somebody from Def Leppard be there to place the Cup upside down?

After winning the President’s Trophy the year before, but being upset by the surprising Rangers, the 1979-80 Islanders finished in second place in the Patrick Division, but went all the way this time, to win the first of four straight Stanley Cups.

The great Al Arbour coached them and the architect of the team was Bill Torrey.

Bryan Trottier (42 goals, 62 assists) and Mike Bossy (51 goals) led the offense.

Three-time Norris Trophy winner Denis Potvin (eight goals, 33 assists in 31 games) anchored the defense. Even though he wasn’t always popular with his own teammates, the Hall-of-Famer was named captain that season and the year before, he inspired a popular chant at Madison Square Garden.

The rest of the team was filled out by toughness, character and grit.

Clark Gillies, one of the all-time great fighters, collected 54-points.

Late-season pickup, Butch Goring, filled the veteran leadership role and taught them how to win “the LA Kings way.”

Bob Nystrom was Mr. Islander.

Garry Howatt racked up 219 penalty minutes.

Duane Sutter, Bob Bourne, John Tonelli, Stefan Persson, Lorne Henning and Gord Lane all played important roles, and Ken Morrow went from the Miracle on Ice gold-medal-winning Olympic team to a Stanley Cup in a matter of months.

He would also earn the most money on the Pro Bowlers Tour that year and picked up an Oscar for his portrayal of the third LaMotta brother, Gary, in Raging Bull.

Chico Resch and Billy Smith split time in goal during the regular season, but the Islanders rode Smith to the Stanley Cup in the playoffs.

He went 15-4 with a 2.80 GAA.

The team went through Los Angeles, Boston, Buffalo and the powerhouse Flyers to win the championship.

Trottier won the Conn Smythe (12 goals, 17 assists), paid back the Rangers by becoming the worst coach they ever had and always-clutch Nystrom netted the Cup-winning goal in OT of game six.

The Rangers won the President’s Trophy in 1992, but shockingly missed the playoffs altogether in ‘93 and then collected the most points (112) in the league again in ‘94.

If they didn’t win the Cup that season, they would have been run out of town and the New York Americans would have had to re-form, but about-to-be-six-time Cup-winner Mark Messier wouldn’t let that happen.

The captain scored 26 goals and added 58 assists.

Defenseman Sergei Zubov led the team in points (12 goals, 77 assists).

All-time good guy Adam Graves set a then-team record for goals, with 52.

Brian Leetch tallied 79 points.

Jeff Beukeboom (170 PIM) was a brick wall.

Steve Larmer, Alex Kovalev and Stephan MatteauMatteauMatteau! were key to the team.

A smattering of former Edmonton Oilers brought their winning ways to Seventh Avenue and Mike Richter starred in goal (42-12-6, 2.57; 16-7, 2.07 in the playoffs).

The Mike Keenan-led Blueshirts defeated the Islanders, Washington, New Jersey and finally, Vancouver to win the Cup.

Leetch won the Conn Smythe (34-points).

Messier made his famous guarantee in the Devils series and unbelievably scored a hat trick to win game six and with chants of “We want the Cup!” drowning out the Garden, the Rangers beat the Canucks for their fourth Stanley Cup.

The Islanders were just getting started, while the Rangers were one and done.

If these two memorable teams faced each other in a seven-game series, who would win?

Vote now.

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