And the Oiler forwards are still formidable. Gretzky passed for his 1,000th career assist in the second Ranger game, while linemate Tikkanen had five points. Of Edmonton's seven goals that night, four were born of artistic passing—breathtaking stuff. And Gretzky's two goals against Buffalo on Saturday gave him a total of 556, moving him into a tie for sixth place on the NHL alltime goal-scoring list, with John Bucyk.
Nevertheless, says Sather candidly, "If this were April, we'd be in trouble." They may be, anyway. A gap between Edmonton and the rest of the league remains, but the desertions have shrunk its size. Meanwhile, some of the Mickey Mouse teams have grown sharp teeth.