Thursday, August 26, 2010

We All Squeezed The Stick - Canada 4 USSR 4

Game three. Winnipeg.

First of all thanks to Julian Albrecht for doing the heavy lifting on this one and tallying all of the data. Julian has been commenting in the Oilogosphere since the beginning. I actually met him on the last good night for the Oilers, game six in 2006. Nice fellow. Thanks for this Julian.

Most of what Julian did was the counting, he made a handful of notes as well which I have tried to credit to him in the following writeup

The game three lineup is similar to the lineup in game two as one would expect. In game one the Canadians actually had the better of it but Seiling and Awrey got eaten alive and the Rangers' GAG line was poor and so those five took the gaspipe along with fourth liners Redmond and Berenson. In came Mikita to centre Frank Mahovlich and Cournoyer and Parise and Cashman to flank Esposito. Goldsworthy came in as the second spare forward as Sinden went with six defencemen, Savard, White and Pat Stapleton drawing in.

And Tony Esposito in net.

The results were hard to argue with. The Canadians had the better of the Russians in almost every aspect, scoring chances were lower but they again outchanced them. They had the better in Corsi and in faceoff zone starts.

So in game three only one change. Goldsworthy is out (he played two shifts in G2) and Jean Ratelle who struggled in game one is back in as a second spare.

Gary Bergman (2) - Brad Park (5), Guy Lapointe (25) - Serge Savard (23), Pat Stapleton (3) - Bill White (17)

JP Parise (22)-Phil Esposito (7)-Wayne Cashman (14)
Frank Mahovlich (27) - Stan Mikita (21) - Yvan Cournoyer (12)
Paul Henderson (19) - Bobby Clarke (28) - Ron Ellis (6)
Peter Mahovlich (20), Jean Ratelle (18)

All six defencemen were solid in game two. Stapleton and White were sheltered at first but as the game moved along they were given tougher sledding and did fine. Up front the Mikita line was sheltered to start off and also were given more responsibility as the game went along and they too responded very well.

And Tony Esposito was wonderful in his first start of the series so he gets to start again.

The game is a lot more sloppy in the first from Canada's point of view. I just watched an interview with Serge Savard (buddy is the shit btw) and he says that in game one the Canadians had no respect for the Russians. You have to play hockey scared a little he says and in game two he says the Canadians do so. Well at the start of game three it looks like the fear is gone. The passing is not crisp, the errors are pretty blatant. The shifts are ridiculously long again.

The Canadians talk about conditioning in all of these interviews. We weren't in good shape. Blah blah blah. True enough but in game three can you guess what the end result might be despite their conditioning issues? Well, here are the numbers.

Scoring Chances Breakdown

1st 5-6 ES, 2-1 PP, 1-1 SH, 2nd 12-7 ES, 3-1 PP, 0-0 SH, 3rd 7-3 ES, 0-0 PP, 0-3 SH Totals 24-16 ES, 5-2 PP, 1-4 SH, 30-22 Overall


1st 12-14 ES, 3-1 PP, 1-5 SH, 2nd 22-16 ES, 5-2 PP, 0-0 SH, 3rd 13-17 ES, 0-0 PP, 0-4 SH Total 47-47 ES, 8-3 PP, 1-9 SH, Overall 56-59

Faceoffs are pretty even. Overall its sixteen in each zone with twenty six in the neutral zone. At ES its eleven in Russia's end, twelve in Canada's, twenty two in the neutral zone. When on the power play there are five in the Russian zone and two in the neutral zone, both after Russian goals. Shorthanded there are four in Canada's zone and two in the neutral zone.

As always before we look at the players and their numbers a few notes on the game. Its very similar to game one. The Corsi is pretty well even, actually right on the money even at ES, with the Canadians holding the edge in scoring chances by a fairly wide margin. The Russians, as Julian notes, threw a lot of pucks at the net from long range, perhaps thinking of Lemaire's infamous goal on Esposito in 1971, and so this tips it a bit but the reality is that the out of shape Canadians are the better team. Again.

The difference is special teams. The Russians don't score on the PP although they have their chances. The Canadians are undisciplined. Cashman takes two slashing penalties in the offensive zone. The second one earns him a misconduct. Parise takes a needless tripping call in the neutral zone. White retaliates with a vicious slash which earns him a coincidental minor early in the third. And this doesn't include what doesn't get punished - two wild two handers by Bergman, low bridges by Clarke and Cashman. A lot of dirty stuff going on, probably on both sides, the Russians are certainly subtle about it though.

The Canadians don't pay the price when shorthanded. Peter Mahovlich is again the primary penalty killer. In the first he and his brother team up with Park and Bergman to kill most of Cashman's first infraction. Then Clarke, Ellis, Stapleton and White mop up. The second kill is the younger Mahovlich, Phil Esposito, Savard and Lapointe and in the third Sinden goes with Pete Mahovlich, Esposito, Park and White who are then replaced by Clarke, Ellis and Bergman. Park remains on for the entire kill.

The Russians threaten. They get some great chances. But Tony Esposito is excellent.

What kills the Canadians is their own PP which ends up minus two. (!) A terrible pass by Mahovlich just inside his zone on the first PP is intercepted and Petrov pours in alone and blasts one past Esposito. Then in the second Canada is on the PP and on a run that includes the three to one goal and eight out of the previous nine scoring chances. Not bad for a team that is so out of condition, eh? And then as Julian describes it:

the second Soviet goal is a bit odd, on the PK, puck in the corner, Mikhailov picks it out and fires it off the far boards. Kharlamov must have seen it coming, because somehow he gets behind the Canadian defence and picks it up for a breakaway from the blueline in.

Much like the first goal its a bonehead breakdown. Do the Canadians collapse? Nope. Henderson comes right back and scores.

And once again, regarding conditioning. The remainder of the period sees four chances apiece and the third begins with four straight Canadian chances as well.
So while Julian has this great line: There’s an extended break to fix the ice near the end. The Russians start taking shots on Tretiak to keep him warm, skating around. I assume the Canadians had a smoke and steak break, the camera doesn’t show them.

the reality is that while they probably were firing back sirloins and Du Mauriers in between periods their conditioning wasn't stopping them from being the better team!

As an interesting aside during the third I heard a PA announcement reminding fans that there is no smoking in the arena. Considering that you could smoke on an airplane at the time and that smoking and drinking while pregnant was standard practice I found the announcement to be a weird kind of anachronism.

Of course maybe they were just saying that there was no smoking because there were no cigarettes left. Mikita smoked them all.

But what kills Canada is a return to bad habits. Game two saw quick shifts. Game three sees a return to the lengthy shifts of game one. And so at the end of the second the Russians score twice after extremely long shifts by the Canadians. First the Esposito line gets caught out too long. Then Ratelle, Cournoyer and Frank Mahovlich take too long a shift and Mahovlich loses the puck at his own blueline. His teammates never get it back. Tie game.

So it ends up as a tie but once again the Canadians deserve better. They make a couple of bonehead plays and pay the price each time and they get back into bad habits and that costs them too.

Maybe when they talk about getting in condition they are talking about their ability to play three minute shifts. Short shifts you bunch of mod haired fuckers!

So first to the goaltending. Esposito is excellent again. The first goal is from inside the circle, Petrov puts it fivehole as 35 drops into the butterfly. Might call it a little iffy, certainly today you would, but back in the day, believe it or not, that was considered a standard play. The weakness of the butterfly goalie was that opening as he dropped. Petrov hits it. The other three are no doubters. Kharlamov on the shortie breakaway. A deflection on a point shot. A Russian left alone in the slot with all the time in the world picks the corner. By my count Esposito is left alone four other times one on one and only gets beat once, getting a piece of a Kharlamov shot that Park clears out of the crease as it trickles towards the net.

But he is great. He deserves the start in game four again. But as we will see a lot of changes in this lineup in game four, despite three points out of four in two games. In the end this lineup is the one that Sinden will run with but he switches it up after this game. Its a move I don't agree with at all.

On the blueline Sinden runs three pairs again. For the most part he rolls them. It looks to my eye like Bergman and Park tend to get the Kharlamov line quite a bit but overall there isn't much going on. Stapleton and White get a few more offensive draws than the other two pairs but they are also out at a lot of key moments of the game, including in the last couple of minutes so obviously Sinden trusts them.

Park and Bergman end up with terrific numbers again and its easy to see why. Park was considered the second best defenceman of that generation, behind only Orr. He is a tremendous skater, closes to his man immediately, moves the puck swiftly. He's not a gambler at all though. Makes the safe play. Does tend to leave his feet and sprawl at times though. Bergman, who I barely had heard of (I certainly did not know the role he played in this series), is the prototypical defensive defenceman. Just plain solid. Makes his reads, reacts quickly. Active stick. Good decisionmaking. Never leaves his feet.

For the third straight game they are either even or in the black. Just as in game one their numbers are extraordinary.

Lapointe and Savard are once again quietly effective. Did I mention that Savard is the shit? Seriously though you don't even notice these guys in their own end and against the Russian quality that's something. They are pretty well just even or barely in the black but unlike the other four (including Park) you don't ever look at a play and say 'wow did Savard or Lapointe ever blow that one'. I said it before - watching these two guys makes it pretty clear as to why Montreal would win five of the next seven Cups. Ridiculous. Watching G8 right now and its 1-0 USSR and they have their second straight five on three. Who's out there? 23 and 25. Says it all right there. At one point Savard is on the PK and the Russians pour down his side, he takes the puck easy as can be, starts skating and creates a TWO ON ONE the other way. Skates through the whole team, passes it off, gets back into position and then for good measure he breaks up the next Russian attack.

White and Stapleton take on more responsibility right away this game. An interesting pair. White is all legs and elbows and stick and defensive conscience. Getting around him is impossible. Very effective on the PK. The Russians pass the puck crazily and the end result is Canadian defenders chasing the puck and sprawling everywhere and Esposito bailing his club out. When White is on the ice you see a man up to the task. At one point he is caught in a two on one down low on the PK. A minute before Park, in the same situation, panicked and slid to the ice. Esposito was forced to make the save. Here White turns calmly and takes his man. The Russian with the puck is in no position to score and so he is forced to pass and the puck slips harmlessly by his teammate who is tied up completely.

Stapleton on the other hand is pure chaos and I think that is the main reason he and White pay the price in Corsi a bit. He is a bit small and struggles with the Russian forecheck. He looks like he is slightly overmatched, not badly like Seiling and Awrey but there is always the impression that disaster is impending. But, having said all of that its just an impression. He does not give up the five bell chances. He gambles and then he recovers. In the third Kharlamov goes inside out oh him just outside the blue and as he steams by him you figure this is it but Stapleton pivots and CATCHES Kharlamov. And he does it immediately. Buddy doesn't even get a shot. Just an absolutely dynamite skater.

Near the end of the game Lapointe disappears to the dressing room. A pulled muscle the announcer calls it (how does he know?) but it turns out that he was taken into the boards heavily and injured his leg. The result will be that Lapointe will miss game four. Savard too. He has a fractured ankle (hairline) and before game four Sinden announces that he is done for the series. Luckily for him he is wrong. With the six defencemen in the lineup tonight Canada goes undefeated.

Up front there is a little bit of chaos at times. It becomes apparent pretty quickly that Sinden is not sold on Mikita despite the quality of play he got from the veteran in game two. Mikita was a late invite and it seems that his conditioning is even worse than his teammates. He goes hard and gets off the ice, taking short shifts (imagine the concept) and Ratelle begins to pick those up and then in the second Ratelle moves into a permanent position between Mahovlich and Cournoyer and Mikita only sees spot duty after that, including, strangely enough, some four on four time in the third. For Mikita it seems that the spirit is willing, as they say, but the flesh, not so much, and I believe that if the Sinden had his druthers he would go with the aging superstar. Ratelle gets sheltered absolutely, he does not see a defensive zone draw until the third. Mikita, on the other hand, gets three defensive zone draws to only one in the Russian zone, plus the four on four time, so its obvious that Sinden trusts him. There are a few moments where Mikita looks great and he is dangerous. He draws a penalty and he has a couple of excellent shifts but there are other times where again he is a step behind and the result is that this ends up being his last game in the Series. There is only a spot for one more centre after Clarke and Esposito and Ratelle, while being sheltered, scores a nice goal on a give and go with Cournoyer and generates a nice 5 to 2 ratio in scoring shances. In game one he had the same opportunity and did nothing. Here he runs with it and keeps himself in the mix.

For the wingers on this line, Cournoyer and Frank Mahovlich, they have mixed results. They get sheltered and yet their Corsi is poor and their scoring chance numbers are in the black but barely. Its become clear that their fantastic numbers in game one had a whole lot to do with playing with Esposito and Mahovlich is not much of a factor at all. He, like many of the Canadians, is in his thirties. Sinden doesn't go with many kids at all whereas the Russians are loaded with players who are under twenty five years old. The Big M. Not so big.

His little brother is the other spare forward and he does his usual work on the PK and also sees some work at ES, generally filling in here and there. He picks up Mikita's shift a couple of times and when Cashman gets a misconduct halfway through the third he steps in and takes his place. As usual he does decent work at ES. Nothing in terms of scoring chances, barely in the black in Corsi. Overall a typical game for a guy who does a pretty good job as the spare man on the roster.

The Esposito line does well. Phil is driving the bus here. Heck, he built the bus and now he's driving it. Parise and Cashman do what they do. They bang and crash and cycle and Parise bangs one in himself and Cashman sets up Esposito for a second. Not bad work but they are sheltered a lot and they also get burned for the third Russian goal and their discipline is abysmal. Parise takes a bad penalty and Cashman takes two and essentially gets himself thrown out of the game in the third. Cashman walks the line the whole game and is lucky that he only gets called twice. This costs him his spot in the lineup I have to believe although Sinden is still trying to find the right mix (and throws game four away to do so, imo). The failure of the GAG line in game one has hurt the club badly. Although Ratelle and Gilbert work their way back into the lineup the fact that they can't kill the soft shit right from the start means that Sinden has to break up the exceptional Esposito line from game one. Canada wins G2 and ties G3 with Espo centring the pluggers and Mikita and Ratelle centring 27 and 12 but its probably not what Sinden had in mind coming into the series. The failure of Hadfield, a fifty goal scorer, to have any impact at all does some damage. The Esposito line holds its own in G2 and G3, maybe comes out slightly on top, but does so with favourable conditions. Compared to Esposito's work in G1 and later in the series its not enough. Its good but 7 is dragging a couple of anchors around with him, slightly anyhow.

Finally there is the one constant, the Clarke line. They get Kharlamov, a lot, and they get nearly all of the defensive zone starts until late in the game and yet they are in the black or even (Ellis gets dinged a bit playing with other linemates in the third). Henderson scores, again, and is probably the most dangerous Canadian forward. There is one play which illustrates why these guys do so well. Late in the third the Russian have control in their zone, buddy steps over the blueline and fires a crossice pass. Park steps up and knocks it down at centre ice and suddenly flying into the bottom of the picture heading toward the Canadian goal is the Russian left wing, looking for that pass. Thing is, even if Park doesn't make the play it doesn't matter because Ron Ellis has position on his man, stride for stride, he has a step on him and he has him absolutely and totally in check. What a hockey player. There's a pile of guys on this roster who are sexier than Ronnie Ellis but there are few players who are as good as he is.

So we are now three games in and while the games have been close it has been Canada as the better team in all three cases, especially at even strength. In this game when it was three to one in the second the Canadians are absolutely dominant. Mikita slides one just wide and then nearly tips one by Tretiak who then makes a big save on Frank Mahovlich and soon after watches helplessly as Esposito beats him and also misses by inches. Kharlamov scores but the Canadians respond with the Henderson goal and then Ratelle sends Frank Mahovlich in all alone.

Not to discount the Russians, as Esposito had to make some dandy saves himself, but its Canada again in this game. In interview after interview the Canadians talk about their poor conditioning and how it cost them but the reality is at this point in the series they probably deserve to be up three to nothing despite their conditioning, their initial lack of respect for their opponent, the struggles of a few players who get bumped from the lineup.

So what does Sinden do going into game four? Well he, I don't know if panics is the right word, but he makes some odd lineup decisions for game four. Esposito, excellent in both games, gets replaced by Dryden. Seiling and Awrey, burned so badly in G1, draw in for the injured Savard and Lapointe. And up front Ratelle, Mikita, Cashman, Parise and Peter Mahovlich are all goners despite Ratelle's better play in G3 and the other four playing both G2 and G3. The returning hero Mikita will captain the club in Czechoslovakia and Cashman will be involved in an awful incident in Sweden in an exhibition game there although for once he will be the receiver, not the giver, but they will not play the Russians again.

Despite my admiration for Mikita I can't blame Sinden for his removal from the lineup. The old goat is not up to speed and one imagines he might have gotten torn apart on the big ice in Moscow. Watching G8 last night its no doubt that Ratelle was the better choice, indeed Ratelle was the better player in G3. Whether it was adrenalin or just one last hurrah Mikita was terrific in game two but game three shows Sinden that he cannot keep up and I tend to agree. While he is killer on the draw and he is probably the smartest player on the ice (seriously, buddy is a savant) the legs aren't there. So he has to go. Would have loved to have seen him in his absolute prime though. One of the all time greats.

As for Cashman while he does what he can and he's not an absolute liability its pretty clear that Esposito needs better on his wing. And the discipline is an issue. Gilbert returns in game four and he is a far better player than Cashman but having said that Goldsworthy also draws in. What the fuck?!

As we will see the seeds for the series victory were planted in Toronto and Winnipeg. Sinden meanders a bit now, partially due to necessity (the injuries to Savard and Lapointe) partially due to madness but the roster that he ices in game eight contains all six defencemen who play games two and three and nine of the eleven forwards.

The work on games four and five is done, thanks to Mr. Debakey, hopefully to be posted at the beginning of next week unless I get run over by a bus. If I do, raise a pint for me, would ya? ;)


Mr DeBakey said...

We should've put something like this up right away so people know whom we've been talking about.
From the previous NHL season, 71-72, here are the leading point getters at each position sorted by Point-per-Game:

.....Center G A Pts PIM
Phil Esposito - 66 67 133 76
Jean Ratelle - 46 63 109 4
Jacques Lemaire - 32 49 81 26
Bobby Clarke - 35 46 81 87
Fred Stanfield - 23 56 79 12
Marcel Dionne - 28 49 77 14
Gilbert Perreault - 26 48 74 24

.....Left Wing G A Pts PIM
Vic Hadfield - 50 56 106 142
Frank Mahovlich - 43 53 96 36
Bobby Hull - 50 43 93 24
Johnny Bucyk - 32 51 83 4
Rick Martin - 44 30 74 36
Ken Hodge - 16 40 56 81
Pete Mahovlich - 35 32 67 103

.....Right Wing G A Pts PIM
Rod Gilbert - 43 54 97 64
Yvan Cournoyer - 47 36 83 15
Mickey Redmond - 42 29 71 34
John McKenzie - 22 47 69 126
Guy Lafleur - 29 35 64 48
Bill Goldsworthy - 31 31 62 59
Jean Pronovost - 30 23 53 12

.....Defence G A Pts PIM
Bobby Orr 37 80 117 106
Brad Park 24 49 73 130
J.C. Tremblay 6 51 57 24
Guy Lapointe 11 38 49 58
Jocelyn Guevremont 13 38 51 44
Carol Vadnais 18 26 44 143
Dale Tallon 17 27 44 78

Julian said...

For the record, I only recorded the events, Pat watched the game and took all the notes about matchups and all, and then counted up the totals for all the players. He probably did most of the work on this one.

For G6 Pat, I'll do the counting as well, for all the Canadian players. Do you prefer the tracking to use numbers instead of names? I found it easier to enter names into the spreadsheet than numbers, but I can do it your way if it's easier to display....

spOILer said...

Excellent work, guys. Going it read it more closely later tonight as there's lots of goodies in there.

And I'm going to raise a pint for you guys despite not getting hit by a bus.

Brad said...

I can't wait until we get to the post titled
"You said you didn't give a fuck about hockey,..."
From someone who wasn't borned yet, this is great reading guys!

Black Dog said...

Great reference Mr. D., thanks very much.

Thank you Brad and spOILer glad you are enjoying this.

Julian, whatever is easiest for you. When I counted for 1 and 2 I just scribbled on scrap paper and then entered them so its not much for me to do numbers from the names.

Mr DeBakey said...

Mikita had centered Mahovlich & Cournoyer all thru the training camp.

Fun Fact:
The Canadians didn't watch any game film until August 31st - two days before the 1st game.

Vic Ferrari said...

I have nothing to add, but great stuff again, Julian and Pat. I'm digging this.