#AskSNStats: Remembering Mike Bossy’s incredible career

New York Islanders forward Mike Bossy raises his arms in the air after scoring a goal against the Boston Bruins in 1983. (Richard Drew/AP)

All eyes in the hockey world (before the shutdown at least) were on Alex Ovechkin’s quest to become the greatest goal-scorer in NHL history. But one name that doesn’t get mentioned enough in that same discussion is Mike Bossy.

On Tuesday in another edition of #AskSNStats, the Sportsnet Stats team gave some love to Bossy and his place among hockey legends.

A back injury forced Bossy to retire at the young age of 30, but the New York Islanders star made the most of his short NHL career. In only 752 career games over 10 seasons, Bossy potted 573 goals and a whopping 1,126 points. He then added 85 goals and 160 points in 129 playoff games, helping the Islanders win four consecutive Stanley Cups in the early 1980s.

It’s impossible to know how Bossy’s career would have played out had he not been injured, but he still deserves to be recognized among the NHL’s best scorers.

Failing Backwards

One theme that emerged during the Q&A was disappointing performances that still led to glory.

The first of these came from a question about poor goaltending in the Stanley Cup Final and Grant Fuhr of the Edmonton Oilers was signalled out for his play in 1985 and 1988.

The Oilers beat the Philadelphia Flyers in five games in 1985 despite Fuhr giving up at least three goals in four of them. Wayne Gretzky won the Conn Smythe Trophy after posting an NHL-record 47 points in the playoffs.

In 1988, the Oilers beat the Boston Bruins 4-0 but needed five games to do it after a power outage forced Game 4 in Boston to be suspended in the second period. Fuhr gave up nine goals in the series plus three more in the game that wasn’t finished.

Another example of poor performances in championship wins came in 2005’s Super Bowl XL.

Ben Roethlisberger was the Super Bowl-winning quarterback that year, but he wasn’t the reason the Steelers beat the Seahawks 21-10. Running back Willie Parker set a Super Bowl record with a 75-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, and the game was put out of reach when wide receiver Antwaan Randle El threw a touchdown pass to Hines Ward, who would win the MVP award. Roethlisberger went 9-21 passing in the game with 123 yards and two interceptions.

Finally, in a flip to the premise here, the 1969-70 Montreal Canadiens hold the dubious distinction of having the best winning percentage of an NHL team that didn’t make the playoffs.

This season marked the only time between 1949 and 1994, a span of 46 years, that the Canadiens missed the playoffs and also slots right in between three Canadiens’ Stanley Cup wins in 1968, ’69 and ’71. Montreal was in the playoff hunt until the final day of the season but a 9-5 win by the Rangers over the Red Wings in the afternoon meant the Canadiens needed to beat the Blackhawks or score at least five goals in a game at night to clinch. But down 5-2 mid-way through the third, the Canadiens pulled goalie Rogie Vachon and then gave up five empty-net goals in a 10-2 loss.

The NHL changed the tiebreaker rule from goals-for to head-to-head record the following season.

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