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The 1987-88 NHL season was the 71st season of the National Hockey League. It was an 80 game season with the top four teams in each division advancing to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The NHL introduced a new trophy, the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, which was to be awarded to the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and who has made a significant humanitarian contribution in his community.

Regular Season

This was Wayne Gretzky's final season with the Edmonton Oilers, and as injuries held him out of 20% of the season, this would be the only season of the decade in which he was not the winner of the Hart Memorial Trophy and did not hold or share the league lead in points. Mario Lemieux would capture his first Hart Trophy and lead the league in scoring. This season would also see the Edmonton Oilers win their 4th Stanley Cup in 5 years by sweeping the Boston Bruins 4-0 (plus one cancelled game) in the Stanley Cup finals. In the process of their cup win, Edmonton lost only 2 games, a record for the "16 wins" playoff format.

Final Standings

Prince of Wales Conference

Adams Division
Montreal Canadiens 80 45 22 13 298 238 103
Boston Bruins 80 44 30 6 300 251 94
Buffalo Sabres 80 37 32 11 283 305 85
Hartford Whalers 80 35 38 7 249 267 77
Quebec Nordiques 80 32 43 5 271 306 69

Note: W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, GF = Goals For, GA = Goals Against, Pts = Points
Teams that qualified for the playoffs are highlighted in bold.

Patrick Division
New York Islanders 80 39 31 10 308 267 88
Philadelphia Flyers 80 38 33 9 292 292 85
Washington Capitals 80 38 33 9 281 249 85
New Jersey Devils 80 38 36 6 295 296 82
New York Rangers 80 36 34 10 300 283 82
Pittsburgh Penguins 80 36 35 9 319 316 81

Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, GF = Goals For, GA = Goals Against, Pts = Points
Teams that qualified for the playoffs are highlighted in bold.

Clarence Campbell Conference

Smythe Division
Calgary Flames 80 48 23 9 397 305 105
Edmonton Oilers 80 44 25 11 363 288 99
Winnipeg Jets 80 33 36 11 292 310 77
Los Angeles Kings 80 30 42 8 318 359 68
Vancouver Canucks 80 25 46 9 272 320 59

Note: W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, GF = Goals For, GA = Goals Against, Pts = Points
Teams that qualified for the playoffs are highlighted in bold.

Norris Division
Detroit Red Wings 80 41 28 11 322 269 93
St. Louis Blues 80 34 38 8 278 294 76
Chicago Blackhawks 80 30 41 9 284 328 69
Toronto Maple Leafs 80 21 49 10 273 345 52
Minnesota North Stars 80 19 48 13 242 349 51

Note: W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, GF = Goals For, GA = Goals Against, Pts = Points
Teams that qualified for the playoffs are highlighted in bold.

Scoring Leaders

Player Team GP G A PTS
Mario Lemieux Pittsburgh Penguins 77 70 98 168
Wayne Gretzky Edmonton Oilers 64 40 109 149
Denis Savard Chicago Blackhawks 80 44 87 131
Dale Hawerchuk Winnipeg Jets 80 44 77 121
Luc Robitaille Los Angeles Kings 80 53 58 111
Peter Stastny Quebec Nordiques 76 46 65 111
Mark Messier Edmonton Oilers 77 37 74 111
Jimmy Carson Los Angeles Kings 80 55 52 107
Michel Goulet Quebec Nordiques 80 48 58 106
Hakan Loob Calgary Flames 80 50 56 106

Leading Goaltenders

GP = Games played; Min = Minutes played; W = Wins; L = Losses; T = Ties; SO = Shutouts; GAA = Goals against average; Sv% = Save percentage

Goalie Team GP Min W L T SO GAA Sv%
Grant Fuhr Edmonton Oilers 75 4304 40 24 9 4 3.43 88.1
Mike Vernon Calgary Flames 64 3565 39 16 7 1 3.53 87.7
Ron Hextall Philadelphia Flyers 62 3561 30 22 7 0 3.5 88.6
Mike Liut Hartford Whalers 60 3532 25 28 5 2 3.18 88.5
John Vanbiesbrouck New York Rangers 56 3319 27 22 7 2 3.38 89.0
Daniel Berthiaume Winnipeg Jets 56 3010 22 19 7 2 3.51 88.2
Ken Wregget Toronto Maple Leafs 56 3000 12 35 4 2 4.44 87.0
Tom Barrasso Buffalo Sabres 54 3133 25 18 8 2 3.31 89.6
Mario Gosselin Quebec Nordiques 54 3002 20 28 4 2 3.78 86.7
Clint Malarchuk Washington Capitals 54 2926 24 20 4 4 3.16 88.5

Stanley Cup Playoffs

Note: all dates in 1988 The 1988 Stanley Cup Playoffs started on April 6 and ended on May 26. The Presidents' Trophy winning Calgary Flames had home ice during the playoffs thanks in part to Edmonton's struggles without Gretzky. The Oilers, who had won the Cup in three of the previous four seasons, were still the favourites to repeat, with Gretzky's return.

  • In spite of Lemieux's prolific offence, the Penguins missed the playoffs.
  • Five of the North Stars' final six games were on the road. Minnesota went 1-4-1 in that stretch allowing Toronto to survive their 1-8 finish.
  • On March 18, Quebec were three points ahead of the Whalers (68-65). Quebec finished 0-7-1, and missed the playoffs as Hartford finished 6-3.

Adams Division Semi-finals

Buffalo Sabres vs. Boston Bruins

The Boston Bruins were led by team co-captains Ray Bourque, Rick Middleton and the goaltending duo of Reggie Lemelin and the newly acquired Andy Moog. The Buffalo Sabres returned to the playoffs thanks to added depth provided by rookie Ray Sheppard.

Hartford Whalers vs. Montreal Canadiens

The Habs almost squandered a 3-0 series lead. The deep Habs roster was the best team in the Wales Conference during the season, consisting of six 20-goal scorers and another six with between 10 and 20 goals. Their best assets were goaltenders Patrick Roy and backup Brian Hayward who won 23 and 22 games respectively. The Ron Francis-led Whalers went 2-4-2 against the Canadiens during the season, twice losing by just one goal.

Patrick Division Semi-finals

Philadelphia Flyers vs. Washington Capitals

The Flyers needed to beat Washington at home in their season finale to gain home ice advantage, but only managed to tie them 2-2. The Flyers were led by Vezina Trophy winner Ron Hextall who was playoff MVP the previous season. In a very physical series, Washington overcame a 3-1 deficit to advance to the second round for the first time in two years. Game 7 was a classic, ending with Dale Hunter beating Hextall on a breakaway in overtime.

New Jersey Devils vs. New York Islanders

This would be the last hurrah for both the Islanders and Denis Potvin whose departure would signal dark days for the Isles, as his arrival had brought them to prominence. The Isles would be upset by the Devils, who finished 7-0-1, including two wins over Pittsburgh in which they stifled Lemieux, and a 7-2 win over the Rangers, whom they edged out for the final Patrick Division playoff spot. The physical Devils would keep former MVP Bryan Trottier pointless, as they won in six.

Norris Division Semi-finals

Chicago Blackhawks vs. St. Louis Blues

The Chicago Blackhawks were led by their three 40-goal scorers Denis Savard, Rick Vaive, and Steve Larmer. They were poor defensively, and were matched up against a similar St. Louis Blues squad that was better defensively if not in goal. Vaive had eight points, while Larmer and Savard had seven each.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Detroit Red Wings

The storied rivalry continued as the Detroit Red Wings met the Toronto Maple Leafs. While the seemingly lame-duck Leafs finished 1-8, the one win was 5-3 over Detroit in the season finale that pushed them into the playoffs. Game six in Maple Leaf Gardens was future Hall of Famer Börje Salming's final playoff game in the NHL. Toronto lost all three home games.

Smythe Division Semi-finals

Winnipeg Jets vs. Edmonton Oilers

The high-flying offence of the Edmonton Oilers played exactly as they were expected to, averaging five goals a game. Despite their best efforts, the franchise that Oilers captain Wayne Gretzky would one day own and coach just could not keep pace with his Oilers.

Los Angeles Kings vs. Calgary Flames

The Kings fourth place finish in the Smythe Division tied their best finish in their history, since being moved to the Smythe. Their defence was the worst in the league, and they relied on offence. The Kings met Calgary twice in the week before the playoffs and triumphed 9-7 at home and 6-3 in Calgary. The Flames would make a mockery of the Kings' defence and would light the lamp 26 times, even more than the Oilers scored against the Jets. Four months after this series mercifully ended, the only NHL franchise in California would undergo a massive makeover, thanks to new uniforms and a savior from the north.

  • Four of the five teams who trailed a series 2-0 won game three of the series at home (L.A., Winnipeg, Buffalo, Chicago). The fifth team was Hartford, who rallied to 3-2 from 3-0.

Division Finals

Adams Division

Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens

The Wales Conference's two best teams, and the NHL's two best defensive teams, met in this series with equal rest time. The Habs had beaten Boston in the Adams Division Semi-Finals four years in a row, sweeping the Bruins in three of the past four seasons, and beating them 3-2 in a best-of-five the other year. This time, the Bruins' defence would wear down Montreal, as Ken Linseman, Ray Bourque and Cam Neely provided the offence to finally conquer the Canadiens. It was the first Bruins' playoff series win over the Habs in 44 seasons.

Patrick Division

New Jersey Devils vs. Washington Capitals

After upsetting the Islanders, whose defence was second in the division, the Devils were now matched up with the number one defence in the division. Patrik Sundstrom and Kirk Muller led the Devils to a series win in seven games in a surprisingly high-scoring series. Sundstrom's eight-point effort in Game 3 (4 goals, 4 assists) set a new Stanley Cup playoff record.

Norris Division

St. Louis Blues vs. Detroit Red Wings

In another case of a team down 2-0 rallying to win game three, the Red Wings got aggressive, unafraid of the Blues' offence and won in five.

Smythe Division

Edmonton Oilers vs. Calgary Flames

In the "Battle of Alberta" the Oilers would claim the first sweep of the playoffs. In Game 2, Wayne Gretzky scored a short-handed overtime goal on a brilliant slapshot while streaking down the left wing.

Conference Finals

Prince of Wales Conference

New Jersey Devils vs. Boston Bruins

The Devils would take Boston to the limit, but their offence couldn't compete with the Bruins, who would make their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals since consecutive appearances in 1976-77 and 1977-78.

This series would also have the infamous confrontation between Devils coach Jim Schoenfeld and referee Don Koharski after Game 3, when, during an argument in the tunnel after the game, Koharski tripped and fell, accusing Schoenfield of pushing him. Schoenfield famously responded, "You tripped and fell you fat pig!" Then, he yelled "Have another doughnut! Have another doughnut!" The incident was played repeatedly on ESPN and has become part of NHL lore.

Schonefeld was suspended by NHL president John Ziegler for game four, but the Devils received an injunction from a New Jersey court, allowing Schoenfeld to coach the fourth game. In protest, the officials scheduled to work that game in the Meadlowands refused to take the ice, forcing the NHL to scramble for amateur officials to call the contest. The injunction was lifted and Schoenfeld served his suspension during game five in the Boston Garden.

Clarence Campbell Conference

Detroit Red Wings vs. Edmonton Oilers

Steve Yzerman and the Wings were no match for the Oilers in Edmonton, and were edged out in five games.


The series pitted the Oilers' offensive juggernaut against the Bruins' more balanced team. The Oilers showed their defensive prowess, surrendering just 9 goals in the four completed games. Game 4 is well-known for fog that interfered with the game and a power outage that caused its cancellation before a faceoff. This would allow the Oilers to win the Cup at home in the Northlands Coliseum and complete the "sweep" in a rescheduled Game 4.

Ray Bourque was physical in defending against Gretzky, but that wouldn't ground the Great One on his way to claiming his second Conn Smythe Trophy and setting playoff records with 31 assists in just 18 games, and 13 points in the Finals series.

Boston Bruins vs. Edmonton Oilers

Date Away Score Home Score Notes
May 18 Boston 1 Edmonton 2
May 20 Boston 2 Edmonton 4
May 22 Edmonton 6 Boston 3
May 24 Edmonton 3 Boston 3 Game suspended at 16:37 of 2nd period due to power failure.
May 26 Boston 3 Edmonton 6

Edmonton wins best-of-seven series 4-0

Playoff Scoring Leaders

NHL Awards

Presidents' Trophy: Calgary Flames
Prince of Wales Trophy: Boston Bruins
Clarence S. Campbell Bowl: Edmonton Oilers
Art Ross Memorial Trophy: Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh Penguins
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy: Bob Bourne, Los Angeles Kings
Calder Memorial Trophy: Joe Nieuwendyk, Calgary Flames
Conn Smythe Trophy: Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton Oilers
Frank J. Selke Trophy: Guy Carbonneau, Montreal Canadiens
Hart Memorial Trophy: Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh Penguins
Jack Adams Award: Jacques Demers, Detroit Red Wings
James Norris Memorial Trophy: Ray Bourque, Boston Bruins
King Clancy Memorial Trophy: Lanny McDonald, Calgary Flames
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy: Mats Naslund, Montreal Canadiens
Lester B. Pearson Award: Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh Penguins
NHL Plus/Minus Award: Brad McCrimmon, Calgary Flames
William M. Jennings Trophy: Patrick Roy & Brian Hayward, Montreal Canadiens
Vezina Trophy: Grant Fuhr, Edmonton Oilers
Lester Patrick Trophy: Keith Allen, Fred Cusick, Bob Johnson

All-Star Teams

First Team   Position   Second Team
Grant Fuhr, Edmonton Oilers G Patrick Roy, Montreal Canadiens
Ray Bourque, Boston Bruins D Gary Suter, Calgary Flames
Scott Stevens, Washington Capitals D Brad McCrimmon, Calgary Flames
Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh Penguins C Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton Oilers
Hakan Loob, Calgary Flames RW Cam Neely, Boston Bruins
Luc Robitaille, Los Angeles Kings LW Michel Goulet, Quebec Nordiques


The following is a list of players of note who played their first NHL game in 1987-88 (listed with their first team, asterisk(*) marks debut in playoffs):

Last Games

The following is a list of players of note that played their last game in the NHL in 1987-88 (listed with their last team):

See Also


NHL Seasons

1983-84 | 1984-85 | 1985-86 | 1986-87 | 1987-88 | 1988-89 | 1989-90 | 1990-91 | 1991-92