Revisiting the Islanders’ 1979-80 Team

As the New York Islanders get set to honor their first Stanley Cup-winning team on Saturday night against the Florida Panthers, we take a look back at what the team was able to accomplish during the 1979-80 season.

The team consisted of seven future Hockey Hall of Famers in Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, Clark Gillies, Denis Potvin and Billy Smith, as well as their head coach Al Arbour and general manager Billy Torrey. The team finished the regular season with a record of 39-28-13, which was good for second place in their division.

Regular Season

Surprisingly, the Islanders struggled to begin the season. They lost their first two games before beating the Atlanta Flames 5-1 at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. However, they only won 6 of their first 20 games after not picking up a victory following a 10-5 win over the New York Rangers on Nov. 13 until a 4-0 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Dec. 2.

Clark Gillies
MONTREAL, CANADA – CIRCA 1983: Clark Gillies #9 of the New York Islanders sets up a screen in front of the net during a game. (Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

They finally were able to get back to over .500 in their 41st game and continued to rack up goals, scoring five or more in a quarter of the games played. Their season-high was 10, but they scored nine goals twice over the course of the season.

In net, goaltenders Smith and Glenn “Chico” Resch split playing time throughout the season with each playing in at least 35 games. Richard Brodeur also played in two games and earned one win.

Offensively, Bossy led the team in goals with 51, as he had at least 50 in every season he played in the NHL other than his last one when he only played in 63 games due to a back injury. Trottier had one of his best offensive seasons, scoring 42 goals and picking up 104 points. The Islanders had 10 players score at least 10 goals. They finished with 281 tallies before starting the postseason.

Stanley Cup Playoffs

In Round 1 of the 1980 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Islanders played against the Los Angeles Kings. After scoring eight goals in Game 1, the Islanders dropped Game 2 before getting an overtime win on a goal from Ken Morrow in Game 3 and a 6-0 shutout win in Game 4 behind Smith.

Billy Smith
Billy Smith #31 of the New York Islanders defends the goal during a home game, Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

After the Boston Bruins defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Islanders went into Round 2 as underdogs but won the opening two games on the road with overtime goals from Gillies and Bob Bourne over the course of two nights. The Islanders went on to win Game 3 by a score of 5-3 at home, and won the series in five games.

For a spot in the Stanley Cup Final, the Islanders faced the Buffalo Sabres in a tight six-game battle. The Islanders won the first two games highlighted by a double-overtime goal by Bobby Nystrom. After putting up seven goals in Game 3, they went on to lose the next two games, forcing a Game 6 at home, which they would win 5-2.

Stanley Cup Final

Playing in their first Stanley Cup Final, the Islanders faced the Philadelphia Flyers in a classic battle. Potvin continued the team’s magical run in overtime with the winner in Game 1. The teams would each win two of the next four games, setting up New York with a potential clincher at home for Game 6.

Denis Potvin
UNIONDALE, NY – 1980: Denis Potvin #5 of the New York Islanders skates with the puck during an NHL game circa 1980 at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)

The two teams each scored twice in the first period behind goals from Potvin and Sutter. The Islanders scored two more in the second period but gave up their lead in the third. However, at 7:11 of the first overtime, it was Nystrom once again scoring the game-winning goal, as the Stanley Cup came to Long Island for the first time. Trottier went on to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, scoring 12 goals and picking up 17 assists in 21 playoff games.

This team will always be remembered for their championship, but they did more than just that. They were the beginning of one of the greatest dynasties in the world. The franchise won four straight Stanley Cups and 19 straight playoff series. That could be the last time we ever see something like this and these players and coaching staff were the reason for it.