Wayne Gretzky, Denis Potvin see similarities between Lightning and Islanders’ 4-Cup dynasty

Lightning Islanders Dynasty comparison
Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91), head coach Jon Cooper, and defenseman Victor Hedman (77) pose with the Prince of Wales Trophy after the team defeated the New York Rangers during Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals Saturday, June 11, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

The Tampa Bay Lightning are attempting to become the first team since the New York Islanders from 1980-1983 to win three or more consecutive Stanley Cup championships, which would cement their place as the next great NHL dynasty, as the 2022 Final begins Wednesday against the Colorado Avalanche. 

Tampa’s Eastern Conference Final victory over the New York Rangers in six games was their 11 consecutive playoff series victory, which is second in NHL history behind only those Islanders, who won 19 straight during their four straight titles and five straight Stanley Cup Final appearances.

The ever-increasing numbers in the record books aren’t the only thing tying these two franchises together, though. Tampa is also reminding some of the most notable witnesses of the greatest American NHL dynasty of the Islanders themselves.

“Their resilience is a lot like that team, the Islanders of the 80s in a sense that they can play you skating, they can play you defensive, they can play you physical,” Wayne Gretzky, whose Oilers lost to the Islanders in the 1983 Final before dethroning them in 1984, told Joe Smith of The Athletic. “And like [Islanders goalie] Billy Smith… this goalie [Andrei Vasilevskiy] is really special. The bigger the game, the better he seems to play. They have it in their minds that they can’t lose.

“And their work ethic is extraordinary. You watch them play, they play hard every shift. They play unselfish.”

Wayne Gretzky

The varying styles of play were a calling card of the dynastic Islanders, who possessed the attacking finesse headlined by Mike Bossy and Bryan Trottier, coupled with the productive yet defensive grit of captain Denis Potvin.

“Absolutely [they are like those Islanders teams],” Potvin said. “I don’t think it’s a major secret. How well you defend is how you win Stanley Cups. We felt we could beat the Bruins at their game, we could Montreal at their game, all these series we played.

“But for me, it was how well we all defended as a team, as a unit, that gave us the edge. And I see that in Tampa.”

Denis Potvin
Denis Potvin (Wikimedia Commons)

Tampa will need that edge to slow down a red-hot Avalanche team that has swept two of its three playoff series so far heading into the Cup.

Not only do they possess four of the top 10 point-getters in the NHL this postseason, but they also have the brightest two-way defenseman in the league in Cale Makar. It’s why regardless of a stalwart in Vasilevskiy in the crease and a high-powered offense featuring Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, the Lightning are underdogs heading into the Final.

Granted, they already have shut down some pretty potent attacks during these playoffs. Before they got past the Rangers, they swept the President’s Trophy-winning Florida Panthers.

“It has a lot more to do with your own belief in your team,” Potvin continued. “As you go deeper in the playoffs, you tend to understand, ‘Don’t take the foot off the pedal.’ We had a situation like that with the Oilers in 1983.

“There wasn’t anyone in the world that picked us to win the ’83 Cup, least of all to win it in four games. But the machine was so well-oiled that even though we didn’t have Bossy in the first game, we won 2-0. The rest is history. “

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