As the Lightning seek to become the first team to win three consecutive Stanley Cups in 40 years, Denis Potvin will be watching his performances closely. It’s hard to capture the magnitude of the moment better than with the former defender of the powerful 1980s islanders remaining the last to pull off the feat.
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New York had just had two straight wins when, in the spring of 1982, 40 years ago, they defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, Nordiques and Vancouver Canucks in quick succession to lift the Major Cup for a third straight year.
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Never before has such rule been exercised. Even the Islanders then offered themselves a fourth straight coronation, on top of having their fifth opportunity slip through their fingers in 1984 at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers.
After all these years, Potvin watches Tampa Bay and relives his memories.
Denis Potvin was a major contributor to the Islanders’ success in the 1980s.
“When you have two trophies in a row and find yourself in the playoffs again, there is a confidence that after so much success becomes unshakable. If you’re going to win right away, there comes a point when you can’t even imagine for a second that you could end up losing,” he said protocol the 68-year-old man when he hooked up in Florida.
The Islanders of the time weren’t always unabashedly dominant in the regular season, despite a good lineup of star players. Before two of their four championships in a row they hadn’t scored 100 points.
Regardless, the team was at its best in the playoffs during those glory years, the Hull native (now Gatineau) recalls.
“To get through such long feathers, I’ve always said it takes courage, but above all discipline. When I speak of discipline, it means to me that each individual has to recognize their role and their limits.
“It was useless for me to tell myself that I have to create an attack. We had [Mike] Imperious and [Bryan] Traber for it, but since everyone did their part, there has never been a team that was stronger in defense than us,” said Potvin.
Despite the tiredness
Anyone who says three finals in a row also says a lot of ice hockey in their legs, which inevitably get heavy. Because of this, Potvin insists on the importance of everyone making their own page around the best players on the team.
“Our general manager, Bill Torrey, said many times that you have to build a team for the season and a team for the playoffs. It’s a different kind of hockey, it’s a different preparation and a lot of different players have to be involved,” he said.
Dynasty or Novelty?
In the confrontation beginning tonight, some urge the Lightning to confirm their dynasty, while others expect the Colorado Avalanche to lay the foundations for a new empire in their turn.
Having witnessed the transition of power between two dynasties, Potvin knows it’s difficult to choose between the confidence of champions and the appetite of contenders.
“The Avalanche will want to prove they are the best team. Tampa has never received such strong resistance. I remember in 1984 we had just won 19 straight series in the finals and we had the same confidence. The Oilers were just getting ready for the changing of the guard.
“Anyway, if Tampa wins a third year in a row like we did then, it won’t be a problem for me. I appreciate the good hockey this team gives us,” Potvin said.
CHAMPIONS SEASON AFTER SEASON
Over time, very few organizations can claim the feat of having won the Stanley Cup at least three consecutive seasons. Here, in NHL history, are the only clubs that have pulled off this major coup.
- NEW YORK ISLANDERS (4X champions from 1980 to 1983)
- MONTREAL CANADIAN (4X champions from 1976 to 1979)
- TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (3X champions from 1962 to 1964)
- MONTREAL CANADIAN (5X champions from 1956 to 1960)
- TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (3X champions from 1947 to 1949)
*The Edmonton Oilers were the last to be finalists three years in a row, from 1983 to 1985, but lost on the first try.
Feats that will make you forget the wear and tear
Mark Messier, Kevin Lowe and Jari Kurri celebrated with the Oilers winning the Stanley Cup in May 1990.
Competing in a third Stanley Cup final in three years certainly leaves a mark, but victory is undoubtedly the best antidote to suffering.
“All pain goes away in the summer when you respond to messages of congratulations and not to questions about why you didn’t win,” said wisely one of the Oilers’ past triumphs, Kevin Lowe.
The Lachute defender, in the Laurentians, was the centerpiece of the Edmonton dynasty that succeeded that of the New York Islanders in the 1980s.
The Oilers may never have won three straight trophies, but they remain the last organization to appear in three straight playoffs. After missing the 1983 Finals against the Islanders, they recovered well by winning the championship in 1984 and 1985.
“In a situation like this, you have to keep every spark of motivation alive. Whenever the media or a member of the other team questions how good you are, insist on proving otherwise. It’s very special what the Lightning are going through,” Lowe said.
The Oilers also had a chance for a hat trick in 1986, but the Calgary Flames defeated them in the semifinals.
“I remember some people talking about a hat trick in 1986 when we were finally eliminated by the Flames, but it wasn’t that big of a story because the Islanders had just pulled off the feat. Today the Lightning must be huge after all the years that have passed.
“It was easy to believe that in the current era of hockey, winning multiple trophies in a row would be virtually impossible due to the salary cap, and Tampa is demonstrating the opposite,” greets the Hall of Fame inductee in 2020.
Perry and Maroon
No fewer than 13 Lightning players also took part in the 2020 and 2021 finals with the team.
Not counting Corey Perry, who is also in a third straight Ultimate Series, he previously was with the Canadiens and Dallas Stars.
And let’s not forget Patrick Maroon, who will be enjoying his fourth straight final after winning the trophy with the St. Louis Blues (2019) and Tampa Bay.
overcome the pain
In this context, accumulated fatigue and injuries must be taken into account.
“When you go through a situation like this, the physical and mental exhaustion is dwarfed by the experience you’re going through,” says Lowe, however.
“Body wear and tear is going to be difficult, but if you give it your all for a short amount of time during the playoffs, you have an opportunity to rewrite history.
“It’s very rewarding. You hurt everywhere, but as players we all dream of those moments. First there are 16 teams, then eight, then four. In the semifinals you realize that everyone is watching you while the others are on vacation. Not bad Cold ‘ concludes the former defender without commenting on the outcome of the final.