Sunday, September 18, 2011

Oilers History: Esa Tikkanen - 1991 Playoff Performance



Esa Tikkanen was a very good NHL player for a number of years. The skill set the Finnish forward brought to the table was something that no player in club history had demonstrated before or since. The ability to get under the oppositions skin, while still being an offensive threat, was a Tikkanen specialty. Not to mention that he was one of the best shut down players in the league...just ask Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux how much they enjoyed dealing with him when they played the Oilers.

While Tikkanen's career stats pale in comparison to his hall of fame teammates, he wound up being one of the organizations all time clutch players...especially come playoff time. He scored points at an almost identical clip during the regular season and playoff in Edmonton, (0.718 PPG & 0.710 PPG), it was his goal scoring to came up a notch when it mattered most. Tikkanen made a habit of scoring goals when the Oilers needed it most and he did his best work from 1987 - 1991.

During those four playoff campaigns, Tikkanen amassed 36 goals in only 66 games for a goal per game total of .545, which nearly doubled his career regular season total of .278 as an Oiler. Following the departure of Gretzky, after the 1988 championship, Tikkanen took his play to another level in helping the Oilers regain the Stanley Cup in 1990. Yet, it was the 1991 playoff run that was the high point of Esa Tikkanen's time as an Edmonton Oiler.

That spring, saw him and a rejuvenated Grant Fuhr, carry an injury plagued Oilers lineup all the way to the Conference Finals against the Minnesota North Stars. While Edmonton ultimately fell to the Stars in five games, not much else could have been asked of # 10. He led the team with 12 goals and 20 points in 18 games, scoring three game winners...including the Game 7 series clincher against the Calgary Flames.

 

With Mark Messier hampered badly by a knee injury, the teams fortunes were in the hands of Tikkanen and the the pesky Finn did not disappoint. On top of the game winners, Tikkanen scored big goals time and time again and with the clubs lack of offence on the backend, he was asked to quarterback the power play from the point. The Oilers managed to score 12 goals on the man advantage in the 1991 playoffs, three of which were scored Tikkanen. He seemed more than comfortable at the point while displaying a much heavier shot then ever before. It seemed as though he could do no wrong.

Esa Tikkanen was considered to be an important part of the Edmonton Oilers for a number of seasons and with good reason. During the spring of 1991, Tikkanen took the club on his back and delivered one of the most memorable playoff performances in the teams storied history.

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