It was past midnight on Tuesday before the pairings for tonight's quarterfinal round of the Stanley Cup playoffs were determined, a situation that proved lucrative for travel agents and could be disastrous for the teams that took so long to advance, the St. Louis Blues and Philadelphia Flyers. t
In the interest of completing the playoffs before June, the National Hockey League has decreed a schedule that figures to leave some older players gasping for breath and fans wondering where all the money went so quickly.
The best-of-five preliminary round was completed in seven days and now, after a one-day layoff, the eight survivors are faced with four games in the next five days.
The first two games in each series are set tonight and Friday, with sites switched for games three and four on Sunday and Monday. The remainder, if necessary, will be played Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, April 26.
Edmonton at New York Islanders -- The teams played a couple of wild regular-season contests at Nassau Coliseum, 5-5 and 8-8 ties. New York won both games in Edmonton, the last 5-0 breeze behind goalie Bill Smith.
Wayne Gretzky, who rolled up 11 points in the Montreal sweep, will find tougher going against the Islanders, but there seems to be no limit on what he can accomplish.
The key to the series will be the performance of Edmonton goalie Andy Moog, just turned 21, who had played only seven NHL games before limiting Montreal to six goals in the three playoffs games.
New York Rangers at St. Louis -- Although the Islanders won the Cup last year, they still rate second in New York to the Rangers as far as interest, fan support and endorsements are concerned. A lot of folks think the Rangers, because of the emotion that would be involved in such a series, are the only team capable of beating the Islanders, and there is hope of a repeat of that exciting semifinal of two years ago, when the Rangers shocked their neighbors.
The Blues swept the season series, including a pair of one-goal victories at Madison Square Garden, where they had been 1-29-3, before this season. St. Louis is tired, however, after that double-overtime duel with Pittsburgh Tuesday and could find itself behind in a hurry.
Minnesota at Buffalo -- This series seems a good bet to create some missed deadlines and reduced sleeping hours for fans. The teams played three ties during the regular season, with the North Stars winning the fourth game, and they come into this series evenly matched and well-rested, both having enjoyed preliminary-round sweeps.
Steve Payne, the left wing on Minnesota's No. 1 line with Bobby Smith, was the hero in the North Stars' rout of Boston as he scored seven goals. Probably the best left wing in the league, Payne, despite his 30 goals, suffered through a disappointing regular season, as did the North Stars. Buffalo, with Gil Perreault approaching top form and Danny Gare and Craig Ramsay at their best, seems to be peaking for the playoffs.
Calgary at Philadelphia -- The Flames will be looking to catch the Flyers relaxing after their five-game battle with Quebec. Calgary would like to steal one of the first two in Philadelphia, because it has been a poor road team, although losing fewer home games, five, than any other team in the league.
The Flyers extinguished the Flames in Philly, 8-0 and 6-2, while dropping a pair of one-goal decisions in the tiny Stampede Corral. Older players like Bobby Clarke and Reg Leach are going to be very tired before this series is over and that combination of age and sadistic scheduling could prove costly to Philadelphia.