Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Deep Thoughts, In No Particular Order

Do they still do that on Saturday Night Live? The Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey thing? That shit was pretty funny. The show itself? Well it hasn't been funny for decades. Decades! Can you imagine? The odd time I see it they commit the same crimes against comedy every time, usually involving the skit that repeats the punchline over and over again. Maybe, just maybe, it was funny the first time, but when it is repeated a dozen times over ten minutes its no longer funny, its just painful. Considering that these folks are supposed to be in the business of funny, shouldn't they recognize a fatal flaw that this show has had forever.

Guess not.

That Deep Thoughts shit was the shit though.

Went to see TFC last night. After a day of pretty heavy rain the evening turned out to be nice and while the weather frightened off a lot of fans it was, as always, a fun experience. Tyler Dellow and I went to our first ever game back in the summer and we were hooked, he far more than I. He's a junkie now, I'm afraid and we may have to schedule an intervention.

It was a good time, a bit of a reunion of sorts, there were six of us including Mr. Michael Winters, noted cartoonist and pervert. Mirtle was supposed to join us but he begged off with an irritated vulva or similar lower body injury.

These games are unlike any sporting event you will see in Toronto or probably in much of Canada. The soccer culture is alive in all of its glory, the singing and chanting and foot stomping and flag waving. Its really terrific. The first game I attended the crowd sang to the opposing goalie a ditty imploring him to 'Eat another pie you fat bastard'. Dellow was hooked after that. And luckily the seedier aspects of the culture, the stabbings and drunken fascist yobs, seem to have remained on the other side of the pond, so that's nice.

Of course TFC failed last night as befits an MLSE property. Richard Peddie proclaimed a few weeks ago that things were going swimmingly, off the field of play of course, and with TFC, the Raptors and the Leafs all being disasters for years now, well, I guess that maybe Katz isn't that bad after all.

Although I do think the Leafs have a shot at the playoffs, I really do. More on that another day.

We have a new addition to our household, a kitten. I'll write a little more about her in the future, watch for it, its going to be a post entitle 'Rookies' and I will write about her and then I will write about the rookie Oilers in the type of phenomenal linking of varied topics that you expect when you come to this site. Its going to be awesome!

Anyhow the kitten is good, I'm not a big cat guy but it has decided that I am its mommy or some such thing and so it follows me everywhere. The little rat. Its idea of a good time is waking me up at various times through the night, at which point out in the hall she goes, to be followed by a knock at the door minutes later by the boy, who gives me the cat and staggers back to his own room. (We'd close their door too but our eldest has an issue with the dark, slightly, and requires the door be left ajar.)

So the result is a little less sleep, its like having a newborn, but at least we're having sex, so not exactly. Unfortunately unlike the dear departed big fellow who was content to quietly observe the two backed beast in action, the cat would like to participate, she has pounced on my head a few times and the other night she leapt onto my back and then, cartoon like, slid down it, all the while trying to get purchase with its claws.

Little fucker. Not really what I'm thinking of when I think of the passionate nails raking my back.

Speaking of little fuckers, Linus (apparently rhymes with Penis) Omark is strutting his stuff in camp and as LT commented the other day he might want to push his agent in front of a bus for not getting him over here last year when he probably would have had a year to strut his, well, stuff, like I said just up there a sentence ago or so. Omark is going to get his shot this year anyhow unless all of the top six Oiler wingers manage to stay in the lineup, the likelihood of which is perhaps zero percent or negative infinity or something. The kid has speed to burn and swagger and moves and it looks like his motor runs a little quicker than countryman Rowbert Nilsson, not Liam Reddox quick, but he's not a dogfucker by the looks of it. The question for Linus is whether he is coachable or not because he is one motherfucking turnover machine, wow does he ever love to cough that puck up at the blueline. I play with a guy like that, he turns it over at the blue a half dozen times a game rather than chipping it in or out and I swear if he weren't and I weren't such a nice guy I'd choke the shit out of him.

Anywho Linus has bad timing and getting minutes on the fourth line doesn't make a lot of sense for him so he'll head to OKC, tear it up and we'll see him in a bit, I would guess. Buddy has a few years of pro under his belt and he's older than the rest of these kids so I wouldn't be surprised if when its all said and done if he has the best season of the four although if I were a betting man I'd say Paajarvi is the man this season. Certainly if gets to play with Hemsky he's going to get a shot at putting up some points.

Oh year and one other little guy who looks like he may have a spot locked up is old favourite Liam Reddox who has had a terrific camp. Your man Bob MacKenzie took the time to tweet about him today, saying that if the Oilers were to waive him he would recommend any other team pick him up as he is a guy who can help. Good for Liam! Here's hoping that he can once and for all get traction on an NHL career.

You want to hear something weird? We have Mamma Mia PVR'd and lately, when I'm writing or surfing or working and the kids are in bed I fire that sucker on. I would totally think I'm gay, not that there's anything wrong with that, except I get a boner every time Amanda Seyfried and her nubility are on the screen. Seriously though. ABBA? Maybe I'm just bi.

You know who's going to finish last overall? I was pretty sure a few weeks ago that the Oilers will be in the mix as long as someone doesn't get trashed by injuries. Well hello Islanders. Yep, you're fucked before you've even played a SINGLE PRESEASON GAME. Wow. Mark them down as the favourites to pick first next June and how sad is that? These guys are like the Thrashers, you know, the counterpoints to the whole 'be shitty for years and then win the Cup like Chicago and Pittsburgh' argument. People forget that Chicago was shitty for years and went nowhere too. You need good management and some luck to make that 'model' work. Here's hoping the Oilers have good luck; presently I certainly doubt their management. Hope I am wrong.

Our youngest daughter apparently enjoys cat food by the way.

You watch Boardwalk Empire? That's some dandy shit. Buschemi is awesome, of course. Always has been. Mr. Pink himself. He's mellowed out a little bit but fuck he is terrific. 'Read a fucking book!' Hee Haw.

A lot of good news from this camp so far for the Oilers. Horcoff is flying. The kids have looked good, including Vande Velde, who is exactly what these guys are going to need at some point. But perhaps the best news is that Petry and Plante have not looked out of place. Up front there is a lot of talent and there is a glut of goalies out there so even if Roy or none of the others pan out, its a hole that can be filled cheaply, but the blue, well the blue is thin and desperately needs some of these kids to be players. If these two are, players that is, and as I said, that's an if, well then, things start getting a whole lot brighter for this franchise.

One last thing, have been following the Hawks a bit this fall and both Pisani and Potulny have had nice camps apparently. Pisani is a lock and it looks like Potulny has a good shot too. If I were a betting man I would pick the Hawks to win the Cup, I really would, and I'll have more on that later. They really need a good blogger though. The SBN guy put Bill and Rocky Wirtz on their Mount Puckmore, along with Bobby Hull and Toews. Now I love Toews and I understand the whole idea of that theme (Bruce did a terrific job with the Oilers btw) but having Rocky Wirtz and Toews instead of Mikita and Savard, well, come on, perhaps they should not hand out blogging licenses, if there were such a thing, to teenagers! Maybe its time to switch teams, glory awaits ....

I keed!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Early Returns

Early days for Capsule and the results have been slightly mixed, yet encouraging. Last season was solid, third in the league and a loss in the semis and even the summer season, usually an absolute death march, ended with the lads (I did not play this summer, first time I haven't played summer hockey in nine years) winning some ridiculous number of games at the end of the year, five of their last six or something.

Ridiculous because last summer we did not win one game. Indeed the only game which we even could even say we garnered a point from was our lone playoff game, which we lost in the third overtime. So, yeah, pointless, so to speak.

This winter's club lost two stalwarts from last season and it was a bit worrisome when I heard. Pretty well two of our best players, I always joked that they were among the few men amongst us. Both hulking dudes with the sloping Gordie Howe shoulders and the lack of conscience that comes with having played at a high level, they helped the rest of us, a motley crew (for the most part) of little slow guys, immeasurably. Strangely though it could have been better. They were forwards but our lack of actual defencemen (guys who have always played D and are good at it) forced them to the back end. They did a good job but having two actual Dmen and them up front would have been much better.

So a year later and they are gone and we have added two new guys and they are actual defencemen. Its been a few years since we could send out two pairs of quality D men (the last year we had no converted forwards back there was, not surprisingly, our best year ever) and their addition to the lineup yesterday made a difference. They're both hulking guys who can skate and shoot the puck and play defence and although we lost their debut its better days ahead I think.

The good news so far is that while we are one and two we could easily be three and oh and there is no real reason for panic. We have been missing our top two centres for all three games and actually in our first game we only had seven skaters and on Olympic size ice at that. Lost to the club we knocked from the playoffs last season and it took a last minute goal to do it as well as some unusually shoddy goaltending from our main man who was extremely hungover and probably could have had all three he allowed if he was in form. Definitely two of the three. So no worries from game one, last season we took them out pretty easily when it counted and no reason why this year won't see more of the same if it comes to that.

As for myself well I had a nice year last year and have come into this season as fit as I have been in a decade thanks to a summer of roller blading downtown and back for work. A few minutes into game one and a forecheck causes them to cough it up and I picked it up in the slot and picked the corner and everything. Even kept my eyes open. ;) Later in the game I won a draw back to the Dman and he fired it in and so while we fell a little short it was nice to get to a good start personally. I've had seasons where a couple of goals is all I have gotten so I'll enjoy whatever I come up with.

And then in Saturday's game we kept falling behind as we were let down by our keeper once again, after the game he figured it was the worst he had ever played. A half dozen shots or so and four ended up behind him, three which he would have on any night and the last a howler that was sliding towards our net from the neutral zone, he moved up to fire it up the boards and whiffed and it ended up in the net. We had just come back from two down to tie it so this might have done us in but we came right back and knocked them down and took the game over with three straight and so a victory for the good guys. And at the end of it the other team astounded because in the end they ran out of gas while we did not. This is the new Capsule, back when I joined the club we were soft and dumb and always found a way to fold it up but these past few years its been a lot more grit and a lot more smarts and we've needed it because for most of the guys the legs are deserting them.

For me game two was another nice game as I steamed into the zone on a linechange (hate that Gord Miller term - steamed - sounds like a big heap of shit to me), went to the net, stick on the ice, stick on the ice, stick on the ice, and when the pass came I deflected it in. And in the third, tied up finally, I relieved a Dman of the puck and got it out front to my centre who popped it home for the eventual winner.

After the game one of the guys said I looked I really had some zip - you looked like Steve Schutt out there, flying up and down the wing, he said. Which tells us how old we are. Nearly everyone on our club can reference Steve Shutt no problem.

And then yesterday our second game in two days, facing a club that owned us last year, one of these teams that we should beat but always seem to fall short against. They put away their opportunities, we do not, is what it comes down to and yesterday was the same old for us. We were all over them for good parts of the game and our line generated a lot of chances but they have a solid goalie and we also hit iron twice. Our own goaltending was very good but a couple of big gaffes killed us which was a shame. We started out quickly, first shift we were on them and a midrange shot was tipped in by some old guy from up north who is on the tear of his life right now. I always start quickly, problem is often that big first game is followed by a few months with nothing so for now I'll take it and smile. Thing is I'm getting to the good spots obviously but I've gotten a break or two as well, its a pretty nice run of luck right now for me. Having decent fitness is making a big difference, I've been able to get where I need to be everywhere on the ice and so I've had three nice allround games.

I'd be happier if we three and oh but I'm pretty satisfied with Capsule this season, I think its going to be a good one once we have all hands available. And its great to be back on the ice. Almost forty three and it seems the legs have made a bit of a comeback, which is a good thing because other than that I've never played better then I have the last couple of years. Guts and guile is pretty well all I have left. ;)


Oiler camp is moving along quickly and while its difficult we do have to please remember what Bill said.

Pounding on Canucks' scrubs is better than getting pounded on by Canucks's scrubs but it still remains that they are the scrubs and as Jonathan Willis commented somewhere last night all we need to remember is O'Sullivan's preseason to put a slight damper on the parade route plans. And as I mentioned the other day, what about that Bochenski fellow?

Still far be it from me to take a massive piss, dousing the flames of hope and so I have to admit that the Oilers' business this year, and maybe for a while, is to sell hope, and they certainly look to have a nice dollop of it. And the mainstream guys, not just Oiler hacks, guys like MacKenzie and the Hat, have opined that while the club is going to be shite this season the fact is that these kids are the real deal, preseason or not. Paajarvi put on a show the other night and yesterday it was Eberle and Omark who shone and its the youngest of them, Hall, not surprisingly, who has been a little bit deer in the headlights but he is going to be just fine, we're not talking a JF Jacques peg in a top six hole here. These kids all have some combination of skill or speed or sense or size - they look to be all legit.

And on top of it all, the little dollop of butterscotch on the nipple, just to make that sweetness sweetest, is the fact that the kids getting sent out or who are likely to get sent out, have looked very good as well. We're talking Pitlick and Roy and Marcinin and Hamilton and Martindale. None of them looked like shit. They all looked varying levels of good as is to be hoped for from a collection of teenagers, that is nobody thought they'd blow the doors off but they looked just fine.

And Vande Velde looks to be perhaps the real deal and Petry too and while Hartkinen needs to work on his skating apparently (minor detail right?) he still may be a steal at where they got him.

And one last point, Horcoff, amongst others, has really been flying. He was pretty terrible last year, for varying reasons. If he can put together one of those years he did like 06 or 08 (sans the injury) then maybe we can, for a short time, put an end to the pissing and moaning about the guy. After a good year in terms of development for the kids and Penner and Hemsky signed to reasonable extensions that would be the one thing I really hope for this season. Buddy works like a dog and when healthy he's a damn good player - he deserves it.

Getting down to brass tacks with the roster. Khabibulin survived his first test. If he's healthy then either ADD or DD are gone. Peckham has been good enough to stave off Belle and Petoit, imo. And Reddox looks to be in the mix for the top fourteen forwards and maybe, just maybe, he can sneak by Jones into that opening night lineup. Jones seems to be the guy with the bad mojo this fall. Can't see Omark making it, despite the flourish last night, unless they decide to park him in the PB or the fourth line and that doesn't make sense to me.

And meanwhile, btw, old friend Fernando Pisani is getting nice reviews from Chicago fans who like what they see. Good for him.

Anyhow I still have not backtracked from my thoughts on this club. They are going to be bad. But there are going to be a lot of fun nights and it may be that we are going to get a glimpse of a bright future. Lets hope so.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bill Murray

Always been a big fan of Bill Murray. One of the first movies I ever saw was Meatballs and the combination of boobs and burping made me a huge fan (I was eleven after all). That was the first movie Murray ever did. Apparently the producer had no idea if he was going to take the part until he showed up to shoot his first scene. This is Murray. He's his own man. He's missed out on plenty of roles over the years because he has no agent or manager and apparently has a number that goes directly to voicemail as the only means of contacting him. Thing is he rarely checks it.

Meatballs was the first of a glorious trifecta - after that came Caddyshack and then Stripes and for a kid barely into his teens those movies were the gold standard for years. I've seen Caddyshack since and it hasn't aged all that badly although its weird to see Chevy Chase actually being both cool and funny. Those days are long gone. Watching favourite old movies is always worrisome. I watched Goodfellas last night and it remains awesome. A few nights previous I watched 48 Hours with my wife, who had never seen it (she is seven years younger than me, yeah I know, enough with the bragging) and before the movie I said that it was absolutely hilarious, mostly because of Eddie Murphy, who was also both cool and funny at the time and, like Chevy Chase, not so much anymore.

Turns out the movie is pretty good but really not as funny as when I was fourteen. Oh well.

Murray is like most actors I think, well maybe not most, but many. I think that basically he plays himself. I'd bet that if you met Tom Cruise he would be a brash, cocky little weirdo who likes to run (seriously he and Will Smith, always running, every movie). John Candy was always the jovial guy with the nervous laugh. Ed Harris is always weird and intense.

As a young man Murray was wild and goofy and childish. In later years he was more biting and sarcastic. And now, as a slightly elder statesman, he has gotten rave reviews for his work in movies like Broken Flowers and, of course, Lost In Translation. He's laconic, sly, joking, in short he is what you'd expect him to be like in real life. Or at least how I expect him to be.

In Meatballs, almost a quarter century before, he is the young madman, a role he plays in Stripes as well (giving Sean Young, this is before she went crazy, the 'Aunt Jemima Treatment'). His riffs are bizarre oddball tangents to nowhere as he leads his sadsack campers to victory over the snooty cheaters from Camp Mohawk in the annual Olympiad between the rivals. And there is the classic speech, the 'It Just Doesn't Matter Speech' .

Even if God in Heaven above comes down and points His hand at our side of the field!


That's the thing about training camp. It just doesn't matter. Who's the kid from Ottawa who tore it up a few preseasons ago and started on the top line as a result? Bochenski? He's on, what, his third organization since then now? O'Sullivan ripped the cover off the ball last autumn and Hemsky always looks bored and disinterested and terrible and last year Jacques looked like a world beater.

You're playing against and with wannabes and also rans and you're not firing shots in anger and for most of these guys their fates are already decided.

It just doesn't matter.

Sure you get your nice stories, the return of Comrie last year and the arrival of the new kids each season, the promise of the future.

But really, it just doesn't matter.

Except when it does.

When Patrick Thoresen comes out of nowhere to earn a spot in 2006. When Gagner, Cogliano, Brodziak and Gilbert all confound the odds and make the squad in 2007. Even the emergence of Jacques last year, if only for a short time.

Every year there is a surprise or two or more. Look up and down the roster. My guess is that most of the spots are accounted for. Barring a trade or injury the following players will be on the roster on opening night:

Horcoff, Hall, Hemsky, Gagner, Penner, Eberle, Paajarvi, Cogliano, Brule, Fraser, Stortini, Jones, Whitney, Gilbert, Smid, Foster, Vandermeer, Strudwick.

Pretty well guaranteed.

So that leaves five spots by my count. Two up front, one on the blue and two in goal.

Lets start in net. If Khabibulin is healthy then there is one and its between Dubnyk and Deslauriers for the second spot. I think Dubnyk has the inside track myself, based on the fact that he went to the WC last spring. Messier came to the Oilers and said give me a guy (I surmise), they sent Dubnyk. Enough said.

If Khabibulin is not able to go then its both kids. Again.

The seventh defenceman is going to be Peckham I think. Down the road, maybe soon, he is going to get passed by Plante and Petry, imo, and with the injuries that invariably happen we will see both of those guys at some point I think, assuming they trend well. And Belle will get the call too. But presently its Peckham, I believe. He adds toughness and enthusiasm and he's waiver eligible and I think that does matter. Unless he is absolutely terrible or someone else is brilliant, its his spot.

Up front there are two spots. Based upon very early returns Paajarvi looks like he fits. No surprise. He's fast as hell and has two years pro experience under his belt. He's got it made. Hall too. The one question mark amongst the big three is Eberle and he will be given every chance to make it. Too bad for Linus Omark who may very well be the most ready to play of all of the kids. He is the oldest and has oodles of pro experience. (OODLES!) The problem is he needs to be a top nine guy I think. Better playing twenty minutes and the PP in the AHL than eight minutes a night in the NHL I think. For his development I mean. I'm sure he'd prefer the latter. Really though I think he's relying on an injury, a trade or Eberle to really really suck it to make it. He'll be up soon enough, someone will get hurt, but I think he goes down to OKC.

So who sticks? Well there are a few choices for the 13th/14th spots but for now we'll go with Reddox, whose motor, as usual, was running steady at the Joey Moss Cup, and MacIntyre, because he's the designated goon.

Disclaimer - I'm always wrong on this shit. Last fall I called Kip Brennan a good choice to stick. Buddy got cut just a couple of days later. Same as pretty well every other guy I figured had a shot. So it will probably be Vande Velde, Giroux and Chorney.

Really though, someone will get hurt and someone will suck it and so in a couple of weeks the last cuts will get their shot anyhow.

It really just doesn't matter.


Monday, September 20, 2010

And I Never Saw Someone Say That Before - Canada 6 USSR 5

If there's a goal that everyone remembers it was back in ole' 72
We all squeezed the stick and we all pulled the trigger
And all I remember was sitting beside you
You said you didn't give a fuck about hockey
And I never saw someone say that before
You held my hand and we walked home the long way
You were loosening my grip on Bobby Orr

Isn't it amazing anything's accomplished
When the little sensation gets in your way
Not one ambition whisperin' over your shoulder
Isn't it amazing you can do anything
Game eight and its winner take all although with no overtime or shootout its possible that it can all end in a tie. And if it did would they have done it all again in a year's time? We'll never know.

Harry Sinden makes two lineup changes from game seven. Since Savard's return he has not changed his defence and why would he? The Russians have eaten it at even strength in three of the four games he has run these pairings out: Bergman/Park, Stapleton/White, Lapointe/Savard

Stapleton has a bad ankle but after the pregame skate he says he can go, if he couldn't then Dale Tallon, all of twenty one years old with two years of pro experience, was tagged to replace him. Sinden had seen enough of Seiling and Awrey, apparently, although one could only have imagined how things may have been different if Stapleton hadn't been able to play.

Up front Sinden goes with the same ten guys who played in both games six and seven, the three lines have not changed at all:

Hull-Ratelle- Gilbert

Peter Mahovlich is the tenth forward. The eleventh is his big brother Frank, who replaces Goldsworthy, who replaced Red Berenson.

I can get on board with the move. Goldsworthy went off of the rails in game four and I can guess that Sinden likely preferred the veteran Mahovlich in his place. Of course I would have stuck with Berenson, whose PK work was key to the game six victory. The Russians have been strangled at ES. In game seven they score three goals, two of those come on the PP. In game eight three of their five goals come on the PP. One thinks Berenson may have made a difference.

Sinden's only other move is replacing Tony Esposito with Ken Dryden. I don't get this one at all. Dryden's only reasonable game was game six in which his teammates allowed a total of five scoring chances, two of which ended up in the net. Esposito has two wins and a tie in his four starts and in his fourth start his team collapsed in front of him in the third period.

I don't get it. I keep coming back to '71. I can't think of a single reason why he would make this move except for 71.

Game eight is unlike any other game that has ever been played, mostly because its the deciding game of a series whose like we will never see again. And in terms of drama, just like the Series itself, it cannot be beat. Four times the Russians take the lead, four times the Canadians battle back, the fourth time from two goals down. And the winner is scored with only seconds left by the same guy who scored the winners in the previous two games, a player who likely would be forgotten otherwise, a guy who is instead one of the most famous players in hockey history, the picture above, the call of the goal, all of these part of a nation's lore, a nation where time actually stood still on that day, as schools and workplaces shut down. Our 'I remember where I was' moment.

And the game itself is a weird and wacky one, unlike any of those that have come before. This series could be divided into two sets of three with two games that are different. Games two, six and seven are tight checking affairs. The Canadians hold the Russians to single digits in scoring chances at even strength, to a dozen or less overall. Their own numbers are under twenty but they outchance their opponents by a nice margin. Then there are games one, three and four. The Russians win the bookends here, with a tie in game three. In each of these the Canadians tally between thirty to thirty two chances, the Russians come in at twenty-one, twenty-two and twenty-eight. Interesting here too is that in terms of special teams Canada has either a big edge or are at least even and the Russians actually have no powerplay goals in any of these games except for the two to kick off game four (two shorties in game three). And yet despite this the Canadians have but one point out of a possible six.

And in game five we see the same pattern as those three games except the Russians actually outchance the Canadians. Indeed I think we can probably group this game with those three. the majority of Russians chances (thirty six of thirty seven!) are at even strength. They do nothing on the power play.

Based on this we would think Canada would try and play it tight to the vest in the finale but whether its because they are playing from behind from a couple of minutes in or its because, like Billy Conn, its not in their nature, game eight fits neither pattern we have seen before. And its certainly not tight checking. The game is wide open. At the end of two periods the Canadians have outchanced the Russians 21-17. At ES they are 18-11, fair enough, but its the same pattern as the early games they lost. Plenty of chances for the Russians and they cash them in, except this time at ES the damage (two goals) is outweighed by the beating they are laying on Canada on the powerplay (three goals).

In any case its five to three for the Soviets heading into the third. Dryden has let in a softie and he's had some bad luck and again it just seems he cannot stop the bleeding. Indeed with his team down one in the second he gets caught out of position scrambling after a missed shot and the Russians have two attempts at an open net, each turned away by Phil Esposito.

Which is right because this game is all about Phil Esposito. He is the dominant figure and his performance elevates him alongside all of the Canadian international heroes. Indeed this may be the greatest single game performance by a Canadian ever in international play.

I shit you not. Although after two periods actually he has been just okay. It is in the third that he seizes the moment.

Here are the numbers:

Corsi - ES 60-54, PP 8-1, SH 0-13, Total 68-68 Much like the majority of games in the series the Canadians have a slight edge in corsi at ES but their overall numbers are even due to the speical teams results, in most other games the overall Corsi was in the red for them because of special teams.

Scoring Chances - ES 29-15, PP 3-1, SH 0-5, Total 32-21

The exact same total in chances as game one but they arrive at it differently. Game one saw a breakdown as follows: ES 22-16, PP 10-3, SH 0-2

So here we see that while this game follows the pattern that hurt Canada early on (high chances for both teams) it also echoes the successes they have had - its at ES that they dominate, outchancing the Russians by almost two to one.

The game is, for lack of a better word, wacky. Sinden, for the first time in the Series, does not start with the Clarke line. (Indeed Clarke's line starts nearly every period in the series). Instead its Esposito and believe me, if you look at the event log you can see that this sucker's theme is All Espo All The Time, or at least most of the time. A minute in and the Russians have already had a shot on net plus they have missed once and had another blocked. The shifts are quick, Ratelle comes out and two more Russian shots are blocked and then White, employing the same strategy as game seven, goes after the puck carrier in the neutral zone. He loses a step, gets his stick in there, the Russian leaves his feet and its two minutes. Its a dive, sure, but White is deserving of a call. Seconds later as a Russian carries the puck out of his zone, Pete Mahovlich gets his arm around him, they both go down and now the Russians are up two men.

Esposito is the forward on the PK, along with Bergman and Park. The Russians smell blood, they hit the post, the puck bounces out to an uncovered man and its into the net.

There was controversy before the game about the refs. They are poor, out of their depth, and in game six the Canadians had a steady parade to the box, thirty one minutes to four in total. Of course most of this was deserved. Before game eight there are threats of withdrawal and Eagleson is involved and at this point the Canadians are clearly distracted by all of the hubbub. The Russians take their own ticky tack penalty and then Parise gets his stick out and his man tumbles over it and an arm goes up and we get to witness an unbelievable meltdown as Parise rushes at the ref with his stick raised, bringing it down within inches of the official.

He gets the toss and the Canadians are off the rails. Frank Mahovlich rants at the officials, Eagleson shouts from the bench (what the fuck is he doing there anyways?) and in the midst of the chaos the camera keeps panning back to Esposito talking with the ref. Earlier in the tournament Esposito was often out of control, taking bad penalties, barking at the refs, making throat slashing gestures. Here he is calm. Perhaps he is resigned. He nods quietly, his heavy lidded eyes almost sleepy, his shock of black hair, his massive head.

And then he steps back on the ice with Savard and Lapointe and kills half of the four on three, when he leaves the ice (at this point Clarke has not even been on yet!) Frank Mahovlich finsihes the job.

When the teams finally get back to evens Clarke, Ellis and Henderson finally hit the ice, amazingly this is their first shift, they draw a penalty immediately and then Clarke comes off and Esposito comes back on. He has a chance and then another and the game is even.

The remainder of the first period is choppy. The Canadians roll through their lines, with Ratelle's group getting double shifted. Frank Mahovlich moves up into Parise's spot so that the line which was dominant in game one is back together again. Tretiak stops nice chances from Cournoyer, who is flying, and Gilbert, who is creating havoc for the Soviets. Then things begin to break down again. Ellis takes a penalty and seconds later Petrov takes his second of the game to even it up. Dryden turns aside a couple of Russian thrusts but with Cournoyer in the box he allows a long, albeit hard, shot from the point to beat him.

This has been where the Russians have had a ton of success this series. Its the completely modern powerplay, get it back to the point and pound it at the net. In game four they scored both power play goals this way, on deflections. Its effective, especially against Dryden who looks awkward when the puck is along the ice.

Its back to evens and the Canadians again roll through their lines once and the ice begins to tilt in favour of them. The push ends with Park scoring on a beautiful give and go with Ratelle to tie it up. The first ends ith Russians having possession in the Canadian zone but nothing coming out of it, with only a failed wraparound even remotely dangerous. In the last two shifts the Russians lob pucks at Dryden from long range, he makes a half dozen saves, none of them are particularly dangerous.

The second begins with a bad bit of luck for Canada, a Russian shot misses and bounces off of the netting behind the net (its still in play in this case) and back in front of the Canadian net. Dryden is surprised although he does try and swat it away. It bounds over the sticks of the defence and lands right on a Russian stick. Back of the net.

After this there is an extended period of 5 on 5 hockey, the longest of the game, nearly the entire second period. Each team stands the other up at the blue so there are stretches, entire shifts actually, where nothing happens but the Canadians soon begin to take control. Immediately after the goal Tretiak stops both Clarke and Ellis, who have just taken an awfully undeserved minus, and for the longest time the Russians just hang on. Esposito and Cournoyer both have chances but its the Ratelle line that is most dangerous with Gilbert again driving the results by my eye. Tretiak stops him twice from in close and then on their next shift they get control in the Russian zone and Gilbert threads a seeing eye pass to Bill White who sneaks in from the point for the tap in. Tie game.

And here Sinden decides, I guess, to go with the hot hands. He leaves Ratelle and Gilbert out along with White and Stapleton, Pete Mahovlich replaces Hull. It almost pays off. They charge back down the ice, Ratelle gets close in and his shot is blocked and then Tretiak stops Gilbert twice again. The wingers get off but Ratelle and the D are stuck and when the tired centre coughs it up the Russians head up ice on a two on one, only a fantastic save by Dryden keeps it even. Its moot anyhow as Esposito loses the draw and Park inexplicably leaves his man wide open right in front of the net. The Russians are up one again.

And its here that things almost collapse for the Canadians. Esposito's line stays out and then Sinden goes with Clarke and then back to Esposito. The Russians apply the pressure although as usual little comes of it until a Russian miss leaves Dryden swimming out of position. Twice the Russians try and stuff it into the wide open cage. Twice the puck hits Esposito's skates as he makes a goalline stand.

Out comes Ratelle and the puck gets moving the right away and Gilbert misses the net from in close. It looks like a Canadian push is coming again but then Stapleton takes a penalty and it only takes a moment and the Russians score their third power play goal of the game.

The second ends with Canada in deep shit. They have the man advantage but they are down two and before their own power play Dryden is forced to turn away another good Russian chance. He spends the next little while doing his best Grant Fuhr impression. He may have allowed five goals, one of them shitty, but he'll be damned is he'll give up a half dozen! ;)

At the end of two the game is still in doubt but the Russian powerplay and Tretiak have been the difference. The Canadians have now outchanced the Russians 21-17 overall. With inferior goaltending its not a recipe for success really. Having said that they have the decided edge at evens and with the majority of the period having been played that way they must hope that the third will bring more of the same.

The third becomes the Esposito show. The Ratelle line has both goals at evens so far and they have been most successful of the Canadian lines. Clarke's line is a nonfactor offensively as they just try and hold their matchup in check. Their have been signs from the Esposito line, especially from Cournoyer who has been dangerous, but really overall they have been ineffective.

This changes in the third. I'm not sure if Sinden just figures that if he's going down he's going down with his guy or what the story is but Esposito barely leaves the ice in the third. The results speak for themselves of course. He scores one and sets up the other two and barely gives the Russians a sniff the other way. Its a tremendous period. His Corsi numbers - 18 to 5. His scoring chance numbers - 11 to 1, although five of those actually come in one sequence.

11 to 1. Over the top.

The Canadians come out hard and they come out gambling and the Russians get three chances to increase their lead as the Canadian D pinch. The first shift of the period Dryden stops a good chance and Clarke and Ellis move the puck the right way and its Peter Mahovlich, who has replaced his older brother on the Esposito line, who digs the puck out of the corner and feeds Esposito in front. The Canadians are within one.

The next shift ends in a bizarre incident as Gilbert ends up fighting a Russian. He bloodies him but good but he is gone for five minutes and it seems to effectively take his line out of the game. Fighting majors mean 4 on 4 hockey and the Russians come on momentarily, getting another chance to score and then when they go down a man they still take advantage of a Canadian gamble to almost score again. Its almost the last sniff they will get as Canada tightens the clamps.

From then on its all Canada, 4 on 3, 4 on 4 and then 5 on 5 again, it doesn't matter. They aren't swarming the Russian net but they are controlling the play and while often the Russians blunt their attacks and keep them to the outside it seems inevitable that what happens next will happen. Just past the halfway point of the period Esposito's line comes out for a defensive zone draw. They get the puck up ice and Esposito charges the net. Tretiak makes the save from in close and the puck pops into the air, Esposito bats it just wide. He retrieves the rebound from behind the net and bulls to the front. Cournoyer shoots and Tretiak sprawls to save it, Esposito bats at the rebound, another save, and then Cournoyer flips it by the fallen netminder.

Tie game.

From there the Clarke line absorbs some pressure and the Russians miss the net from in close. The Ratelle line comes out for only their second shift five on five since Gilbert's penalty. It lasts just seconds as Hull and Petrov (his third penalty) take coincidentals with just over four minutes left.

Esposito plays nearly the entire four on four. It is the Canadians who press and it is Gary Bergman, who would have been the most unlikely hero, who has the golden chance to score. With it back to evens and just under two minutes left Dryden makes a save and there is a draw in the Canadian zone. Off comes the Clarke line. Out comes Esposito along with Savard and Lapointe on D. Its scrambly, another draw in front of Dryden. And then the sequence that leads to the goal. Its the goal that everyone remembers but what leads to the goal should be required teaching at every level of hockey and is a demonstration of how doing the little things right wins hockey games and why a guy like Joffrey Lupul, for example, who does none of the little things, is a crappy hockey player. Its simple shit, just pressure and being where you are supposed to be and going hard.

Watch the tape if you have it. The puck skitters into the Russian zone and a defenceman gathers it and suddenly here is Peter Mahovlich, coming hard with pressure and the Russian has no choice but to fire it up to his left wing. And that man has not a second because here is Cournoyer, right where he is supposed to be and his check has to dump it up the boards where Savard collects it at the blue. Over to Lapointe it goes and he flips it crossice back to Cournoyer who is absolutely where he has to be. At this point the D change it up for White and Stapleton and Mahovlich peels off for Henderson who leaps onto the ice just as Cournoyer dumps it in.

The Russian defenceman again is under almost immediate pressure, this time from Esposito, he uses the Steve Staios technique and rings it around the boards to where Cournoyer waits. And here is where the famous Hewitt call begins.

Cournoyer fires it in front to where Henderson, rushing in, takes "a wild stab at it", misses and falling, slides into the boards. A Russian gathers it and turns and there is Esposito, again, who relieves the Soviet of the puck and chips it at the net.

Henderson is all alone. You know what happens next.
The numbers for this game are interesting. Savard and Lapointe get a lot of work with the Clarke line and the end result is that their numbers take a hit. Its the usual for Clarke and Ellis, some heavier lifting and as a result they are in their end a lot but the scoring chances are even and the only goal they give up is the fluke bounce off the netting.
The Ratelle line comes up roses again. Hull takes a seat at times for Peter Mahovlich but through two periods these guys are the shit. Two goals for and dynamite numbers in Corsi and SC but they get the shaft in the third, partially because Gilbert sits for five. With thirteen minutes at ES to divvy up they don't see much ice, Sinden goes Esposito and Clarke the majority of the rest of the way. Its hard to argue with the end result but its an odd move imo, to sit down your most effective line.
Because for the first two periods they are. Esposito's line is in the red across the board (Corsi and SC) but of course their third is just dynamite. Numbers are skewed by the Cournoyer goal sequence when they count five scoring chances (!) within seconds but there is no doubt that they turn it around. Notable is that this occurs when Peter replaces Frank as the Mahovlich on the left wing. It is Peter who sets up Esposito for the fourth goal and there is no doubt that his numbers sparkle. 13-3 in scoring chances. Pretty fair. Frank rides the pine after an early shift in the third.
On the back end Park and Bergman are excellent, only two SC against at ES, although one ends up in the net when Park blows his coverage on a draw. Still, an outstanding night. And White and Stapleton have a good night again. White scores and they take the ice at the end, showing Sinden's faith in them. A little more high event than normal when it comes to giving up chances but they are in the black again and it seems that whenever the Canadians score they are the guys on the ice. Especially impressive considering Stapleton has a bad wheel.
Going to wrap this up in the next week or so with another post or two where we'll look at totals for the Series and try and come up with some conclusions. I hope that you have enjoyed reading these posts as much as I have enjoyed writing them up. Thanks again to Colin, Julian and Ellen for their work along the boards and in the corners, their help was immeasurable.

Friday, September 17, 2010

What The Hell Is This?

One more game and then we'll wrap up our little project on ol' 72. Should have it up at the beginning of next week and then a couple of wrapup posts. I hope everyone had enjoyed reading it as much as we have enjoyed putting it together.

Its been a terrific summer, the weather just fantastic, so fantastic indeed that the sudden appearance of cooler days just recently has taken everyone a little bit aback here. After over four months of gorgeous sunshine and warm days a little bit of wind and rain has thrown us all off. Its nice though, certainly perfect weather to sleep in, and soon the leaves will turn. First Capsule game this Sunday and Oilers' training camp opening, autumn is almost here.

It was in July that I went to the doctor for my checkup. I'd say annual but at this point I'm going every two years, not annually, but still its a lot better than my record of old. I didn't have an appointment between the ages of eighteen and thirty three and then again for five years. And if you think that's bad you should check out my dental record.

Of course when you're young those annual physicals aren't really necessary, you're in the best shape that you will ever be in but when age starts to creep up on you well then you have to bite the bullet and get in there.

My doctor is awesome, except for the fact that he has pretty big hands. He is South African and if I were king of the world every doctor would have a South African accent. So reassuring and, well, just intelligent sounding. That's the thing about accents, you can have buddy and he's a half cut yob and because he speaks with a slight lilt or brogue he sounds like he has stepped right out of a lecture hall at Oxford. Meanwhile you have a brain surgeon from Alabama and with that drawl he sounds like he should be asking you if you want fries with that except even then you wouldn't trust him not to plunge his coconut into the deep fryer.

Good news this year. At my last appointment I found that I had put on fifteen pounds in two years and believe me that was a wakeup call, because once you hit forty or so its a slippery slope, I have a few friends who have started beefing up and once that starts well you're in a world of shit I think. So I began to do the basic thing, the whole diet and exercise thing. Hell I love my beer and I love my bacon and sausage and cheeseburgers but I do an alright job and so just before buddy stuck his enormous finger up my ass he informed me in his wonderful and a little bit sexy accent that I had dropped seven of those pounds.

Not bad.

And everything else was right on track as well. So I headed out the door feeling pretty happy with myself, let me tell you, a little more spring in my step than the usual, grinning and there standing by the elevator is this little old fellow, he's got the cool shades and he's pretty happening himself and as I get up there he looks at me and says:

Well now, you look like a young man who's on top of the world, you know, you look like a young fellow who knows what's going on! Can I ask you a question?

And I reply, because at this moment I do feel just like that:

Absolutely, sure do, go ahead.

And so he points at his chest, jabs at it and says:

Can you tell me, what the hell is this?!!?

Now thing is he's one of these little old guys with the typical fit little old guy body, you know the type every fit little old guy around eighty has, the chicken legs and flat belly, the big arms and, well, the little boobs. My old man is seventy eight and he's getting there. You know what I'm talking about.

So buddy is jabbing himself in his left nipple and I'm thinking - poor old fucker, he's just realized he's got tits and he's freaking out. And I stutter and stumble and I say:

Um, er, sorry, what am I looking for here, sorry I'm confused a bit. (Because what the hell I am going to tell this old guy now? I mean, he has boobs! How do I confirm his suspicion?)

And he says:

The logo! The logo! (he's pretty well roaring, damn he has enthusiasm) My grandson gave me this shirt and I have no idea what this thing is, I'm afraid I'm walking around town with some goddamn obscenity on my chest!

Ahhh. So I take a look and inform your man that its an old postage stamp of sorts, English by the looks of the man with the handlebar moustache.

And that's that.

I was telling a girl I work with about this later and she said 'it sounds like you coming from the future to fuck with you now' and first of all I surely hope that if I make it that far that I'm an enthusiastic little dude just like that old fellow and of course if forty years from now and there's time travel I'm definitely coming back and fucking with people (so keep your head up fuckers!) amongst other things. Of course lets get one thing straight. If I grow boobs, you'll never see me. I'll be sitting on the couch playing with them. Happy days!


So as a guy who knows what's going on, at least in one crazy old man's opinion, what do I have to say about the Oilers and this upcoming season?

Well, there is going to be some fun. At the rookie camp this week we got an eyeful of Paajarvi and Hall and Eberle and its going to be exciting to watch these kids make their way this season, at least until one gets run from behind or kneed by some goon in preseason. :( Anyhow with these three and Omark and Hemsky back there is a lot of promise for some highlight reel plays and lots of firsts and of course we can also hope that down the road Hartkinen and Pitlick and Vande Velde and Roy and Petry and Plante (and hopefully others, may as well be greedy!) may also make the grade.

There are going to be setbacks and disappointments and some of these kids, even the highly touted ones, may never amount to much, but the Oilers have a nice crop of kids here (and I haven't mentioned Gagner and Cogliano and Brule and Peckham yet) and the future looks bright.

And its going to get brighter still because this club is going to be in the lottery again this season. As a fan I dream of Hemsky tearing it up and Horcoff scoring thirty five and Gagner and Cogs and Brule all taking big steps and the rookies ripping through the league and the D being airtight and the Khabibulin being healthy and playing sixty games and reliving 2004 and the club making the playoffs and letting the Sharks know that soon, very soon, their time is coming.

But the truth is the goaltending is a disaster and the D is going to need Gilbert and Whitney to be a legitimate top pair (possible) and Smid and Foster to be a 3/4 (a lot less possible) plus up front they have three legitimate NHL veterans capable of playing tough opposition. No checkers, no penalty killers, nobody who can win a draw.

McKeens and THN has picked the Oilers to be dead last again. And McKeen's, iirc, have them finishing at least ten points behind everyone. I'm inclined to agree.


Still it is a rebuild after all. If you have a D where Jason Strudwick probably will end up playing a major role again (because guys are going to get hurt) and four goaltenders who will probably see action, none of whom look particularly great, then you aren't going anywhere.

Struds+ADD=Lottery And unless one of those clubs that we are, um, 'chasing', gets absolutely destroyed by injuries, then I am going to guess we may be looking at thirtieth place again.

Which means another young player to add to the mix for the future.

So here's hoping for a year where the kids take a collective step forward and, most importantly, stay healthy. I'd like to say we have more to look forward to but with this mess, especially on the back end, its going to be a long season.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

You Said You Didn't Give A Fuck About Hockey - Canada 4 USSR 3

Game seven. Could Canada improve on game six? Not likely, right? How do you beat holding the Russians to a total of two scoring chances at even strength? The answer is that you cannot. But they come pretty damn close.

Thanks to Julian and Ellen for their work on getting the totals together here, doing the grinding work along the boards and in front of the net so that I can pot the easy goal and get the glory and the big contract. ;) Faceoffs still to come, they have the data I just have to total it and get it up.

Sinden makes two lineup changes after game six. He goes back to Esposito in goal which of course makes us wonder why he put Dryden in for game six. If the reason he avoids Esposito in game six and eight is because of the 1971 playoffs then why go back to him in game seven? If you pulled 35 after game five because he lost then why change after Dryden gets the win? Its the right move - up until this point Esposito has been by far the better of the two. It just doesn't make any kind of sense.

A sidenote. And I will address this a little later as well. Especially with Dryden in net the Russians tend to shoot from everywhere. Vic was asking me in the last thread if the reason the Soviets had great corsi but not great scoring chance numbers was because they were passing up chances to score looking for the perfect play. I watched game eight afterwards with that in mind and counted two spots in the game where shooting might have been a better option than a pass and they chose to pass. So not much there. I'll go further into detail about this whole discrepancy and why I think its there but one reason is that the Russians put a lot of pucks on Dryden (and to a lesser extent Esposito). They shoot from everywhere and its clear why. Dryden lets a few goals in on shots from the blue. The shots are hard but in my beer league there is only one goalie who lets in those type of shots. We're talking about hard low shots with no screens. And Dryden just gets beat on them.

I don't count these as scoring chances although Conacher (the commentator) never takes Dryden to task and exclaims that these spots (just inside the blue) are prime scoring areas. I disagree and my rationale is a simple one. Esposito and Tretiak never even come close to getting beaten on this type of shot.

Anyhow Esposito goes back in. Great move although the first Russian goal is an iffy one. A slapshot from outside of the circles beats him fivehole, both Julian and i marked it as no chance in our notes. He rebounds to have a tremendous game after that.

The second move is crazy. Red Berenson was a huge part of the game six victory. He is the Canadians' best penalty killer, just fabulous. And he gets yanked for Bill Goldsworthy who had all of two shifts in game two and killed Canada in game four with two brutal penalties on his first two shifts, each of which resulted in a Russian goal.

The funny thing is that he is actually fine this game. We can finally see why he is a member of the team although he does not have much of an impact on the game. Considering that in the last two games the Russians score five power play goals and the Canadians went off the rails in game six when it comes to their discipline one thinks Berenson's presence might have made games seven and eight a little less close and one wonders what Sinden was thinking putting a loose cannon in the lineup in place of an ace PK man.

Strange shit.

As for the game itself well its more of the same of what we saw in game six. The Russians are essentially shut down at even strength again and we can see a pattern emerge. In games two, six and now seven the Canadians hold the Russians to a dozen or less scoring chances overall and seven or less at even strength. And they win all three games. The games are obviously tighter overall as the Canadians have less than twenty scoring chances themselves whereas in the other four contests they have thirty in three games and thirty two in the first game. And the Russians range in the low twenties for two, high twenties for one and high thirties for game five, the only game where the Canadians are outchanced.

Why the change? Well its having the right personnel of course and I think its a change in strategy as well. These days what the Canadians are doing would be called trapping. There are times that they send one man deep only and as the Russians come through the neutral zone they are usually faced with a Canadian wall at the blue with four, often five, men back or at least skating with their checks. And the Canadian D then stand them up at the line, as they say. Attack after attack is splintered this way. As the puck carrier comes over the red line he has no option to pass to and then suddenly a Canadian defenceman charges forward and wrecks everything. Usually the puck spins off and the Canadians get possession, often it just skitters back into the neutral zone. The most effective pairing at this tactic is Stapleton and White but all three pairs do this. Only once do they get burned by my count, in this game actually, as Park challenges the Russians on their powerplay, they slip it by him to Petrov who goes in alone and scores on the breakaway. Despite this the tactic is very effective and so the end result is that like games six and eight the Russians are forced to rely on their power play. They have success but not enough to emerge victorious.

One other note - game seven is chippy and there is a steady parade to the box and there is a lot of four on four play. Here the Russians dominate the Corsi as expected but once again they cannot make much happen. Its their downfall, especially galling when the winning goal is scored in this exact situation. There are six occasions in the game where the teams play four on four, two of these are very short but the last is the last four minutes of the game.

Here are the numbers:

I have divided up Corsi to included 4v4 because its such a big part of the game. The totals - 35-28 5v5, 6-18 4v4, 1-0 PP, 1-19 SH, overall 42-65. The Russians get over half of their events on their PP or at 4 on 4. At 5 on 5 they are in the red.

Scoring chances are as follows: 5v5 18-5, 4v4 1-2, PP 0-0, SH 0-5, total 19-12. Again over half of the chances come with the PP or 4 on 4. ES they get barely a sniff.

The big things to note are the disparities in special teams and the ES numbers. The Soviets outchance the Canadians hugely in special teams. They score two of their their three goals on the powerplay while the Canadians record one measly missed shot on their power play. Would Berenson have made a difference? Maybe. The Canadians run Esposito out a ton and he just gets hammered (although to be fair so does Mahovlich, of course this may be because he's playing with Esposito). Clarke and Ellis are the other PK options and they make out pretty well. I think its probably a reasonable assessment to say that Berenson gets better results than Esposito but it becomes pretty clear over the last two games that Sinden is going to ride big Phil until he drops. On the second Canadian goal Esposito is out for a long time and yet remains out for an offensive zone faceoff. It gets back to Savard who spins awy from his check (drawing a penalty) and then feeds Esposito in the slot for the tying goal. And then Esposito still remains out!

The story at ES is interesting because of all of the 4v4 play. At 5v5 the Canadians outchance the Soviets by almost four to one and they also hold the edge in Corsi. For the Soviets its not a good sign. At 4v4 however the Russians dominate, at least at Corsi, and so you see a lot of guys take hits. Not one Canadian is in the black in Corsi at 4 on 4 but for all of the Russian dominance (18-6 for them) they only garner two chances and give up the winner in the same situation.

The series is even and really what we saw earlier in the Series is being translated into results. The Canadians are outplaying the Russians. They have all series really. Now, however, the results are matching the numbers.

The score is close in this game but almost across the board the Canadians own the Russians at even strength. Sinden basically runs out five man units although not exclusively. The Clarke line goes out with Savard and Lapointe and generally get the tough matchup. Ratelle goes out with Stapleton and White. Esposito with Park and Bergman. Goldsworthy and Peter Mahovlich get quite a bit of ice time compared to spares in other games at ES, both spell wingers after penalty killing plus they get shifts with either Esposito or Clarke as their centre.

Goldsworthy's numbers are excellent and one can see why he is here. He is a more physical version of Hull and he is very effective. Good speed, gets the puck moving the right way. Still no idea why he gets in instead of Berenson especially when he gets yanked for game eight himself. Mahovlich has his best game at ES and this foreshadows his game eight where he will be called upon to play a much bigger role.

As mentioned earlier Esposito takes a big role in this game and we begin to see the Esposito we saw early in the series when he was dominant. Two goals and a nine to two scoring chance differential at 5v5, some of that with his regular linemates, Parise and Cournoyer, some of that with the spares. We saw him coming on a bit in game six but his good work there was nullified by his ridiculous lack of discipline. Here we begin to see the guy who will be the difference maker in the third period of game eight. On the PK I still don't like him and at 4v4 both the and Ratelle end up eating it Corsi wise, though they don't get burned. Strangely enough his numbers are better with the spares than with his regular linemates who have decent games but nothing spectacular.

The Ratelle line does what it does in game six. They are in the black five on five in Corsi and in scoring chances they don't give the Russians a sniff, all the while piling up their own chances and scoring another goal. In game six they did not allow a chance against 5v5 and had six to eight chances each. In this game they each have six chances for and none against.

That's quality. In game six Hull sparked the three goal outburst thanks to Gilbert who attacked the net with abandon. In this game Ratelle misses a gimme and then gets the puck to Gilbert who backhands it in to give the Canadians a shortlived lead in the third period. And in game eight they are in on two goals and provide the same type of game.

We remember Clarke's line and we remember Esposito of course but without the Ratelle line Canada never gets into this series. Its not a surprise of course. As mentioned early in another post Hull is absolute quality and Ratelle and Gilbert are hall of famers. Ratelle reminds me of Thornton quite a bit. Not all that fast but he's a wonderful stick handler and passer and he is a big man. It would be interesting to see him in a modern game playing within a system, playing the halfboard on the PP for example. He probably gets a little less icetime in this series than he deserves because of Esposito. With what he gets he plays almost perfectly at ES. As for Rod Gilbert I can't think of a comp at all. He's stocky and strong on his skates. He is a powerful and fast skater and has great hands. Excellent passer as well. He's also fearless driving the net and plays with a bit of an edge. He ends up in the box a few times, at least one of these being illadvised. I'll leave it to Bruce and LT to come up with possible comps. I think of guys like Verbeek (although he's not as nasty plus he's more skilled) or Ryan Smyth (although again he is quite a bit more skilled than old Smytty). What I do know is that he and his linemate from the Rangers, Ratelle, don't get the credit they deserve for their part in the Series' victory.

Two guys who get credit, White and Stapleton, are absolutely dynamite. Their numbers are out of this world. No scoring chances against at 5 on 5! Completely ridiculous and this is with Stapleton playing on a bad ankle. When these guys are on the ice good things happen and at the end of the game they get the call to finish it off.

And finally to the Clarke line. Low event for the most part and they do a lot of the four on four work and are the only Canadians who actually come out close to on top in that situation.

Henderson is famous for what he does in game eight but I think his game seven goal gets forgotten. Check it out on Youtube if you can find it. Its spectacular, if anything it outstrips Mahovlich's goal from game two. Four on four, just over two minutes left and a tie game and Savard lofts a backhand to Henderson streaking up his off wing. He is boxed in by Russians, he faces two defencemen and has the two forwards right behind him.

And his play is simple and beautiful, he slips the puck into the skates of the right defenceman and breaks around him. Henderson gets lucky, as the left defenceman pivots it hits his skate and squeaks out behind he and his partner. Henderson is all alone and dekes Tretiak out.

That's the game and the series is tied and going to the rubber match.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Was Sitting Beside You - Canada 3 USSR 2

Heading into the sixth game the Canadians are basically dead in the water. For nearly fifty minutes of game five they had been in good shape and the series was heading for a tie and then the Russians blew them out of the water. They now have no margin for error at all.

Difficult to say what Sinden is thinking at this time. Does he look at the five previous games and realize that his club has been better and that they just have gotten the short end of the stick? Certainly the truth is that the Russian explosion at the end of game five is the exception, not the rule, so perhaps Sinden figures that sooner or later shit is going to start going their way. Or maybe he figures that they are fucked. Even if they get the bounces now it may be too late. What are the chances that after four full games where they were better (albeit slightly at times)and a fifth game where they were the better club for fifty minutes they would be in the position that they are in? What are the chances that they can now run off three straight?

Sinden makes four changes to the lineup for game six. One is a no brainer, one makes sense, one is an odd choice which ends up looking like a stroke of genius and one makes no sense at all. This lineup ends up being what they run with for the last two games as well with the exception of an extra forward (it changes in each game) and the goaltending.

First of all Serge Savard is back. The famous line about Savard is that when he played Canada was unbeaten and when he did not they were winless and his return at least gives the Canadians a fighting chance. He is the best allround defenceman in this tournament for Canada, in my opinion, which is saying a lot considering that Brad Park is amongst his teammates (and Park is very good, there are a few times where he struggles in his own end though). Savard's return means that we see the end of poor Seiling who was the goat on the winner in game five and who, along with Awrey, got absolutely butchered in game one. Good defencemen but just not up to the task. Indeed when Stapleton is doubtful for game eight Sinden tags youngster Dale Tallon as his replacement. He'd seen enough.

So the D is the same as it was in games two and three.

Bergman-Park, Stapleton-White, Lapointe-Savard

Up front Sinden makes two changes. First Frank Mahovlich takes a seat. Its a stunning turn for a player who was the best Canadian in game one. He was effective in game two and then slowly his impact and numbers declined. In a comment thread Bruce McCurdy referred to Mahovlich being a basket case in Moscow, perhaps he can expand on that? Anyhow he is out and Dennis Hull, who played in game four, is in. Hull was meh in game four but his opposite number was Goldsworthy and Esposito, their usual centre, was pretty poor as well. Hull is fast and he gets in on the forecheck quickly and defensively he is passable so its not a terrible move. He certainly did not look out of place in game four. Sinden really has few options at this point. Hadfield has gone home and Mahovlich is on the bench and those are his top two wingers from game one.

As it turns out its a move that works out very very well. Dennis Hull was always in the shadow of his big brother but he was a fine player in his own right. We're not talking Keith Gretzky here. He's a guy who scored a lot of goals over his career with the Hawks.

The second forward move is an odd one but it actually ends up being one of the main reasons Canada is successful in this game. Out comes Gilbert Perreault and in goes Red Berenson who played minimal minutes as the fourth line centre in game one. A curious move, not so much the removal of Perreault, but the insertion of a guy who has not played in quite a while. I think that Sinden looked at the collapse in game five and decided he wanted a guy that he could throw out there who could take care of his own end. Even in the carnage of game one Berenson was pretty low event. That's all I've got but it turns out to quite possibly save the game for the Canadians. Berenson's reward? Well that's another tale.

The forwards are as follows:

Peter Mahovlich/Berenson

The final move is the biggest headscratcher of all. Maybe Sinden just wants to change shit up, maybe he sees something he doesn't like, maybe he wants to shake everyone up but in the first elimination game they face he goes with Dryden instead of Tony Esposito. Sinden's handling of the goalies confuses me. Its not a strict rotation. He goes with Esposito in 2 and 3. Its not a case of going with a guy who has just won a game because he goes back to Esposito after this game.

I just don't get it. Esposito wins game two and ties game three and is excellent in both and he is very very good in game five despite the comeback. Dryden was poor in game one and okay in game four. I don't get it. Having said that it does work out but its just an odd call to make, in my opinion.

This game is a masterpiece from the Canadian point of view with one caveat. Discipline is an enormous issue and it almost costs them the game. We're talking over the top stupid stupid shit, game seven is better but this problem arises again in the final game, most notably when Parise loses his shit. By the end of the game the Canadians have thirty one minutes in penalties while the Russians have a total of four. And you know what? The Canadians are full value for the mess they create. Clarke slashes Kharlamov (the famous slash) and gets a minor and a misconduct. Esposito, who is far better this game after two poor outings, takes a double minor when he runs at a Russian with his elbow up and then takes a major late in the second when he cuts Ragulin open with his stick. To compound matters (and perhaps demonstrating part of the root of the problem) John Ferguson takes a bench minor at this time, putting the Canadians two men down. Bergman takes an unnecessary minor. Hull gets two for a slash. Even the absolutely reliable Ron Ellis takes a bad penalty with time winding down to put the Canadians under the gun one last time.

One Russian goal comes on the PP. At even strength they are strangled. Two scoring chances total in the entire game. No scoring chances at all in the third even with almost five minutes on the power play. Actually the Canadian penalty killers outchance them in the third.

Its a tremendous performance despite the discipline issues. Everyone is in the black for scoring chances and of eleven penalty killers only three are in the red.

Crazy shit. Here are the numbers:

The totals for Corsi - ES 42-35, PP 1-0, SH 6-22, Total 49-57

The totals for scoring chances - ES 14-2 (!), PP 1-0, SH 4-3 Total 19-5

The totals for Faceoffs - at ES 13O, 23N, 17D, on the PP 2O, no others, SH no offensive, 8 neutral, 11 defensive, total 15 offensive zone, 31 neutral zone, 28 defensive zone.

Its a masterpiece at even strength. An absolute masterpiece. And even with seventeen minutes shorthanded the Canadians only allow three scoring chances against and have four themselves.

The game has a nice pace. The Canadian shifts are short, although as usual Esposito's line tends to stay out longer. Just over five minutes in and they have completed four shifts with Clarke's line already having two, so around a minute each for his line and Ratelle's, double that (!) for Esposito's one shift.

There are plenty of scrums or as Hewitt calls them, jam sessions, after the whistle and even guys like Ratelle and Gilbert are initiating these so its clear that the Canadian plan is to be aggressive. Kharlamov takes more abuse than anybody, getting shoved and poked constantly. He gives back though too, at one point punching Clarke.

Halfway through the first Mahovlich and Berenson get their first shift with Gilbert, its a good one but it ends with Bergman taking a needless tripping call. Canada will spend nearly the next seven minutes shorthanded as shortly after Bergman serves his penalty Esposito gets his double minor.

The PK starts with Berenson and Mahovlich in front of Park and Stapleton. Ellis replaces Mahovlich and then Esposito and Parise finish off the PK with White and Savard. Its an uneventful kill as the Russians fail to generate any real chances. A minute later Esposito tries to take a defenceman's head off with a high crosscheck and gets four minutes.

Berenson and Mahovlich start off with Savard and Lapointe and they set the tone for an outstanding effort. The Russians get four shots at the net and three are blocked, two by Berenson. Clarke and Ellis come on and then Mahovlich and Parise finish it off with Park and Bergman. The only scoring chance in four minutes? A dangerous shot by Mahovlich right near the end of the penalty.

Shortly after the Russians generate their first real chance and early in the second they get their second and final chance at even strength. Then Dryden gets beaten on a long shot that he should have.

Now the Canadians really start to push and here we see that finally it appears that Sinden has found the right mix. It is the third line that is the difference. Ratelle, Gilbert and Hull get the puck into the Russian zone and force a faceoff and Clarke's line comes on and the Russians take a penalty. The power play generates very little but when the penalty expires the Ratelle line comes out once again and ignites an explosion. Gilbert drives the net and generates four scoring chances as the Russians cannot contain him or get a hold of the puck. His first shot is blocked and then Tretiak makes two point blank saves on Gilbert before Hull bats a rebound out of the air and into the net. The game is tied.

(This is also a sequence that skews the numbers for this line and for White and Stapleton slightly. All five are full value for the numbers they put up but four scoring chances in ten seconds will help you out there. ;) )

Then Mahovlich and Berenson come out along with Cournoyer. They push the puck down the ice and create a scoring chance, the Russians come back down the ice and then at the end of the shift, just over a minute after Hull scores Cournoyer puts Canada in the lead on a feed from Berenson.

And then fifteen seconds later Henderson steps over the blueline and shoots one that Tretiak must not see through his defender. It ends up in the net. I call this one a Dryden special. Its a goal but I can't say its a chance.

So in a minute and twenty three seconds the Canadians score three goals and take control of the game on the scoresheet.

And then it nearly goes off the rails. It doesn't, thanks to Berenson, Mahovlich, Savard and Lapointe, Park and Bergman and Jean Ratelle. But the Series is in the balance over the next fifteen minutes, give or take.

The intensity rachets up and Lapointe and Vasiliev go off with coincidentals. In the four on four Clarke breaks Kharlamov's ankle. He gets a minor and a misconduct for his troubles. Berenson, Mahovlich, Stapleton and White kill the penalty. Berenson blocks two more shots and generates the only chance in the two minutes.

For the next five minutes things are fine as the Canadians begin to trap the shit out of the Russians. Even Cournoyer is dumping it deep and Esposito (!) stays high as they forecheck and cycle. With Clarke in the box Berenson takes his spot with Ellis and Henderson. Things are going swimmingly and then Hull takes two for a slash. They drop the puck, Esposito loses the draw and its in the net nine seconds later.

And now the Canadians become totally unglued. Esposito rakes Ragulin and cuts him open and gets a major, Ferguson goes apeshit on the bench and earns them another two.

Now they are down two men for two minutes, down one man for five. Just over two minutes left in the second.

Out come Mahovlich, Bergman and Park. Mahovlich wins two draws and keeps the Russians in the neutral zone for a short time before they come pouring in. They get their shot and miss the net and they will never generate another scoring chance in the game.

In the entire game.

With a draw in the Canadian zone and Mahovlich gassed Sinden cannot send Clarke out as he is still in the box. So its Jean Ratelle who get the call and he and Bergman and Park kill off the remainder of the five on three and the period.

To start the third its Berenson and Mahovlich with Savard and Lapointe. The Russians barely get a sniff over the next three minutes. Savard and Lapointe don't leave the ice and Savard is brilliant, at one point skating the puck through three Russians unscathed. Again Berenson generates the one scoring chance in the entire three minutes.

The remainder of the third the Russians do little. Here and there they press but they cannot break through the Canadian checks. The Canadians get on and off the ice quickly, their shifts don't break a minute. Halfway through the third Mahovlich replaces Hull on the Ratelle line. The Russians are shut down. The only quibble with the Canadian performance? Their failure to add to their lead. Again Tretiak does not allow them to add to their total and as a result the Russians are always a goal away.

With just over two minutes left Ellis takes a bad penalty at the Canadian blueline. Mahovlich and Clarke go over the boards with Savard and Lapointe. Mahovlich gets the only chance and then Parise and Esposito replace he and Clarke. The buzzer sounds and its over. Nothing doing for the Russians.

For Sinden it appears that he has found the proper mix for sure. On the blueline all three pairs contribute but its a sign of the Canadian strength that the pair that he leaned on early in the Series, Park and Bergman, are now relied on a little less. They do get the five on three duty but its Savard and Lapointe who get the PK minutes in the third, including at the end of the game. As for Stapleton and White they have gone from being sheltered slightly to also getting heavy minutes and their results are outstanding, even if you factor in the Gilbert flurry that skews them slightly.

For all three pairs the game is fantastic really. Its a tribute to their work and that of the forwards as well that while the Russians spend plenty of time in the Canadian zone (Savard and Lapointe's Corsis are in the red, Bergman and Park barely in the black) they don't generate anything in the way of scoring chances. Bergman and Park are not for one chance against at evens. The Soviets can't break down the Canadian defence and are left to lobbing pucks at Dryden from the perimeter (sometimes not a bad idea - the first goal is a long shot which I did not rate as a chance).

Dryden is left with little work. The Russians have five scoring chances in total. They score on one of them.

Up front Sinden has hit it out of the park. His two extra forwards fill in when needed and when they run out on a regular shift with a third they are just fine, even scoring a goal. And of course their work on the PK saves the game and likely the series. Berenson, for all of his work on the PK, is on for two chances for and none against. Unbelievable. And he's full value for it too.

So what does Sinden do for the next game? He runs out the same lineup with one exception. On a club that has absolutely terrible discipline he replaces Berenson with, wait for it, Bill Goldsworthy.

A true what the fuck moment.

The reminder of the lines are finally set. Of course the Clarke line does its usual work. They shut the Russians down, move the puck the right way, Henderson scores his first of three consecutive game winners and Clarke knocks the best Russian player out of the Series. All in all a good night's work.

Esposito takes two absolutely ridiculous penalties and he's still not the force he was early in the Series but he is better. Cournoyer is a good fit, although the little guy actually scores his goal on a shift with Berenson and Mahovlich. He is not afraid to join Parise in the board work to get Esposito the puck but of course he is an offensive threat himself, a very dangerous one. The Russians respect his speed and so as they back off the Canadians are able to gain the zone and generate chances. With a skill guy on his wing Esposito has someone to work with and the results will come in the last two games.

And with Ratelle, Gilbert and Hull Sinden finally has a third line to work with. He shows that he does not completely trust Hull with his third period move but the 5 on 3 Ratelle move shows that the big centre, so poor in game one, has become a go to guy, as one would expect from one of the greats of the game. The line hovers around even for Corsi, as most of the Canadians do, but they shut the Russians out when it comes to chances and even with the four chance flurry skewing their 'for' numbers, they are still absolutely terrific. Ratelle finishes at eight and oh at even strength. You cannot ask for much more than that.

So the Canadians have life thanks to a game where they strangled the life out of the Russians. Next, game seven goes down to the wire and looks in doubt until Paul Henderson scores a goal that, while not as famous as his game eight goal, is one of the most brilliant individual efforts I have ever seen.
Also a quick note as well, check out Colin (aka Mr D.) and the site he set up - the link is at the right, the Summit Project, he has his work there as well as a few more posts. Great stuff.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

And All I Could Think About - USSR 5 Canada 4

Game one in Russia. The traditional narrative has Canada limping into Moscow, badly outplayed, embarrassed by the Soviets. The reality is that Canada deserved better on their home ice. They won game two by basically shutting down the Soviets, holding them to an even dozen scoring chances. Game three, the tie, was their best game as they outchanced the Soviets at ES by a three to two margin, a margin that they also had in overall chances in game one. Obviously you have to play the games but its no stretch to say that they deserved all three games and in game four, where they are booed off the ice, the Soviets close the gap but in the end the Canadians still outchance them by the slightest of margins.

It doesn't matter of course. The Soviets have had better goaltending in the two Dryden games, they have had slightly better luck and the Canadians have had a penchant for getting hurt when they make glaring mistakes and also when they take very long shifts. So while the traditional narrative is incorrect the fact remains that the Canadians are down in the Series when it heads overseas.

Colin (aka Mr Debakey) did the work on this one again and we will start with his take on the game.

The first thing one notices when watching Game 5 of the 72 Summit Series is how far satellite technology has come since 1972. The damn picture is constantly breaking up – more than once leaving your intrepid shot counter to guess as to what exactly happened.

Team Canada instituted major changes for the Moscow half the Series. The 37-man roster was essentially chopped by 40%. A core group [selected during the try-out phase in 4 major Canadian cities] practiced together, and supplied the starting line-up for each game.

Harry Sinden chose to leave Option 3 behind on the hippie-strewn streets of Vancouver. The Game 5 roster reverted to three lines, two extra forwards and three defense pairs:

Parise – Esposito - Gilbert
Henderson – Clarke – Ellis
Mahovlich – Ratelle- Cournoyer
Pete Mahovlich, Perreault

Park – Bergman
Stapleton – White
Seiling – Lapointe


If Game 4 was a melee, Game 5 was a series of set pieces. There was very little changing on the fly; I'm guessing because the benches were an extra 12 feet away [4 meters children].

Canada had last change and Sinden matched hard.

Clarke against Maltsev every time.

Esposito against Shadrin and Ratelle facing Petrov as much as possible.

I don't think Sinden cared where the face-off was. He wanted match-ups.

The Clarke line killed the Maltsev line; Henderson with two goals and Clarke with one.

Additionally, Ellis, Clarke & Henderson were the only Canadian forwards with a positive ES Corsi.

The Defense pair of Seiling & Lapointe were also +1. They were Plus-4 when playing behind the Clarkes [about half the time], Minus-3 with the rest.
Brad Park was +1 too.

The Clarkes were on for two goals against. On the Soviet's 2nd goal, they got caught on a long shift. The Soviets changed, but only Clarke got off for Canada. Esposito absorbed a GA skating with a tired quartet.

On the USSR's 5th and winning goal, Seiling got beat along the boards, allowing Vikulov a free shot at Tony Esposito. This was Seiling's last shift in the Series.

The only skaters not on the ice for an ESGA were the two extra forwards, Perreault and Mahovlich.

I should say something about Henderson [in the red helmet], two goals in this game. A bucket of game winners in the series. When you break it down though, that 28% shooting percentage was just the icing on the cake. His speed drove the Soviets crazy. His anticipation broke up their attacks. And he did the same thing in 1974 during the 2nd Canada-Soviet Series. The man was made for international hockey.

The referees in this game, Czechoslovakia’s Rudolph Batja and Swede Uve Dalberg, were excellent. The Game 4 zebras were good too. Legend has it Game 6 was different. There was an incident where a Soviet forward spears Cournoyer. A furious Cournoyer begins swinging his stick machete style at the Commie’s ankles [happily, the puck was down there too]. The referee lets play continue.

Team Canada had a flock of kids on the original 37-man roster: Perreault, Tallon, Dionne, Martin and Guevremont. Only Pereault saw any game action – and only in Games 4 & 5. He was Plus 2 in the two games – a Goal and an Assist. His territorial measures were fine. His pizzazz levels were excellent.
These kids’ ice time was doomed when Canada lost the first game. Coach’s fondness for veterans was probably stronger then than it is today.

Black Dog discussed shift length in an earlier post. He’s just like Foster Hewitt! Even though the shifts were ridiculously long by today's standards, Hewitt can’t help commenting on the frequent line changes.

Hewitt, was in the final years of an illustrious career. In addition to short shifts remarks, he thought it necessary to remind us regularly that when a team is killing a penalty, icing the puck is “what they're allowed to do”.

I think the icing rule was put in place in 1939.

The best comment, though, comes from Hewitt's sidekick, Brian Conacher. Our Boys had played a couple of “Unfriendlies” against the Tre Kroner in Stockholm between Games 4 & 5. Now, on to Moscow. A Soviet player is slow to get up after being smoked by a Team Canadian. Conacher is sure the Soviet is milking it and snorts “You'd think he's a Swede...”.

The Moscow games were telecast early afternoons in Edmonton. We headed back to class that weekday afternoon with Canada leading 4 – 1 confident that Our Boys had their 2nd win of the series.

I can't remember my exact words when I heard the final score, but I'm sure at least two of them were “no” and “way”.

And, finally, Vive le Quebec in 72 - Yvan Cournoyer, Serge Savard, Guy Lapointe, Jean Ratelle, Gilbert Pereault, J. P. Parise, Rod Gilbert, Marcel Dionne, Richard Martin, Jocelyn Guevremont.
Plus Jacques Laperriere, Jacques Lemaire, Jean Pronovost, Carol Vadnais and Guy Lafleur….


Lets start with Colin's numbers first, ok. First his detailed event log and then the breakdown by player at ES, Canada PP, USSR PP, 4v4, and finally the totals. And then my charts giving a simple breakdown by player for Corsi and scoring chances.

So Corsi is relatively even, as it has been all series. ES is 64-68, PP is 8-1, SH is 0-9 for a total 72-78

Scoring chances is where things have turned. ES is 26-36. PP is 4-0. SH is 0-1 so a total of 30-37.

This game takes everything that has happened and turns it on its head and by the end of it if you are a fan of Canada you have to figure that its over. For almost fifty minutes the game is much like the previous games. Its even for the most part with the Canadians probably owning a slight edge. Strangely enough Sinden says in an interview years later that this and game two were their best of the Series. Can't see it. And Conacher calls the Canadian performance dominant after two periods. Again I can't agree with that. They are the better team but its not a three nothing game. The Canadian have had some luck. On Clarke's goal a referee inadvertently picks the Soviet defender and Clarke gets a step on him and scores. On the third goal Lapointe's shot caroms off of a defenceman right onto Henderson's stick. Slam dunk.

Having said that its a quality performance, reminiscent of games two and three. With Esposito in net the Soviet chances are turned aside with relative ease. As they say today the Canadians are taking away the Russians' time and space. Once again what kills them is their failure to capitalize on their chances. Up three to nothing and then again four to one they miss some glorious attempts and it costs them when the Soviets become their comeback.

There are a couple of old bugaboos that kill them. Again. Up 3-0 Stapleton gambles at the Russian blueline, trying to intercept a pass. No need to do so but as discussed earlier that's what you get with him. The end result is a two on one and Tony Esposito gambles himself, challenging the shooter who freezes him and slides it into the empty net. Henderson scores his second of the game to establish the three goal lead again and the Canadians continue to come on. They aren't sitting back, they are breaking up the Russian attacks at the blue and counterattacking. Things are looking very good.

Nearly halfway through the third the Russians come hard and the Clarke line with White and Stapleton weather the pressure. They get the puck out and Henderson has it at the Russian blue. Its a long shift. Instead of getting it deep though he carries it in. Clarke goes off but nobody else does. The Russians counterattack, the Canadians get running around, and suddenly its four to two. Eight seconds later Esposito and Park let Shadrin walk in and its a one goal game.

Esposito has now been on for two goals against in eight seconds. His line stays on and before he finally hits the bench the Russians have various chances to tie it. Inevitably they do when in a four on four (the third of the game) they score on a deflection.

Its a collapse and when Ratelle gets in all alone and Tretiak gets enough of it to deflect it off of the post we know what's coming. Tony Esposito makes a huge save. Seconds later Seiling gets beaten from the circle and the Russians nearly score again. Seconds after that Seiling gets beaten again and this time Esposito gets beaten too. Its over.

For Canada its a disaster. They deserve better but they now have no margin for error in the series. A three goal lead with just over ten minutes left, their best goaltender, their best roster (only Savard and Hull are missing from the core of the team that plays in game five) and they are not only beaten but end up having the first game of the series where they actually are outchanced, and badly at that.

The carnage is widespread. The normally reliable Park and Bergman are bloodied. White and Stapleton end up as a plus in scoring chances but Stapleton's gaffe is his second in as many games. Lapointe is in the red as well but of course his partner is out of his depth.

Up front the Clarke line is fantastic and Perreault and Mahovlich do their jobs in limited action. Cournoyer is flying, foreshadowing of the larger role he will play, and Ratelle is decent, at one point charging back to take away a dangerous odd man rush but Frank Mahovlich looks slow and the Big M, so dominant in Montreal, will sit out the next two games. The killer however is Esposito and his wingers. Parise scores but there isn't a fit here with Gilbert and Esposito, a dominant presence in Canada, is a disaster.

It looks grim. But Savard returns, Sinden finally finds the right mix and the results are spectacular for game six. Stay tuned. ;)