If there was a symbolic changing of the guard, it occurred in Game 5 of the Florida-Boston playoff series last spring when Bill Lindsay, a winger with nice but not blinding speed, beat Bourque to the outside, cut in and scored the series-winning goal from his knees. Bourque, a first-team All-Star as a rookie, is a player whose greatness is not that he is a 35-year-old who looks 18, but that he was once an 18-year-old who played like 35. When the sturdy and steadfast Bourque couldn't fend off Lindsay in a critical situation, it was a reminder that he can't beat back time forever.
"You can say the veterans set a standard so high that almost no one could match it," says Potvin, a Panthers broadcaster. "When I retired in 1988 there were Bourque and Coffey and Al MacInnis, and Larry Robinson was still playing tremendous hockey. There were probably more good defensemen in that soon-to-be-graduated class than we have ever seen at one time in the NHL."
Bourque and Chelios will be among the best defensemen at the end of 1996-97, but they will have youthful company at long last. In addition to the big four, you can find Lidstrom Lovers ( Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom), Gonchar Groupies ( Washington's Sergei Gonchar) and Foote Fetishists ( Adam Foote of Colorado). The change is at hand.