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Is it too early to start advancing the Chicago Blackhawks versus Edmonton Oilers Stanley Cup playoff series?
I mean, it might be a month and a half away now.
It just seems wrong to have a series between the Oilers and Blackhawks without a road trip to Chicago involved and visits to Harry Carey’s, the Chicago Chop House, Redhead Piano Bar, Rush Street, Wrigley Field and so many other haunts to look forward to.
The two teams have an interesting history and a lot of memorable moments that will be brought back even without those backdrops.
The Oilers played their first NHL regular-season game in Chicago against the Blackhawks in the old Chicago Stadium. The Original Six barn, to me, is tied for first all-time with the Montreal Forum as the greatest places to watch a hockey game, even with it’s quirky end-of-the-rink press box where you had to keep your head up for slap shots from the point.
Standing for the national anthem in Chicago was an experience that made the little tiny hairs on the back of your neck stand at attention. While it wasn’t duplicated in the United Centre across the street, it’s still special. And at least the players don’t have to trudge up and down stairs to get to their dressing rooms in the basement.
In all, the Oilers have 20 games of playoff history involving four series against Chicago, all Western Conference finals. Edmonton swept the series in 1983, winning 8-4 and 8-2 in both games in Edmonton and taking the games in Chicago 3-2 and 6-3.
That was he series that would be remembered mostly for the eruption of Mount Orval the two losses in Edmonton.
“I’m ashamed,” coach Orval Tessier had said. “I’ve been in hockey a long time. I’m highly embarrassed. This is the ultimate embarrassment. What do we do now? Put in a call to the Mayo Clinic for 18 heart transplants?”
Two years later, you could only imagine what Tessier’s post-game quotes might have been when the Oilers beat Chicago 11-2 for openers. But it was Bob Pulford’s turn in the barrel as head coach that year.
“It seemed like Glenn Anderson scored when they were playing the national anthem,” said Hawks goalie Murray Bannerman.
Larry (Bud) Melnyk was the Oilers’ hero in a 7-3 win in Game 2. Larry Who? He’d never scored a Stanley Cup playoff goal. The net had always been something of an illusion at the other end of the ice to him. And he scored the winner. That got him on Hockey Night In Canada and he’d never been on there before, either.
With the win, the Oilers had 10 straight playoff wins.
Heading into Chicago, it was Hawks’ Bob Murray who came up with the quote of the series:
“Edmonton plays hockey the way it’s supposed to be played,” he said. “We can’t let them play it that way.”
And they didn’t.
“Hawkey Shock” was the headline in the Edmonton Sun that greeted the defending Stanley Cup champions when they returned here after losing 5-2 and 8-6.
Goalie Grant Fuhr took the blame for Game 4.
“I had a bad night. To put it bluntly, I didn’t make any @$%^&*# saves.”
The Oilers came home and returned the Hawks to reality with a 10-5 win in a night where they broke three playoff records. Paul Coffey broke one with a six-point night. Jari Kurri broke another with his third hat trick of the playoffs and with Game 6 to come, Edmonton broke a record for most goals in a playoff series, with 36. And the Oilers went back to Chicago and won 8-2.
On their way to their fifth Stanley Cup in 1990, the Oilers won the opener 5-2 and it was déjà vu Orval Tessier, as coach Mike Keenan said, “We embarrassed ourselves.”
Keenen had a showdown with his star, Dennis Savard, in the hall outside the visitors dressing room after the first period. Savard had two 30-second shifts in the first period and 276 seconds of total ice time in the second.
“A fly on the wall would have had a really good time,” said Doug Wilson of the goings-on in the Chicago dressing room.
Wilson scored the winner late in Game 2 and back in Chicago, Greg Millen stopped 31 shots and Chicago scored a 5-1 win to take the series lead.
Much has been written over the years about the Mark Messier stare and glare. It showed itself in Game 4 as the new Oilers captain scored two goals and added two assists in a 4-2 win. While there were two games to go, Messier won the series in Game 4 and everybody knew it.
Two years later, with the mass exodus of the core of the glory gang headed to New York to win a Stanley Cup with the Rangers in 1994, the Oilers somehow managed to get back to the conference final against Chicago one last time, for old times sake. But they had nothing left, getting swept 8-2, 4-2, 4-3 and 5-1.
There’s been some wild and crazy stuff when it’s come to Chicago and Edmonton in the Stanley Cup playoffs, but how does it get and wilder or crazier than this, in the COCID-19 pandemic, 24-team hub city playoff set up we still may experience this year?
On Twitter: @ByTerryJones
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