You'd have to be in your mid- to late 20s to remember the last time the Bruins were in the Stanley Cup Finals, and at least in your 30s to be able to appreciate it. They were quick fodder for the Edmonton Oilers -- losing in five games, just two years after being swept by the same team in four -- and an amazing thing has happened as time has past.
The 1990 Bruins have been taken off the hook.
"They had no chance," is the conventional wisdom nowadays. "Edmonton was an overwhelming favorite." "They were lucky to be there."
No, no, and no.
All that was true in 1988, the last year of the dynastic GretzkyMessierKurriFuhr Oilers. That team may have finished second to Calgary in the Smythe Division that year, but they swept through the playoffs in a mere 14 games -- sweeping Calgary in the quarterfinals and needing only five to beat Winnipeg in the opening round and Detroit in the semifinals before knocking off the Bruins in a four-game sweep -- in winning their fourth Stanley Cup in five years. The B's truly were overmatched that time around.
But they weren't in 1990.
First off, Boston was better in '90 than it was in '88. Ray Bourque was in his prime. So was Cam Neely. Andy Moog had taken over as the No. 1 netminder and led the way as the B's allowed the fewest goals in the league. The Bruins were a league-best 46-25-9 that season, good for 101 points . . . 11 better than Edmonton (38-28-14), which again finished second. After a nailbiting seven-game opening round playoff series against Hartford, they needed only five games to beat Montreal in the quarterfinals and four games to beat Washington in the semifinals.
The Oilers? Wayne Gretzky was gone, having been traded to Los Angeles after the '88 Cup. Grant Fuhr, who battled injuries and substance abuse problems during his final years in Edmonton, played in only 13 games. They were good, but they weren't the team they'd been just two years earlier.
Game 1 was in Boston, and the Bruins overcame a 2-0 deficit with two third-period goals in forcing overtime. But -- with an open net to shoot at, as Oilers goalie Bill Ranford had been knocked down and was out of position -- Glen Wesley, standing alone in the slot, fired a shot over the crossbar in the first overtime period. A sure goal, and a Game 1 victory, was instead . . . nothing.
And when Petr Klima, who'd been nailed to the bench for most of the game, scored in the third overtime after 1 a.m., the Bruins were down 1-0 in the series.
They'd never get that close again.
They were blown out in Game 2, 7-2, They managed to win Game 3 in Edmonton, 2-1, but lost 5-1 in Game 4 and 4-1 in Game 5. The Oilers were champs, and the Bruins were bridesmaids for the second time in three years (and fourth time since 1977). It was the most disappointing of all the losses, since -- unlike the other three times they'd gotten to the Finals -- they weren't outclassed, talent-wise, by their opponents.
Now, finally, they get another shot at history.
A history that's been rewritten a little over the last few years.
Art Martone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.