The 1988 Stanley Cup playoffs, the championship of the National Hockey League (NHL), began with sixteen teams on April 6, 1988. It concluded on May 26, with the Edmonton Oilers defeating the Boston Bruins to win the Stanley Cup.


Note: all dates in 1988

Hhof stanley cup

The Stanley Cup

The 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 thought to have a good chance at repeating with Gretzky's return. The clash between the Flames and Oilers in the Smythe Divsion Final was highly anticipated.

  • 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 survive their 1–8 finish.
  • On March 18, Québec was three points ahead of the Whalers (68–65). The Nordiques went winless in their final eight games (0–7–1), costing themselves a chance to fend off Hartford who finished 6–3.
  • The New Jersey Devils made the playoffs for the first time in their history, winning in overtime at Chicago Stadium on the season's final day to edge the New York Rangers for the Patrick Division's fourth spot. This was only the second time they made the playoffs including their Colorado days.

Playoff bracketEdit

  Division Semifinals Division Finals Conference Finals Finals
A1  Montreal Canadiens 4  
A4  Hartford Whalers 2  
  A1  Montreal Canadiens 1  
  A2  Boston Bruins 4  
A2  Boston Bruins 4
A3  Buffalo Sabres 2  
  A2  Boston Bruins 4  
  P4  New Jersey Devils 3  
P1  New York Islanders 2  
P4  New Jersey Devils 4  
  P2  Washington Capitals 3
  P4  New Jersey Devils 4  
P2  Washington Capitals 4
P3  Philadelphia Flyers 3  
  A2  Boston Bruins 0
  S2  Edmonton Oilers 4
N1  Detroit Red Wings 4  
N4  Toronto Maple Leafs 2  
  N1  Detroit Red Wings 4
  N2  St. Louis Blues 1  
N2  St. Louis Blues 4
N3  Chicago Blackhawks 1  
  N1  Detroit Red Wings 1
  S2  Edmonton Oilers 4  
S1  Calgary Flames 4  
S4  Los Angeles Kings 1  
  S1  Calgary Flames 0
  S2  Edmonton Oilers 4  
S2  Edmonton Oilers 4
S3  Winnipeg Jets 1  

Adams Division semi-finalsEdit

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.

Date Away Score Home Score Notes
April 6 Buffalo 3 Boston 7
April 7 Buffalo 1 Boston 4
April 9 Boston 2 Buffalo 6
April 10 Boston 5 Buffalo 6
April 12 Buffalo 4 Boston 5
April 14 Boston 5 Buffalo 2

Boston wins best-of-seven series 4–2.

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.

Date Away Score Home Score Notes
April 6 Hartford 3 Montreal 4
April 7 Hartford 3 Montreal 7
April 9 Montreal 4 Hartford 3
April 10 Montreal 5 Hartford 7
April 12 Hartford 5 Montreal 3
April 14 Montreal 4 Hartford 2

Montreal wins best-of-seven series 4–2.

Patrick Division semi-finalsEdit

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.

Date Away Score Home Score Notes
April 6 Philadelphia 4 Washington 2
April 7 Philadelphia 4 Washington 5
April 9 Washington 3 Philadelphia 4
April 10 Washington 4 Philadelphia 5
April 12 Philadelphia 2 Washington 5
April 14 Washington 7 Philadelphia 2
April 16 Philadelphia 3 Washington 4 OT

Washington wins best-of-seven series 4–3

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, just 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.

Date Away Score Home Score Notes
April 6 New Jersey 4 New York 3
April 7 New Jersey 2 New York 3
April 9 New York 0 New Jersey 3
April 10 New York 5 New Jersey 4
April 12 New Jersey 4 New York 2
April 14 New York 5 New Jersey 6

New Jersey wins best-of-seven series 4–2

Norris Division semi-finalsEdit

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.

Date Away Score Home Score Notes
April 6 Chicago 1 St. Louis 5
April 7 Chicago 2 St. Louis 3
April 9 St. Louis 3 Chicago 6
April 10 St. Louis 6 Chicago 5
April 12 Chicago 3 St. Louis 5

St. Louis wins best-of-seven series 4–1

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, even though they had the second-worst record in the league. However, the Norris Division was very weak that year; only the Red Wings had a winning record.

Game six in Maple Leaf Gardens was future Hall of Famer Borje Salming's final playoff game in the NHL. Toronto lost all three home games.

Date Away Score Home Score Notes
April 6 Toronto 6 Detroit 2
April 7 Toronto 2 Detroit 6
April 9 Detroit 6 Toronto 3
April 10 Detroit 8 Toronto 0
April 12 Toronto 6 Detroit 5
April 14 Detroit 5 Toronto 3

Detroit wins best-of-seven series 4–2

Smythe Division semi-finalsEdit

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.

Date Away Score Home Score Notes
April 6 Winnipeg 4 Edmonton 7
April 7 Winnipeg 2 Edmonton 3
April 9 Edmonton 4 Winnipeg 6
April 10 Edmonton 5 Winnipeg 3
April 12 Winnipeg 2 Edmonton 6

Edmonton wins best-of-seven series 4–1

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.

Date Away Score Home Score Notes
April 6 Los Angeles 2 Calgary 9
April 7 Los Angeles 4 Calgary 6
April 9 Calgary 2 Los Angeles 5
April 10 Calgary 7 Los Angeles 3
April 12 Los Angeles 4 Calgary 6

Calgary wins best-of-seven series 4–1

  • 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.

Divisional finalsEdit

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.

Date Away Score Home Score Notes
April 18 Boston 1 Montreal 5
April 20 Boston 4 Montreal 3
April 22 Montreal 1 Boston 3
April 24 Montreal 0 Boston 2
April 26 Boston 4 Montreal 1

Boston wins best-of-seven series 4–1

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.

Date Away Score Home Score Notes
April 18 New Jersey 1 Washington 3
April 20 New Jersey 5 Washington 2
April 22 Washington 4 New Jersey 10
April 24 Washington 4 New Jersey 1
April 26 New Jersey 3 Washington 1
April 28 Washington 7 New Jersey 2
April 30 New Jersey 3 Washington 2

New Jersey wins best-of-seven series 4–3

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.

Date Away Score Home Score Notes
April 19 St. Louis 4 Detroit 5
April 21 St. Louis 0 Detroit 6
April 23 Detroit 3 St. Louis 6
April 25 Detroit 3 St. Louis 1
April 27 St. Louis 3 Detroit 4

Detroit wins best-of-seven series 4–1

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.

Date Away Score Home Score Notes
April 19 Edmonton 3 Calgary 1
April 21 Edmonton 5 Calgary 4 OT
April 23 Calgary 2 Edmonton 4
April 25 Calgary 4 Edmonton 6

Edmonton wins best-of-seven series 4–0

Conference finalsEdit

Prince of Wales Conference

New Jersey Devils vs. Boston Bruins

The Devils would take Boston to the limit, but their offence could not 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 also featured 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 since become part of NHL lore.

Schoenfeld was suspended by NHL president John Ziegler for Game 4, 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 5 in the Boston Garden.

Date Away Score Home Score Notes
May 2 New Jersey 3 Boston 5
May 4 New Jersey 3 Boston 2 (OT)
May 6 Boston 6 New Jersey 1
May 8 Boston 1 New Jersey 3
May 10 New Jersey 1 Boston 7
May 12 Boston 3 New Jersey 6
May 14 New Jersey 2 Boston 6

Boston wins best-of-seven series 4–3

Clarence Campbell Conference

Detroit Red Wings vs. Edmonton Oilers

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

Date Away Score Home Score Notes
May 3 Detroit 1 Edmonton 4
May 5 Detroit 3 Edmonton 5
May 7 Edmonton 2 Detroit 5
May 9 Edmonton 4Detroit 3 (OT)
May 11 Detroit 4 Edmonton 8

Edmonton wins best-of-seven series 4–1


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 cancelled at 16:37 of second period due to power failure.
May 26 Boston 3 Edmonton 6

Edmonton wins best-of-seven series 4–0

See alsoEdit


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