SI Flashback: Stanley Cup 1990
Edmonton over Boston in five games
Conn Smythe winner: Bill Ranford, Edmonton
The dynastic Oilers won the Stanley Cup again, this time without Wayne Gretzky
By Jay Greenberg
A Stanley Cup that had been marked down for easy sale was rescued from the bargain basement last Thursday night by the Edmonton Oilers. This season of parity in the NHL had portended a cheap championship, but in the end a richly deserving team won the Cup.
The strong arms of the Oilers -- those of goalie Bill Ranford and left wing Esa Tikkanen, in particular -- served as grand pedestals for the big silver trophy as it was passed around after Edmonton's 4-1 victory over the Bruins in Game 5 at Boston Garden, which wrapped up the best-of-seven series. A fifth championship in seven years, accomplished just 21 months after the sale/trade of Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings, spoke especially for the pride and skill of the core players who remain from the Gretzky years.
Regaining the Cup after last year's first-round loss to the Great One and the Kings also provided powerful testament to the shrewdness of Oiler president and general manager Glen Sather. Thanks to several spin-offs of the Gretzky deal, Sather acquired fine young players who starred in the playoffs -- and he still has two extra No. 1 draft choices coming to him from Los Angeles ...
Edmonton proved to be faster, deeper, smarter and stronger than Boston, which simply could not get enough quality shots to have any hope of changing the outcome. Even when the Bruins got some good scoring chances in Game 1, they lost 3-2 in the third overtime on Petr Klima's goal at 1:23 a.m. An Oiler defensive unit that lacked an offensive threat and was a bit long in the tooth drew from a deep well of playoff experience and smothered Boston with simple, astute play. And Ranford, who might have suffered a crisis of confidence after allowing seven goals in the first game against Winnipeg, was as intimidating as Grant Fuhr [who was out most of the season with a shoulder injury] had ever been ...
The Oilers broke open Game 2, a 7-2 victory, late in the second period. In Game 3, their only loss, they played catch-up from the start. Neither situation called for a shadow, so coach John Muckler freed Tikkanen to rejoin the offense. He responded with a goal in each game. Craig Janney was so out of it by Game 4 that Muckler didn't bother with the shadow, and Tikkanen scored again. But in Game 5, Tikkanen reattached himself to Janney. He leaped over the boards after face-offs to thwart Boston coach Mike Milbury's home-ice right to the last change and climbed right back under Janney's skin ...
Milbury tried to minimize what was virtually the elimination of Janney's game by playing him on the wing. But Janney's struggles and the loss of Dave Poulin to a sprained knee in Game 2 left Milbury, in effect, without his best two centers. No other Bruin could fill the void. Right wing Cam Neely, a 55-goal scorer, overcarried the puck in trying to do too much. Brian Propp, Dave Christian and Bobby Gould, veterans whose in-season acquisitions at minimal costs preserved Harry Sinden's reputation as a master welder of scrap metal, played like rusted junk. Boston was clearly the best team in the Wales Conference, which tells you something about the weak state of the conference.
The Oilers braced for the Bruins' final burst of home adrenaline in Game 5 and matched it in the opening minutes, in what might have been the most exciting period of the series. When Boston not only failed to get a lead in that period but also did not get a superior chance to score, the series was all but over.
Janney got to the net before Tikkanen could get over the boards on the first shift of the second period, but Ranford stoned what turned out to be the Bruins' last chance to grab a lead. A minute later, Glenn Anderson broke away, put the puck between Bruin defenseman Don Sweeney's legs, went around the flopping Andy Moog and scored. Eight minutes after that, Anderson stripped forward Bob Sweeney and made a spectacular behind-the-back pass to Craig Simpson, who finished off the two-on-one break with ease.
The cream had risen to the top of the Cup after all. It usually does in the NHL. Some years, it just takes a little longer.
They said it ..."Whenever I wasn't seeing the puck, it was finding a way to hit me," Ranford said after the Cup was won. Sometimes that's luck. More often it's technique and positioning. Always, goaltending is confidence. "You just have to get it and put a string together," he said. "That's just what this club did."
Issue date: June 4, 1990