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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Isles 40 in 40 -- #31

Isles 40 in 40 -- #31

In honor of the Isles 40th anniversary year, I've put together a list of the Top 40 moments in club history.  I'll go through them throughout the season, bit by bit.

December 20, 1985 and January 28, 1986--Potvin Passes Orr.. Twice

Denis Potvin heard the phrase "The Next Bobby Orr" throughout his career.

When the Isles selected him in the 1973 Amateur Draft, the NY Times story began:

Denis Potvin, a fast, aggressive, high-scoring defenseman in the mold of Boston's Bobby Orr, was chosen by the New York Islanders today as the No. [1] pick in the National Hockey League's draft of amateur players.

When the two were teammates on the Canada Cup team in 1976, Potvin drew attention for his comments critical of the Bruin star:

Peter Gammons-SI on Potvin/Orr

One thing was certain, though.  If Bobby Orr was the best defenseman in the NHL from the mid-60's to the mid-70's, his Norris Trophy successor as the best defenseman was Denis Potvin.

Thus, as Potvin's career progressed the comparisons continued.

By the 1985-86 season, the Stanley Cups were in the rear-view mirror and for the first time since the 1970s, the Isles were not a team that had played in the Stanley Cup Finals the previous spring.

However, Denis Potvin's numbers were accumulating to a level no defenseman had ever seen.  No defenseman but Bobby Orr that is.

On December 20, 1985, Potvin finally passed Orr on the points list as he recorded his 916th point as he assisted on a Mike Bossy goal (#495).  Perhaps fittingly, the game is played at Madison Square Garden.

Then, barely five weeks later, Potvin passes Orr again, but this time it is with his 271st career goal:


Mikko Makela assisted on the goal -- one of five points he had that night, tying a club record that he still shares today.  The Isles would go on to pound the Maple Leafs 9-2.

Potvin would go on to play the rest of the season and the two following seasons before retiring as the NHL leader among defensemen with 310 goals and 1052 points.

But records are made to be broken, and in October 1991 Paul Coffey did just that, recording his 1052nd and 1053rd points in a game against the Isles.  Afterwards, Coffey said: 
"It's a thrill. Denis Potvin is one of the greatest defensemen that ever played the game. To have a chance to even share numbers with someone like him is one thing, but to have a chance to pass him is another."
Less than three weeks later, Coffey grabbed Potvin's goal record as well.  Perhaps fittingly, it came less than two months after Potvin and Mike Bossy were inducted together into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Some fans in Manhattan never forgot this play (compare it to what you see every day in the NHL these days)



Most everyone else remember him as the Captain of 4 Stanley Cup championship teams, who in a span of two months, passed the Great Bobby Orr... twice.   Those feats earn him #31 on the Isles 40 in 40 list.
March 16, 2010 -- Tavares' 5-point game.
February 13, 2011 -- Grab-Trick. 
March 31, 1990 -- Uwe, Uwe. 

Like any of these lists, my #2 may be your #20...
Forever1940 is the nom de plume of Eric Hornick, statistician on Islander home telecasts since 1982. Visit my blog: NYISkinny.com and follow me on Twitter @ehornick

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