Sinden's roster for the first night was made up of the guys who had the best training camp. In some cases I would guess this to mean the most fit guys. This was an era where in training camp players actually got into shape and the offseason regimen was mostly golf, drinking and smoking (for those guys who didn't hold down summer jobs). Canada dressed four lines and five defencemen. After the first game they would dress six defencemen the rest of the way. The roster was as follows:
Defence - Bergman (2) - Brad Park (5), Don Awrey (26) - Ric Seiling (16), Lapointe (25)
Esposito (7) - Frank Mahovlich (27) - Cournoyer (12)
Ratelle (18) - Hadfield (11) - Rod Gilbert (8)
Clarke (28) - Henderson (19) - Ellis (6)
Berenson (15) - Peter Mahovlich (20) - Mickey Redmond (24)
Pat Quinn likely learned at the knee of Harry Sinden because Sinden just rolls them for the most part. I'm interested to see the results from later games because there is no attempt at linematching at all. As the game goes on by my eye the Clarke line (which follows Esposito) gets some defensive zone draws. Not sure if this is by design or not.
The power play generally included a forward on the point, either Esposito or Berensen (?) and while Park would be the guy you figure would be out there Seiling and Gary Bergman rotate in that fifth spot as well.
Shorthanded Berensen and Peter Mahovlich are one pair, Frank Mahovlich and Esposito are generally the other. Ellis and Clarke also see some duty.
The game is an interesting one. The hockey is a lot different from today. There is a lot of one on one play from the Canadians. Also they take extremely long shifts. You will note in the charts that quite often one line will be on for a couple of events for and then suddenly they get bombarded or they are on for a goal against. They would be on for a couple of minutes and quite often be in the Russian zone and then the Russians would counterattack and it would be in the net. Also when the Russians got possession in the Canadian zone there would often be four or five shots directed at the net, maybe a chance or two as they both controlled the puck and retrieved it very well. The Canadians on the other hand might get a flurry of chances in close but usually the play in the Russian zone tended to be on the outside.
A couple of notes as well. Dryden was poor. I have the second Kharlamov goal as a non scoring chance, no screen, very top of the faceoff circle, it was a great shot but Tretiak was stopping that type of shot easily all night (and I did not grade those as scoring chances).
The game reminded me of a beer league game frankly. Not trying to be a dick when I say that either. There were long stretches of play with no whistles and a lot of quality play but it was, well, sloppy. Both teams played hard and there were a lot of blocked shots and chances seemed hard to come by. Lots of long shots that were easily stopped or missed the net. But when there was a chance it was generally a five bell one. That is why I have a few misses as chances, I know that's usually a no-no but in my mind if a guy is standing all alone and he whiffs on it or misses the net its still a scoring chance, essentially if he connects its in the net.
So here is the data. Scoring Chances are shaded and marked as Y. My Excel skills are nonexistent so please forgive. I would say that is pretty accurate, give or take an addition error or two. The jist is there anyhow.
Scoring Chances (Canada first)
1st 6-3 ES, 7-3 PP, 0-1 SH
2nd 7-3 ES, 2-0 PP, 0-1 SH
The game was extremely close right until about there were eight minutes left in the third period and at that point the Canadians had outchanced the Russians by a decent margin, had had thirteen of the past fifteen Corsi events and had six straight unanswered scoring chances including the Clarke goal.
Overall Canada did outchance the Russians at EV and on special teams, though not by a huge margin but a combination of puck luck (at one point Hewitt makes a point of noting that Frank Mahovlich would have scored on a few chances but was showing rust) and poor goaltending by Dryden makes the difference. The goaltending battle was interesting. Tretiak's positioning was excellent and the reality is that he makes very few fivebell saves. The puck just hits him. He looks the modern goaltender. All angles covered and no holes. Dryden on the other hand scrambles everywhere. On a few of the goals he has little chance but then again he never stops anything. Russians score seven goals on twenty two chances. And we're not talking tap ins. They shoot it, Dryden is moving and it goes through him.
The Esposito line got dinged at the end of the game but overall they are absolutely dominant. They are pressing and then they get scored on and then they remain on the ice (this happens all of the time, a line gets scored on and Sinden leaves them on) and they get weary and the Russians bring it down the ice and score again. And then they are on for the last shift when Lapointe goes a little bananas (there's actually a throat slash gesture, perhaps the first) and they have five events against. Even with those two shifts they are positive for scoring chances by a big margin and also in Corsi (except Esposito who is a minus three). Throw out those two shifts (-5 SC, -9 Corsi) and they post the following:
Mahovlich SC +13 -1 Corsi +23 -10, Esposito SC +12 -2, Corsi +20 -14, Cournoyer SC +9 -1, Corsi +19 -7
Pretty damn impressive. They carry the play all night and Mahovlich is Canada's best player by far. Funny though that midway through the game the commentator says that he will be a big help as long as he wants to play. Sound familiar?
The Clarke line is interesting. They get dinged Corsi wise but come out on top in terms of scoring chances. As noted before by my eye they took more than their share of own zone draws, not sure if by design or because the Esposito line often took very long shifts that ended in their own zone. When the Russians got possession in these situations they invariably managed to direct shots at the net, quite often in bunches but they were usually from the outside or from distance. Clarke's line in exactly what the Oiler shave been missing since 2006 - three guys who checked hard, moved the puck in the right direction, won battles, minimized the damage when their opponents had the puck. Ellis is fantastic, extremely smart. And Bobby Clarke? Outstanding. I saw him in his prime but forgot what a player he was. Tenacious, vicious, smart, everything you want in a player. I'd take a team of Bobby Clarkes. Hell if the Oilers had one or two they'd be a playoff team. Seriously.
All six players on the top two lines would play major roles in the rest of the Series but the same can't be said for the rest of the forwards. The Rangers GAG line of Ratelle, Gilbert and Hadfield fare okay numbers wise but they were pretty awful. They are supposed to produce offence but only have one scoring chance as a line and a handful of pucks directed at the net. They get caught deep a couple of times and the puck ends up in their net. Gilbert shows best of the three, Ratelle is ineffective and Hadfield is invisible. Hadfield would get one more game in and that is all. They are so poor that in the third when the Canadians are rolling and pressing for the equalizer they barely see the ice. Its the only time Sinden doesn't roll them straight.
The fourth line has mixed results. They are low event which is good and they end up even or minus one in Corsi. Redmond is a turnover machine at the blueline and he doesn't play another game. Berensen is solid but only plays one more game. He doesn't create enough offence to hold his spot I think. Peter Mahovlich shows the best of the three and he is the one guy who gets a regular spot in the lineup for the Series. Like his brother he is a big man and the Russians struggle to contain him. While the numbers are the same as his linemates he does have a strong game and thus earns his spot.
The backend is a mixed bag. Bergman and Park are quite strong and end up a plus in both metrics, they do get dinged late in the third a bit. Park is terrific and Bergman, an unheralded defensive defenceman, is solid, brekaing up a two on one easily, angling his men just fine. In other words although he benefits from playing with Park he holds his own and never looks out of place.
On the other hand the second pair gets smoked right from the start. Basically when Park and Bergman are on the ice the puck is in the right end and when Seiling and Awrey are on the ice its the opposite. Awrey, Bobby Orr's partner, is absolutely outclassed. His scoring chance numbers are not horrible but he is driving the results the wrong way, most notably when Kharlamov blows by him and scores the third goal on a pretty innocuous play. After that he barely sees the ice and Lapointe takes his spot.
Like Awrey Seiling struggles and is the cause of a lot of his own misfortune. Where Park and Bergman move the puck out quickly Seiling struggles with the Russians and quite often the puck ends up in the Canadian zone for lengthy periods of time because he loses footraces or puck battles. He is also left grasping for air a few times in one on one situations where the Russians open gaps and end up with scoring chances, a few which end up in the net. He is a team worst minus 14 in Corsi although Awrey would have lapped him as he is a minus nine in just over a period of play.
Seiling and Awrey get pulled from the roster. They reappear in game four - I am interested to see what their numbers are there. Strange that Sinden went in that direction after the Canadians won game two and should have won game three with a different roster. I guess we'll see what the numbers show.
As for Lapointe he shows well, a plus in scoring chances and a slight minus in Corsi. He cements his roster spot and forms part of the six guys who will play down the stretch in Russia.
As I said at the beginning this series created legends but it also created myths. Game One was supposedly about the Russians teaching Canada a lesson but Canada outchances the Russians and until about eight minutes left actually do so by a decent margin. Tretiak is good but not outstanding as the stories say, if anything the Canadians get some bad bounces, especially on the power play. Dryden on the other hand is poor. Even with Awrey and Seiling and some ineffective forwards and Dryden this is a game that Canada may very well have won handily. Interesting stuff and not what I expected at all.