An upset bid had derailed Wayne Gretzky’s bid for a third straight Stanley Cup in 1986. Gretzky and the 1987 Edmonton Oilers came out ready to make amends. They did it, but not without a great fight put up by the Philadelphia Flyers in the Finals.
Gretzky won his eighth MVP award in as many seasons, scoring 62 goals and dishing out an astounding 121 assists. He was surrounded by 54-goal scorer Jari Kurri and Mark Messier in an always-potent attack. Edmonton posted the best record in the old Campbell Conference (the West) and the best record in the NHL overall.
Then the Oilers steamrollered their way into the Finals, beating the Los Angeles Kings, Winnipeg Jets and Detroit Red Wings with a combined record of 12-2.
Philadelphia was the best team in the Wales Conference (the East). Ron Hextall was the NHL’s best goalie, and the offense, led by 58-goal scorer Tim Kerry, was the fourth-best in the game. The Flyers got a stiff challenge from the New York Islanders in the second round, nearly letting a 3-1 series lead slip away. But they won the finale 5-1 and eventually moved onto the Finals without further incident, ousting the defending champion Montreal Canadiens in six games.
The 1987 Stanley Cup Finals were a battle worthy of the stakes, going all seven games. Edmonton took the first two games, including a Game 2 overtime win and when they picked up Game 4 in Philly for a 3-1 series lead it looked all but over.
But the Flyers rallied on the road for a 4-3 win in Game 5 and then ground out a 3-2 win in the sixth game.
Edmonton finally prevailed 3-1 in Game 7, though Hextall was so impressive in defeat that he was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy, as postseason MVP. The 1987 Edmonton Oilers took home their third Stanley Cup in four years.