An altered cast of characters produced a familar climax that may become downright commonplace in years to come.
Led by a rejuvenated Wayne Gretzky, the Edmonton Oilers have made the transition from dominance to dynasty. Thursday night, for the fourth time in the five years, the Oilers hoisted the Stanley Cup in triumph. Hockey fans should get used to the scene."This team is getting better," Oilers General Manager-Coach Glen Sather said after his team swept past the Boston Bruins with a 6-3 victory. "I recall the Islanders getting to the Final on guts (in the declining stage of their glory years), but there's no reason we can't be in the Final for the next three or four years consistently."
Only one team in history has won more Cup titles in such a short span of time - the 1956-60 Montreal Canadiens who won five straight Cup championships. The Canadiens also won four straight, as did the New York Islanders.
The Oilers have claimed their spot among the great NHL great teams, none of whom had to win as many best-of-seven series to achieve their accomplishments as Edmonton has.
"They've all been disciplined," Sather said of his past Cup winners. "But this was a bigger challenge, no doubt."
Gone from the 1987 championhip team were Paul Coffey, Andy Moog, Kent Nilsson and Reijo Ruotsalainen, all outstanding performers. In their places, Sather assembled a cast of young talent stars to produce a team that has dominated the playoffs like few others. In their march to the Stanley Cup, the Oilers lost only two of 18 postseason tests.
"I guess I can smirk now, huh?" said Sather, whose bold decisions after last season's success reshaped the team's personnel and style.
"If you look back, it shows that the game remains bigger than any individual."
On individual, however, reigns supreme. Gretzky reaffirmed his dominance, proving once again he is "The Great One."
The 27-year-old king of hockey returned from a 16-game injury layoff late in the regular season to display a renewed spirit to compliment his superb skills. He was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy for the playoffs most valuable player. The honor was the second of his career, tying him with Bobby Orr and Bernie Parent.
"He's a mystique," Sather said of the playoffs laeding scorer with 12 goals and 31 assists. "There's no one like him. Wayne had that look in his eyes and that fresh in his cheeks, and he knew he would make all the right moves tonight."
The Bruins, who finished 12-10 in their attempt to win the sixth Cup in franchise history, summoned all their resources, and led 2-1 in the first period. The Oilers, however, tied the score by the end of the period, and pulled away in the second and third.
"That's a great team that beat us," Bruins Coach Terry O'Reilly said. "We did not play to our best in this series, but they took it away from us. We have a good young core of players, and we'll add a few things, and be back next year to give these guys a better series."
O'Reilly, apparently, already has conceeded the Oilers a berth in next year's final. The probability is irrefutable.
"Being the underdog this year was an advantage," Sather said. "A lot of people said how little success we were going to have this year. But we've adjusted and gotten stronger over the years.
"Winning is something you've got to learn how to do, but once you learn, it's the only way. You get obsessed by it."
Esa Tikkanen scored twice for Edmonton, and Normand Lacombe, Mike Krushelnyski and Craig Simpson also added goals. Fittingly, Gretzky's was the winner. Steve Kaspar scored twice and Ken Linseman once for Boston.
Grant Fuhr, who set an NHL record by playing 75 regular-season games this year, made 16 saves to squelch the Bruins' hopes. Moog made 20 saves for Boston.
Edmonton became the 15th team to sweep a best-of-seven Cup Final. Game 4 in Boston Garden had been cancelled with the score tied 3-3 in the second period when a power failure caused a blackout that halted play. All statistics from that game, however, stand.