What If : 1980 New York Islanders Vs 1994 New York Rangers


Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone who loves hockey has at one point or another fantasized about what it would be like if two teams from different eras matched up and played against one another.

Of course, being physically impossible for fear of 60 year old men possibly having serious health issues or even worse watching them skate at about 5 mph as if playing in a beer league on a Sunday night, the gentlemen at WhatIfSports have come up with a simulation engine that allows to at least partially answer those questions that span generations.

Now, I could sit here and babble on, citing my expertise of computer algorithmic and HTML code, on how I understand the results that were generated and kicked out of the super computer used by the aforementioned web site. But that would be far from accurate. Truth is, I have absolutely no idea and am not afraid to admit it!

To be clear, they do not offer any explanation as to their secret formula either but after running through some tests, the results came out accurate in terms of certain statistics I keyed on, such as shots on goal (for the era) and time on ice. Pretty impressive stuff and sets us up for an interesting series of articles in August’s hockey media wasteland.

We will be focusing on one matchup per week leading up to training camp and after the results of our facebook poll question last night, posting each game on a specific day to heighten the drama and suspense.

Our first matchup pits the 1980 Stanley Cup champion New York Islanders versus the 1994 Stanley Cup champion New York Rangers. So let’s get started……


New York Islanders (39-28-13 : 2nd Eastern Conference 1980)

Head Coach : Al Arbour

Captain : Denis Potvin


New York Rangers (52-24-8, 1st in Eastern Conference 1994)

Head Coach : Mike Keenan

Captain : Mark Messier


The Rangers, coming off an incredible 1994 regular season where they finished first in the Eastern conference and the entire National Hockey League, came to play in game one at Madison Square Garden right from the opening puck drop as the Islanders looked to be a little shell shocked at what was unfolding.

At the 10:11 mark, Garry Howatt was penalized for closing his hand on the puck and the Broadway Blueshirts wasted no time in converting on the power play with Stephane Matteau converting a Brian Leetch pass into a quick lead just 17 seconds after the infraction was whistled. With the home fans whipped up into a frenzy, it would be two just 3:31 later as Mike Gartner broke in after taking a long stretch pass from Sergei Zubov and beating Billy Smith short glove side. An Al Arbour time out seemed to quiet the building pandemonium bellowing down from the Rangers supporters but did not seem to quell the momentum on the ice. At 16:29, Gord Lane took a penalty for a cross check and the Rangers would make it two for two on the power play with Adam Graves banging in a Zubov rebound and a commanding 3-0 lead after one period for the home team. Shots in the first period were 19-8 in favor of the Rangers, who completely dominated play and possession.

Now, who knows what Arbour could have said to his troops in the intermission but whatever it was, it worked wonders as the Isles came out looking like the champions they were in the second period. Jeff Beukeboom was whistled at just the 0:38 mark for cross checking and Alex Kovalev took an elbowing penalty at 5:38. Even though the visitors could not score on the power plays, it was enough to turn the tide and tilt the ice back towards Rangers goaltender Mike Richter. The hard work would finally pay off late as John Tonelli took a pass from Butch Goring in the low slot and fired home at 17:39 before captain Denis Potvin sent a screened point shot through Richter at 18:04. The two goals in 25 seconds silenced the Garden faithful and sent the teams into intermission feeling a lot different than just 20 minutes prior. Shots in the second period went to the Islanders 14-9.

With the need to regain their footing, the Rangers once again took a momentum killing power play early in the third period, as Nick Kypreos was sent off for boarding at 5:15. With the Isles buzzing around the cage, Richter made several spectacular saves to maintain his teams slim one goal lead. At the 14:15 mark, Bob Bourne would use his amazing speed and blow by 4 Rangers on a rush to score top shelf and tie the game. Garry Howatt would make up for his earlier penalty by making the drop pass in his own zone that allowed the curling Bourne to increase his forward momentum and from that point on, no Ranger was catching him. Now in a tie game, the Isles would not let up in trying to seize the moment and steal game one of this series. At 16:54 Denis Potvin skated into the slot after receiving a pass off the boards from Mike Kaszyncki and rifled his patented wrist shot between Richter’s legs and the Isles had their first lead of the hockey game. At 18:06, with the Rangers pressing, Clark Gillies proved his mettle and team dedication by entering into a scuffle with captain Mark Messier. The exchange would clearly benefit the Isles as they were able to kill off the remaining two minutes of the game without the Blueshirts emotional leader and take the jump in the best of seven by scoring four unanswered goals. Shots in the third were 15-6 Islanders.

Scoring Summary:

First Period:

10:28 93-94 Rangers Powerplay – Goal scored by Stephane Matteau assisted by Brian Leetch and Adam Graves

13:59 93-94 Rangers Goal scored by Mike Gartner assisted by Sergei Zubov

18:05 93-94 Rangers Powerplay – Goal scored by Adam Graves assisted by Sergei Zubov

Second Period:

17:39 79-80 Islanders Goal scored by John Tonelli assisted by Butch Goring and Denis Potvin

18:04 79-80 Islanders Goal scored by Denis Potvin assisted by Anders Kallur and Gord Lane

Third Period:

14:15 79-80 Islanders Goal scored by Bob Bourne assisted by Garry Howatt

16:54 79-80 Islanders Goal scored by Denis Potvin assisted by Mike Kaszycki and Yvon Vautour

Shots by Period:

79-80 Islanders          8 – 14 – 15 = 37

93-94 Rangers           19 – 9 – 6 = 35

Stars of the Game:

1. Denis Potvin

2. John Tonelli

3. Adam Graves

Islanders lead best of seven series 1-0

Hope you enjoyed this walk down memory lane and the computer simulation by WhatIfSports, plus my commentary to spice things up and keep it as close to realistic as I could get. Stay tuned tomorrow as we bring you game two!

-Andy (@tazman19)