So there was Lowe in Game 1, rocking Bruins forward Keith Crowder's world as Crowder crossed the blue line. There was Oiler defenseman Steve Smith, between titanic collisions with Boston right wing Cam Neely, driving center Craig Janney into the ice. There was—could it be?—perennial Lady Byng trophy candidate Kurri rubbing Ken Linseman's face in the ice, knocking the caps off two of the Rat's teeth. In Game 2, there was Gretzky saving the Oilers by kicking Bruins forward Moe Lemay's shot out of the crease. And seldom were the Oilers caught out of position. "We get no clear three-on-twos or two-on-ones—they always have people back," despaired Bruins center Steve Kasper.
O'Reilly had sent goalie Andy Moog out against Edmonton for Game 1, hoping to tap into the ex-Oiler's ill-disguised dislike of Sather, his former coach. Tired of watching Fuhr get all the playoff action, Moog had asked to be traded last summer after five full seasons with Edmonton. Sather refused the goalie's request, and Moog left to play for the Canadian Olympic team, where it was his lot to play backup to Sean Burke, who would later turn the New Jersey Devils into a playoff power. Finally, in March, Sather traded Moog to Boston.
Moog stopped 20 of 22 Oiler shots in the opener, missing a Gretzky chop that hit no fewer than seven other objects—skates, sticks, etc.—before trickling wounded into the net, and a Keith Acton tip-in. Fuhr one-upped him, turning away 13 of the Bruins' paltry 14 shots.
Before Game 2, the chastened Bruins spoke of how they would need to be "more physical," to "fight through their checks" and "take the play to them." Said O'Reilly, "I have some ideas, but I'm not going to get too technical right now. They might not even work."
Unfortunately, who was listening but referee Don Koharski, one of the protagonists in Doughnutgate, the black eye the NHL suffered during the Boston-New Jersey Wales Conference finals. For the first two periods, Koharski was in a hair-trigger mode. He whistled the Bruins for eight of the first period's 11 penalties, including the last five in a row, twice giving the Oilers a two-man advantage. Gretzky manufactured a goal each time, first setting up Anderson for a deflection score from the left, then doing the same for Messier from the right.
Playing in a trance early in the third period, the Oilers gave up two quick goals. Koharski, too, appeared to fall into a trance, whistling not a single penalty until the game's last minute, even though play appeared to be as chippy as in the first two periods. "Where's the logic in that?" asked Boston defenseman Gord Kluzak. O'Reilly was equally outraged by the inconsistency, and he was still harping on it two nights later, describing the officiating as "not good enough for a Stanley Cup final." But the Bruins could not blame all their problems on Koharski. Again, the Oiler defense was smothering. So smothering that after the second of the Bruins' third-period goals, on which Linseman knocked Lowe to the ice, shot, then lifted his own rebound over Fuhr to make the score 2-2, Boston did not get off a shot in the remaining 16:44 of play.
The Edmonton player who did most of the smothering was Smith. He set up both Oiler goals in Game 1 and has performed as well as Lowe, the All-Star, in the playoffs. "He had a great series against Calgary," said Gretzky of Smith's play in the Oilers' four-game sweep of the favored Flames.
That victory was especially sweet for Smith. When Calgary knocked Edmonton out of the playoffs in '86, the winning goal for the Flames was actually scored by Smith, when he attempted to clear a pass and the puck bounced off Fuhr's leg into the net.
"He's paid for that a million times," says Sather. Calgary fans shout "Shoot!" when Smith touches the puck.
But Sather stuck with the rough-edged Smith: He needed to. In addition to being a strong skater and passer, the Glasgow-born Smith has a nasty streak—his 286 penalty minutes this season are the most by an Oiler, ever—that comes in handy when rivals try to throw Gretzky off his game by roughing him up. Smith also quarterbacks the Oilers power play: he carries the puck out and, when opponents loiter in front of the Oiler net, Smith, at 6'4", 210 pounds, becomes a human front-loader. "The more ice time you get, the more you find yourself in the right position as play develops, as opposed to being on the outside looking in," says Smith.