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Original Issue

The best in all the world

As Vasiliev (left) and Mikhailov hoisted the Challenge Cup, the NHL blushed red.

New York, New York: Ranger fans join in the bedlam as Islanders fade.


The three Challenge Cup games in New York's Madison Square Garden, billed as the "Series of the Century," were the embarrassment of the year for the NHL After the Soviet National Team humbled the league's all-stars 6-0 in the rubber game of the series, nobody could argue with the brief assessment of victorious Captain Boris Mikhailov, who said, "Soviets one, Kanadski two." The Kanadskis had no excuses. They were playing with their best on familiar ice in the middle of their season. The Soviets lost the first game 4-2 and spotted the NHL a two-goal lead in the second before rallying for a 5-4 win. When the NHL tried muscle, the Soviets answered with goals, and in the end they proved themselves superior skaters, uncanny passers and the best hockey players in the world.

In local news, Montreal won the Stanley Cup, which might have been no news because it was the Canadiens' fourth Cup in a row and sixth of the decade. But in the semis the Habs needed a seventh-game overtime goal to beat the Bruins and move into the finals against the wrong New York team. The islanders were supposed to be there—they were the first team in six years to finish the season with more points than the Canadiens (116-115)—but they were derailed in six games by the Rangers, who held the record-setting (151 goals) line of NHL scoring champ and MVP Bryan Trottier, 69-goal man Mike Bossy and digger Clark Gillies to two goals and two assists. The Rangers looked as if they might be able to cast the same fog over the Canadiens when New York won the first game of the finals 4-1 in Montreal. But a slap shot that KO'd starting Goalie Bunny Larocque in the warmup before the second game seemed to knock some sense into the Canadiens, and they swept the next four. The heroes for Montreal were Left Wing Bob Gainey, who excelled on defense even while getting three goals and two assists, and Goalie Ken Dryden, who recovered from the boos of the first game in what proved to be his last hurrah—he retired after the playoffs. And it was goodby, world, for the WHA, which folded after seven seasons and provided the NHL with four new franchises.