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.


Lowetide said...

re: Dryden vs. Esposito. I hate it when old timey guys say "you had to be there" but in this case there was just so much in terms of "prevailing wisdom" that has been washed away like a twig on the shoulders of a mighty stream. (thanks John Candy, we miss you).

Dryden beat down the best offensive team in history at that point (spring '71) and then marched right through to the Stanley. He was amazing. Historic. I can understand that the coaching staff kept thinking Dryden would play better (and he was awful iirc).

The other side of it is Esposito. The years have faded and you probably can't find 10 people alive who would own up to it, but Tony O's butterfly style was untrusted at the time. Sam Pollock, the most frugal man in history when it came to separating talent from the Montreal Candiens, let him go for zero.

Tony Esposito had 15 shutouts as a rookie (I think that's right). If I look long enough in my collection of old magazines and such I'd bet there's a phrase about "luck" and the "Hawks defense".

Tony O played a lot of his career terribly underrated.

Lowetide said...

Neglected to say thanks for the entire series. Outstanding work, some items look the same, many others have changed because of the great work here.


Bruce said...

Ditto on the thanks, both to you and your teammates, Pat. What a wonderful series ... and the games were pretty good too. :)

My own memories of Game 8 include a few things not mentioned here -- a terrific refereeing controversy that jeopardized the playing of the games, which ended with a compromise in one of "their" referees (Josef Kompalla, a.k.a. "Worse") and one of "ours" (Rudy Bata, not to be confused with Franz Baader), who was at least seen as being neutral. In the end he more or less neutralized Kompalla, who made virtually all of the penalty calls against Canada, including the one that prompted the JP Parise meltdown. It was Bata who made a couple of even-up calls which prevented things from going off the rails even worse than that.

Then of course there was the near-arrest of Alan Eagleson when there was a delay in turning on the goal light after Cournoyer's tying goal. Pete Mahovlich led the charge of Canadian players who rescued Eagleson (unfortunately!) from the clutches of the local constabulary, leading him across the ice to the Canadian bench with a famous show of middle fingers and an absolute chorus of whistles, all of them deserved.

One funky little thing that sticks with me was Pete Mahovlich (again) getting the players together in a little huddle prior to the faceoff that led to the Henderson goal. Funny that it was Pete who took the early line change when Henderson called him off the ice and jumped out without his usual linemates. I guess when you're feeling it, you gotta go with it.

Good call on the (Phil) Esposito goal line stand and that weird goal that sproinged off the screen into the slot and on Bill White's beauty back door play and especially on Espo's third period performance which may be the greatest "clutch" display I've ever seen. The stakes have never been higher, for sure.

Black Dog said...

Thanks LT.

Actually I remember the whole butterfly goaltender thing - the description of how when the goalie went down he was vulnerable to getting beat five hole.

And twice in the series he does, on the first shortie in G3 when Petrov beats him and then in G7 on the one goal which is a bit of a stinker.

But yes I do remember that - how his method was 'questioned'.

And I do understand the whole Dryden thing. The ultimate 'saw him good' but really he was pretty poor. It worked out but if it didn't ....

Black Dog said...

Thanks Bruce

I didn't mention the Eagleson incident but yeah that was bizarre. The Ugly Canadian - he and two lackeys, a little weasel with the usual thick rimmed glasses and a big tubby guy in a red tracksuit and greasy long hair, all three of them giving the finger to the crowd.

Pretty brutal. For the most part the facepalm moments in the Series definitely belonged to our side. Different times of course but there's some pretty odd shit happening.

Thanks for the info on the ref Bruce, I wasn't aware of that. It was pretty reasonably officiated. The first three Canadian calls were legitimate I think, I mean you could argue that they were a little ticky tack I guess but I had no issue with any of them. And the Canadian players adjusted quickly as soon as they saw that if they got a stick out or an arm around a guy that it would be called. Certainly adjusted better than in game six.

spOILer said...

Freakin wonderful, the whole series, Pat. If we are ever in the same bar, you drink for free.

Vic Ferrari said...

It's all just been crazy good, folks. Huge props to yourself, Colin, Ellen and Julian. Wonderful stuff.

I was five years old when this series was played, and have no direct memory of it. The thoughts I did have about this series were mostly planted in my head by my oldest brother (I have three older brothers, but he was always one to pay attention, he was a pretty good player, too).

Funny the things that stick with you. I remember him saying that while the Canadian players may have been assholes, at least they played with their hearts on their sleeves. The Russians, according to him ... they were a bunch of indistinguishable, soulless, emotionless robots.

Perhaps it was because he was unfamiliar with the individual Soviet players. Perhaps because they all had the same haircut and wore the same helmut. I don't know.

That stuck with me, though, and in a crazy way. Years later I'd say to myself "fuck it Vic, walk away. Be like a Russian hockey player, be like a machine, don't let this c**t get under your skin". On the ice and off it, I bet I've silently said that to myself three or four hundred times. I wish I'd listened to that internal advice more often when I was younger, by the way. But what's done is done.

Turns out there's not much to that. Still, it was cool to think it.


Let me know when you guys have all the numbers summed up. Then do your own stuff first, and if you want me to have a kick at it ... let me know.

Black Dog said...

someday spOILer, someday ... ;)

Interesting stuff Vic, I think to the Canadian hockey fan that would have been a typical reaction. First of all you had the propaganda. Secondly you had the fact that for the most part the Russians are quite impassive. Petrov is relatively animated, for one, but nothing compared to nearly the entire lot of Canadians who are an emotional bunch, for better or for worse. A few of the Canadians, White and Stapleton, Savard, Berenson, are relatively faceless. They are entirely calm. But you have Cournoyer and Peter Mahovlich's boundless joy, Clarke and Cashman's toothless brutality, Parise's breakdown, Esposito's nonstop emotions, Bergman's anger, it goes on and on. And of course there is the hair and the wild sideburns. Only Henderson, Berenson and Mikita wear helmets so of course that distinguishes them. Goldsworthy has one too but he doffs it after his second bonehead penalty in game four.

The other thing too is that the camera focuses on the Canadian players so you don't see too much of the Soviets. The Russians score and it stays on Dryden or a disgusted Sinden. There's a brawl and again it shows a Canadian with the throat slash.

But the emotions pop up here and there. When Gilbert goes after his man in game eight the Russian is grinning at him and jeering, he's also badly cut, so its a far more human face.

But its rarely seen, for various reasons. But even in these different times I would have to say that your brother was at least partially right, they are certainly a fairly impassive bunch for the most part.

Vic Ferrari said...

Good point on the TV production being focused on the Canadians. Also those guys were pretty recognizable without helmets. A lot of them were sporting Mod Squad haircuts or pork chop sideburns as well.

I'm probably melting some commentary from later Soviet games as well. I remember a bizarre scene in a game with Red Army vs the Flyers. Might have been Spartak. In any case the Russian squad just left the ice, as if they were going to forfeit. I don't know what triggered that, but the Flyers had probably been playing like lunatics.

Plus, you wouldn't get stories written about players going a bit batty like Frank Mahovlich, and surely no Soviet player would dare be quoted in the press saying anything negative about the team selection, fans or the coaches. There would never be an Esposito style tirade (It was like Edmonton over there).

So all that made them seem less colourful as well.

On a more general note, I hadn't realized that there were only 11 forwards on the roster back then. Was it that way in the NHL too? It would certainly explain why the Soviets worked with five man units. Sounds like Sinden often did the same.

And I wonder if Espo's line started looking weaker after the first one because the Soviets started matching a good line against him. Did they? Or how good the Clarke/Henderson/Ellis might have looked had they played less against Maltsev.

Black Dog said...

In game one the Canadians went with twelve forwards and five D. Of course they got their lunch handed to them, partially because neither Awrey nor Seiling was up to it. Awrey was benched early in the second and the spare D (Lapointe) took his spot.

In the game two post I talked about the move to six D. My guess is that after the G1 fiasco they figured they may as well go with six - they were adding White, Stapleton and Savard. Plus Lapointe, while ok in G1, was originally an extra man. So maybe Sinden hedged his bets, figuring that he had to go with six because if two of the newbies could not handle it and he had only five D he'd get fucked again.

And after G2 and G3 he knew that the six he had were the right ones. Thrown off by the injuries to Lapointe and Savard but with those half dozen Canada was 4-0-1 so he was right there.

Colin might be a better man to talk about line matching than I although I would agree with that theory to a point. After G1 Sinden was casting about for a more balanced lineup and did so for a handful of games. Mikita between Cournoyer and F. Mahovlich worked in G2 and then Ratelle slid into Mikita's spot. Esposito was playing with Parise and Cashman in G2 and G3 and then various dudes in G4 and G5. Sinden was relying on him to carry a line but really some of these guys were out of their league. When Espo really takes off again is when Cournoyer moves back to his wing. Playing with Parise and assorted RWs there was not a lot of skill out there. Cournoyer gave Espo someone to play with, so to speak.

JMO but a big factor I think. Also, iirc Cournoyer is the only Canadian to finish in the black for scoring chances in every single game. I'm going to tally it all up - I already have that somewhere - and I am pretty sure that that is the case.

I read an interesting comment from a Russian player, I can't recall who (beacuse they are all faceless automons ;) ) but he said that he and his teammates were amazed at the Canadians show of emotion, especially Esposito, who talked constantly on the ice, whining to the refs, cursing, shouting. They had never seen anything like that before, to echo Gord Downie.

Bruce said...

19-man game-night rosters were the norm in the NHL back then. The 20th man was added shortly after the merger IIRC. But before that most teams went with 11 F + 6 D, with three full lines, the tenth guy would often be a PK specialist and utility guy, and the 11th would be a goon.

International rosters were set at the current 22 quite a while back. I believe that was an initiative of the Russians, who wanted to go with four 5-man units and two goalies. You still see the Russians do the 12 F + 8 D split at every international tourney, while Canadians are more apt to go 13 + 7.

Mr DeBakey said...

The Russians, according to him ... they were a bunch of indistinguishable, soulless, emotionless robots.

That’s because they’re commies – the collective, no individualism. That is what people believed. I touch on it in my G8 post, but that permeated the whole series – Our Way vs Their Way.
The famous chess matches between between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky concluded the day before the Summit Series began – same story there.

Karl Marx got kicked in the nuts, twice, once right after the other that autumn.

Cashman's toothless brutality

Nearly tongueless too

In any case the Russian squad just left the ice, as if they were going to forfeit. I don't know what triggered that, but the Flyers had probably been playing like lunatics.

One of the lessons “learned” in 72 was that the Soviets could be intimidated. If you just hit them enough, they’d crumble. From what I’ve seen, and I’ve been memory tripping plenty [72, 74, 76], there was zero evidence for that belief. Nada. Henderson, Cournoyer and Eliis really gooned it up for Canada right? Right?!

By the time that Club tour was organized, the Flyers were in full Broad Street Bully mode. Philly just went right after the Soviets [CSKA - Red Army] who said fuck this and skated off the ice. Of course, they just proved the Neanderthals right by doing so.

I hadn't realized that there were only 11 forwards on the roster back then.

Yes, North American pro hockey too. But, in the 74 series, 20 players dressed. Kulagin rolls 15, 3x5. Harris used his whole bench every game – 4 forward lines, 3 defense pairs.

And I wonder if Espo's line started looking weaker after the first one because the Soviets started matching a good line against him.

As BD said, Espo didn’t have a line. He carried various wingers around until things began to settle those last three games. But even then, Parise gets tossed in G8 and the Mahovlichs platoon with Espo & the Roadrunner.

In game one the Canadians went with twelve forwards and five D. Of course they got their lunch handed to them,

I found a quote that I never used, Savard I think, he went into the dressing room at intermission in G1, and said the D was gassed. Completely gassed. So that’s likely why Sinden switched to three pairings.

International rosters were set at the current 22 quite a while back

After 77 for sure. At the 1977 World Championships teams declared a 20-man roster for the tournament. What you see is what get – 10 games, no reserves. Canada’s best player, Guy Charron, tore up his knee in Game 1; Jean Pronovost separated his shoulder in Game 3. Canada was going with 16 skaters after that. Crazy.

Black Dog said...

Thanks Bruce and Colin! And everyone please take a jaunt over to The Summit Project (link on the sidebar) to check out some more of Colin's musings. Some great stuff, the article on game six and the Canadian media reports is pure gold.