And Coffey hasn't let up in the playoffs. His 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) going into the finals is a record by a defenseman in one playoff year, and his six points (one goal, five assists) in a 10-5 Oiler home win in Game 5 against Chicago set a record for most points by a defenseman in a playoff game and tied him with Orr and Brad Park for most goals by a defenseman in a playoff season.
It was Coffey who started and finished the quintessential Oiler goal in Game 2. With the Oilers leading 4-2 in the third period, Coffey scooped up a loose puck in front of the Edmonton net, accelerated through center and cut down the right wing. Now, instead of shooting, he dropped a pass to Messier in the slot. Instead of shooting, Messier slid the puck to Gretzky at the left post, and Gretzky, instead of shooting, passed back to Coffey at the right post for a tap-in. As the sign on the balcony reads, OUR COFFEY IS HOT.
But when it comes to pure speed, Coffey's no hotter than Edmonton's two top burners, Anderson and Messier.
"Blue line to blue line, it's Glenn. He has an incredible jump," says Coffey of Anderson, who likes to crank it up and beat defensemen on the outside. Anderson has scored nine goals and 14 assists in the playoffs. His real value, however, is in the balance he gives the team, skating on a line with Messier and Mark Napier. Says Chicago forward Bill Gardner, " Gretzky on one line and Messier and Anderson on another line is the best one-two punch in hockey. It's like Muhammad Ali followed by Larry Holmes."
Let Gretzky float like a butterfly, it's the more physical Messier who stings like a bee. Messier is a player of intimidating bulk (207 pounds on a 6-foot frame) and explosive speed. Edmonton scout Lorne Davis says timed drills showed Messier to be the fastest of the Oilers from a standing start. And as the Oilers' No. 2 center, Messier gives his team another dimension by being as tough as Gretzky is slick. Asked if Messier is an intimidator, Gretzky laughs and says, "Mark doesn't intimidate people. He hurts people."
In Game 1 Messier hurt Chicago defenseman Keith Brown, hitting him with a clean crunching check that put Brown into the boards and out of the playoffs with a hip pointer. "He won't score in the blowouts," said Lowe after Messier failed to get a goal in the 11-2 Game 1 Oiler shootout, "but he and Gretz are the guys we look to when the game is close."
After going pointless in the first playoff game. Messier is on a 12-game scoring streak with 10 goals and 19 assists.
It is also Messier who stands opposite Gretzky in establishing this team's emotional polarity. On the one side is the self-contained Gretzky, sustained by a quiet joy in the game, and on the other the driven and passionate Messier, who cried after the Oilers won the Cup last year.
On Thursday, as Messier's shouts of "Well, aw-right" cut through the noise of the Edmonton dressing room, singer Paul Anka, who is from Canada, stood in the room beaming. He said he knew Coffey and Messier and Kurri and, "Oh, yeah, Gretzky," and "Aren't they a great skating team? A great passing team?"
Anka knows a headline act when he sees one. As the Oilers headed into the finals, it was clear that all that glittered was not Gretzky.