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.


Anonymous said...

I love this whole series, let me say that first. But for love of god, put the damn score in the headlines please? All of us dont check all the graphs and I don't even know which one has the score. It would give the writing so much more context if I knew the score to the game. Thanks

Black Dog said...

lol - done

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

Great work yet again. I'm with you on the goaltending decision, I'm amazed with those results that Dryden got two of the three starts with Canada effectively facing elimination.

Through 6 games:

Tretiak: 21 GA on 157 chances
Esposito: 10 GA on 71 chances
Dryden: 14 GA on 54 chances

Convert that into a scoring chance save percentage, and you get:

Esposito .859
Tretiak .866
Dryden .741 (!)

And it's probably not going to get much better with another 5 GA coming up in game 8. What's that Dryden wrote about being the most hated man in Canada if they lost game 8? Apparently it would have been for good reason.

spOILer said...


It sure seems like management of egos is the basic story of the series and the near catastrophe it became. Which is a narrative we don't hear much about. You reference it with "lack of discipline".

The Canadians shoot themselves in the foot when they take overly long shifts, bad penalties, ease up on the forecheck, don't dump etc. It's almost like they're ignoring the Coach and looking for glory glory glory.

I wonder if some of the line-up changes are to appease egos too. "I'm not dragging my ass to Soviet Russia and not playing" sort of thing.

And there really is no stick that Sinden can use to beat some sense into his players other than public mortification back home (although they started the Summit with the built-in excuse of conditioning).

Re: Ron Ellis
I've heard it said many times that he was a great skater but don't ask him to shoot the puck. A kind of Radek Dvorak skating phenom with stone hands. I don't remember him much, other than the skating, but can you confirm if this is true for the Summit Series?

Black Dog said...

Thanks C.G. and thanks for that math too, great stuff. Yeah I don't get it at all. Esposito actually said recently that he thought he should have gotten more games and I agree with him. He lets in one, maybe two goals that have a bit of an odour about them. Tretiak has allowed one that I have seen so far and to be fair it was a screen even then. Dryden? I can't even say.

The other two are modern goaltenders. They play their angles, they let the puck hit them. Dryden is a big man but he flops around and doesn't let the puck come to him. He also gets beaten a few times by shots from the blueline that just end up in the net. No screen. Just a hard low shot and he barely moves. Goalies in my league don't get beaten by shots like that.

I keep coming back to it but I think when it came to game eight Sinden could not forget 1971. But it doesn't explain game four or this one, imo.

Black Dog said...

spOILer - well its hard to say when it comes to your theory. They obviously blew it with the enormous roster but with most of the roster moves I can get on board. Most of them. Even Hadfield coming back in G4 for example. Gilbert and Ratelle had come back after poor outings and so Sinden figured maybe Hadfield would to, hard to not give your only fifty goal man a second chance.

And I'm not sure about the ego thing. Like I said there were thirteen guys who were going to go home and in the end only four did, the rest stuck around. And this included a guy like Mikita, we're talking about one of the alltime greats, and then Mahovlich was benched for a couple of games too.

As for a lot of the shit - the penalties, the long shifts, the one on one play, I think that this is how the game was played when it gets down to it. It was a lot more vicious back then. Guys took long shifts. And as long as you took care of your own end you were encouraged to be creative offensively.

The Russians had a spectacular system but in terms of creativity and flamboyance its the Canadians who are more impressive. They score a number of wonderful goals, when they click their passing is beautiful. The Russians play what we would call a modern game. They want to have puck possession. They shoot from the blueline and look for tips and screens in front. Their look for Canadian mistakes and counterattack.

The Canadian defencemen rarely blast it at the net, they pass it to the forwards at the boards or down low. They jump into the play. They rarely just bang it out. And the forwards, while sometimes they dump it in and go after it, are happy to try and beat their man.

I think that was just the style at the time. ;)

As for Ellis, comparing him to Dvorak is pretty harsh on Dvorak. ;) His shot is weak and not accurate, we're talking a floater into the crest every time. I'm probably a better comp.

He's also a tremendous hockey player. Just unbelievable.

Vic Ferrari said...


Yeah, I'm wondering the same thing myself. Does anyone reading here know Harry Sinden? It would be fascinating to get his take on that issue. It's long ago enough now that he could afford to be honest.

On Ellis, he's one of the guys who comes through as a much better player than I realized. Along with Savard, Henderson, White and Esposito (like BDHS, I'd always imagined Espo as more of a Tim Kerr type opportunist).

I remember reading that when Neilson coached Sittler he tried to grind him down, make him a more complete player. Apparently Daryl gave a tonne back the other way. But Sittler was incorrigible, like Bure or LaFleur and a bunch of others ... he just played 'his game' no matter what Roger did.

Eventually he decided to place a good winger with Sittler. Someone who was willing to stay high in the offensive zone if Daryl wandered in too deep. A guy who would be the first forward back a lot, in the way we think of a centre now. Support the puck in his own end if Daryl decided to cherrypick as well. Just generally compensate for Sittler being a dink.

Was Ellis that guy for a stretch in Toronto? Did he even play with Sittler? I should remember, I was a small-f fan of the Leafs in the late 70s ... but I don't.

Vic Ferrari said...


Did the Russians load up a powerplay unit, or just roll the lines through the man advantage? Did you folks notice if they ever played a forward on the point?

Before you guys started doing this, I looked at a summary of the series and the Soviets had outscored Canada by a lot on special teams.

Reading these, it seems a bit of that comes from some blonde moments by the Canadian PP, combined with great Soviet plays to score some shorties. A lot of it comes from the Canadians taking penalties like the Johnstown Jets. And a bunch would seem to be just bad luck and bad goaltending. The Canadian PK just isn't giving up many chances per minute (haven't checked the numbers, but that's how it seems).

Is that right?

spOILer said...

Thx, Pat. I remember the game being rougher too, but I also remember 90 second shifts max being hammered into our heads and the two minutes these guys are taking seem strange (especially if they're out of shape as they allege). Yeah, rougher. 10 minute misconduct for Clarke's slash on Kharlamov in a European setting? Never happen today.

Vic, the guy I associate the most with Sittler was Lanny MacD. Errol Thompson I think for a couple of years at least.

I remember Esposito as being an absolute beast with the puck (I was a Bruins fan back then)--much better than Tim Kerr. Maybe a cross between Kerr and Thornton, because he would put his ass in the goalie's face while Orr did his thing). Lindros is probably a better comp (Christ, I think my stomach just churned).

The myth on Sinden was that he was a mean penny-pinching bastard, but I have no idea how true that actually was.

spOILer said...

I'm curious to hear how the Soviets look without Kharlamov going forward.

spOILer said...

I think I still have a Dennis Hull hockey card buried somewhere. I remember at the time being very disappointed that the card said Dennis. Now, not so much.

Vic Ferrari said...

Lanny McDonald would make sense. He was a terrific all around player when he first came to the Flames.

Near the end of his career he was really slow, he'd lost a couple of steps at least. Still had a terrific shot, though.

I think we tend to remember these guys by the tail end of their career too much, or at least I do. It's like remembering a grandparent who suffered from dimentia for the last few years of their lives. You know it shouldn't colour your opinion, but it just does.

Black Dog said...

Vic - I haven't looked at the Russian PP really but we'll check Colin's logs and find out pretty quickly, at least for 4 and 5 and I'll keep an eye in the last two games. I am pretty sure that they play two D, three forwards. Their greatest success comes when they send it back to the point and the big guys bomb away. First two goals in Vancouver were the same play, back to the left point, buddy blasts it, same guy tips it in both times.

Early on the Canadians go with a forward on the point, they get burned in game one, almost in game two when Mikita coughs it up. That's the last time they go with that. And then they get burned for two shorties in game three. After that they really tighten up and the Russians don't really threaten after that. The Canadians don't do much on the PP through the first six games though.

As for the Russian PP well some days they have it and sometimes they don't. When Esposito is in net their PP does not produce as much, he has good lateral movement and anticipates their passes well.

The PK in this game was outstanding but they still give up a PP goal and the Russians probably score at least one pP goal a game I would think, often more than that, even in the games where the Canadians do well to stay out of the box.

Its the only reason the series is close. At even strength its not much of a contest, at least to this point. I'll see what G7 and G8 bring though.

Black Dog said...

As for Sittler, yeah it was MacDonald when they were in their primes. Ellis jumped to the WHA maybe the year after this series, not sure if he made his way back to Toronto later on. We saw some Leaf hockey in the mid 70s but I don't remember him at all.

spOILer - I think Kharlamov actually comes back for game eight, iirc, not as effective though of course

I think honestly that these guys just took long shifts, two minute splus was the norm, and when they said they weren't in shape they meant to take those damn long shifts. Mikita (I know I know) was on and off the ice, he was taking shifts of a minute or so, sometimes less, in both of his games. Because he was out of shape and he knew he had to get out there, give er and then get off.

And you can see most of them getting that pretty quickly for the most part.

Except for Espo. ;)

Bruce said...

Actually, Ellis retired at age 30 after the 1974-75 season. He was convinced to come out of retirement to play for Team Canada at the 1977 Worlds (the first one allowing professionals, after Hockey Canada pulled out of the IIHF for seven long years), and got the bug again. He played four more years, all with Toronto. He played 1034 regular season games in a terrific career, all with the Leafs.

Ellis was an absolutely responsible two-way winger, a bit of Radek Dvorak in him but better, and certainly a better scorer. In his "first career" of 11 years he scored 19-35 goals every year, then popped 26 the season he returned after the two-year absence. Great skater, and just as fast going either way. Plus player every year, despite playing on some pretty iffy Leaf squads - Ellis's line (usually with Dave Keon as I recall) was never the problem.

Ellis wore three numbers in his career, first 11, then 8, but wound up wearing 6 at the personal request of Irvine "Ace" Bailey, who in a special presentation gave Ellis his old #6 that had been retired after Bailey had his career and nearly his life ended by the infamous Eddie Shore hit. Nearly 40 years later he saw in Ron Ellis the exact kind of player Ace had himself tried to be, so he gave him his old number. Still remember the ceremony, it was quite touching. Two class acts, and that's for sure.

Bruce said...

In a comment thread Bruce McCurdy referred to Mahovlich being a basket case in Moscow, perhaps he can expand on that?

The Big M was a notoriously moody man, very different from his gregarious younger brother. He had suffered what was described as a nervous breakdown two times while in Toronto, with the second such episode leading to his eventual blockbuster trade out of Hogtown. Punch Imlach used to bait the shit out of him, mispronounce his name ("Mahallovitch"), call him a loafer or malingerer or what have you. Think: MacT on Penner, other than Mahovlich is one of the two or three premier talents in the game. Risky business. But Punch thought he couldn't spare the whip, when what the big sensitive guy really needed was a little TLC.

Anyway, that's neither here nor there to the Summit Series I suppose, but I read a number of books on the Series in the years following including Sinden's own, and came across a few references about the Big M's deep distrust of the Soviets, especially on their side of the Iron Curtain. Did stuff like sweep the room for bugs and stuff, look over his shoulder every time he spoke, not trust any of the food, that kind of thing. Sleeping issues, exacerbated by Russian tricks like middle-of-the-night phones ringing in the rooms. By all accounts Big Frank was on edge (at best) the entire time.

How much of that is true who knows, but that's my recollection of more than one source.

skinny65 said...

Just wanted to say how much I love this whole concept. I think it’s a fantastic way for the so-called basement dwellers to change accepted ideas about the game with some concrete facts. Well that and it’s fucking fun to read. So I was wondering if it had occurred to anyone to actually try to talk to Harry Sinden about how he coached, the decisions he made and mostly how what he thought at the time syncs up with this hard data? Not sure how busy he’d be and if he had a chance to see the work you guys had done, you’d think a phone interview would be at least a possibility. Anyway just thought I’d throw it out there. Keep up the great work.

Mr DeBakey said...

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.

As I said in one of our emails, imagine how it felt to be Mickey "Worse than Goldsworthy" Redmond.

I'm curious to hear how the Soviets look without Kharlamov going forward.

I think the Kharmolov's impact is overstated. I'm not trying to knock him, but there were other guys impacting the series more.

Did I use impacting correctly?
Is it even a word?

Mr DeBakey said...

One other thing, about Ferguson.
This is Clarke quoted on Chidlovski's excellent site:

"I remember John Ferguson giving the pep talk between the first and second period. He kept repeating that someone had to take care of Kharlamov. I looked around the room, and realized he was talking to me."

Bruce said...

I last watched this series 8 Septembers ago, when ESPN Classics replayed each game on its 30th anniversary. For some reason it was Game Six that inspired me to write at some length to my hockey draft buds. Perhaps you'll enjoy a couple of excerpts, beginning with a segment on the zebras which largely supports your own observations:

The Ugly Canadians took 31 minutes in penalties in Game 6 vs. only 4 for the Soviets. Much was made of this imbalance, but fact is that Herrs Baader and Kompalla -- famously referred to as "Baader and Worse" by the master backroom dealer himself, Alan Eagleson -- were not given much of a choice in many of the penalties they called. The first on Bergman for a phantom trip got them off to a very bad start in Canadian eyes, but I had no quarrel with Bobby Clarke getting two and ten for his famous slash on Kharlamov, an unusual call but not out of line with what he deserved. Esposito got five for cutting Ragulin with a high stick. Esposito got two in the play and two more after the play for needlessly re-cross-checking the guy who'd drawn the initial foul -- a Sean Brown Special. The Canadians got one bench minor and no other misconducts despite frequent displays of blatant disrespect to the officials (including penalty timekeepers), their opponents and even the fans. Esposito twice openly slashed his throat, a gesture which would have drawn immediate ejection from any NHL game. Every time a Russian retaliated or even stood up for himself would draw the same in quintuplicate from pretty much whoever was on the ice at the time. And I saw no real signs of the Russians getting away with much of the kind of stuff they were accused of; that said it's a big ice surface and the camera can only show so much of it (even when they remember to show the action and not suddenly switch to the bench, the clock, the penalty box, the stands or Red Square, a problem that persists on Europe-based hockey broadcasts to this day). But certainly the Russians knew the Euro-style "amateur" rules and how far to stretch them... not that's there's anything wrong with that.

That said, Baader and Worse were indeed totally fucking incompetent. This showed up on other issues than penalty decisions, such as calling icing against the short-handed team (Canada, of course), making four brutal offside calls (all against Canada, costing a breakaway, a 3-on-2 and two 2-on-1s), allowing play to go for a full and frantic 10 seconds after the ten-minute buzzer in the third, causing extended delays getting mixed up with the penalty times, and in general failing utterly to get a handle on the game. Unlike today's two-ref system, these guys were refs and linesmen rolled into one, and they were virtually never in a good position to call the lines. If in doubt, TWEET! Poor Yvan Cournoyer.

Bruce said...

Part 2:

Interesting to see the personalities of the Canadian players come out. Some just kept their cool, and their names will not surprise you: Jean Ratelle, Red Berenson, Ron Ellis, Serge Savard, Ken Dryden. Others were on the edge of control, notably J.P. Parise (who did indeed lose control, nearly fatally in Game 8), Phil Esposito, Gary Bergman, and assistant coach John Ferguson who lost their composure at times and behaved like assholes. Still others like Paul Henderson and Yvan Cournoyer and Bill White and Pat Stapleton and Guy Lapointe just skated and backchecked with a ferocity that I don't remember ever quite seeing at the NHL level. Bobby Clarke played the way he always played; indeed his vicious slash was no worse than what I've seen many times in the NHL, and didn't so much as knock Kharlamov off his feet. That feeble defence made, to my eyes Clarke's a much more vicious stick man than any of the Russians, even Boris (You're STILL Ugly) Mikhailov.

In general, the Canucks obviously were harbouring an us-against-them warlike intensity. One of the harbingers is the tendency to make up the worst thing you can think of and then accuse the other guy of doing it. Players? Vicious, evil, beneath contempt. Officials? Obviously conspirators against us, and beneath contempt. Fans? They're all Russians, they never smile, they're not people. We're the Defenders of the Good and Righteous. Anything goes. Indeed, what usually goes first, right out the window, is anything good and righteous. But in battling this at-times losing battle with their emotions, at the same time the Canadians began to win the series-long battle for physical control and with it, control of the puck.

Bruce said...

Finally this, on a few key players. Apologies for length:

... Savard was again a revelation. Hobbled by a broken foot but inserted back into the line-up, he put on a remarkable show of penalty-killing in particular, using the wide ice surface and his impressive puck protection skills to great advantage in ragging the puck for tens of seconds in several different displays of, uh, savvy. Heavily pressured by two forecheckers while clearing a rebound from the edge of the crease, Savard safely took the puck behind the goal line before lobbing a high soft shot off the mesh and softly down into the corner, perhaps the only place in the rink he could put the puck where a teammate could get it. Bear in mind that this was likely the first time he had ever skated on the wide ice, or played on a rink with mesh instead of screen or glass. Several times he battled the swooping Alexander Yakushev, easily the Soviet's best player on this night, to a standstill along the boards. He played his position perfectly, never getting trapped out too wide, he intercepted passes, cleared rebounds to safety or simply carried them there himself. What a player.

Another underrated contributor to the cause (underrated at least by me at the time, likely because I hated the Habs) was Yvan Cournoyer, who was just flying all over the ice, up, back, and laterally, aggressively taking the body (!) and moving the puck and contributing one of three huge goals he scored in the series to put Canada ahead to stay, 2-1. (He also scored the winner in the third period of Game Two, and the tying goal in the second half of the third period in Game Eight). From this series, Cournoyer would go on to his greatest season, scoring his usual 40 in the regular season but 15 more in the playoffs including the Cup winning goal and virtually every other big goal the Habs needed in another run to the Cup.

Those Habs made a great contribution to this team, particularly the first penalty killing unit of Dryden, Savard, Lapointe, Pete Mahovlich and ex-Hab Red Berenson. There was no winning of this game without a superb performance from all of the above.

Vic Ferrari said...

I love this sort of thing that you and Lowetide do, Bruce.

Readers of the old Oilfans OT forum probably remember that my father-in-law was a professional soccer player in England. He played for a bit with Stanley Matthews. That name won't mean much to anyone here, but he was like the Gordie Howe of English football in the middle part of the last century. Seriously.

When the Oilers first acquired an aging Adam Oates, he said that Matthews was one of his early sports influences. Seriously. Even though that's inexplicable, it stuck with me, and it made me root for Adam.

Any road, he died a while ago. They kept him alive for an inhumanely long time, but when he had left home for good, his wife (my mother-in-law) asked me to break open a hard sided suitcase that he'd always kept locked under the bed.

I asked her what was in it, she said "Roy's past". That woman is overly dramatic. She was an actress when soccer player Roy abandoned his first family for her (my wife met her half brothers/sisters for he first time at the funeral). A lot of things could have been in that box. My vote was to burn it. I'm glad we didn't, though.

The stack of telegrams in there was terrific, they're the only telegrams I've ever read in my life. You'd think they could have come up with something as a symbol for a period, but they didn't, they just said STOP. It reads especially harsh without the punctuation.


It's just so harsh. And it's mixed with heartfelt hand written letters from team executives and owners either wooing him or explaining how the team is losing money hand over fist.

One I remember asks him to take the weekend to consider the extent of the paycut he will be willing to take, this to save the team. The owner explains the dire financial situation of the club and asks Roy to do the right thing.

It absolutely wreaked of bullshit.

I put it all back in the box at the end of the day. That's where he wanted it, obviously. That's where it should stay. I was a voyeur for reading it, and worse for repeating some of it here.


All these old timers in hockey ... I have to think they have similar stories. Probably far worse/better. And if they're willing to tell them, it would be a cool thing to listen to.

Bruce said...

You perhaps underestimate how old I am Vic, because the name of Sir Stanley Matthews is a very familiar one. Always see it with the Sir appended, apparently he is unique to have been knighted while he was still playing. Many sources such as this one consider him the greatest English footballer ever. His records of playing until he was 50, his 23-year international career, and of never once being booked let alone sent off are among the reasons he remains a greatly loved figure. Your comparison to Gordie Howe is an apt one.

Mr DeBakey said...

Stanley Matthews worked the half-time show with Ernie Afaganis for CBC's coverage of the 1982 World Cup - it was the first time every game was shown on Canadian TV.

They were Very Good.

I'm not sure about the Howe comp, seems to me Howe was booked a time or two.

I just re-watched Game 6.

So, were the Canadians popping bennies, or what?
Jesus they were insane, right from the get-go.

Brian Conacher, "its basically clean hockey"


Lowetide said...

I don't ever recall Sittler playing with Ellis, it was always McDonald and Erroll Thompson once he got good enough to play on a top line.

During the early 70s Ullman always got the best wingers (Henderson and Ellis) and Davey Keon always got the kids (Billy MacMillan, Garry Monahan, Guy Trottier iirc in 70-71).

Sittler as a rookie would have played some with guys like George Armstrong (a legendary Leaf leader); Jim Harrison, a fiery center with skill.

Other linemates were Rick Kehoe, Denis Dupere and then by the mid-70s it was Thompson and McDonald.

Sittler was a great talent, but the acidic relationship between management and players turned him into Jesus of Toronto and he couldn't get out of his own way.

Imlach hated him for three reasons: wouldn't make an effort to improve away from the puck, didn't have enough foot speed (Imlach's top C for the good years was Davey Keon, who could skate for miles and miles) and was friends with Eagleson.

Two of the reasons are actual hockey reasons.

As for Sinden, he wrote a book years ago (while still a GM, this would have been mid-70s maybe) and was brutally honest about players.

I remember he wrote in the book that he traded Gilles Marotte (or actually Milt Schmidt did) because "he couldn't play at all."

Sinden had some vinegar.

Black Dog said...

Well guys I don't really know where to start except to say great thread.

I would agree with you Mr. D. on Kharlamov, he was devestating in G1 and had the shortie in G3 but no goals after G3. Ellis and his mates shut him down pretty effectively.

skinny - thanks for the compliments, not sure if Harry would speak to a blogger but maybe I will get in touch with the Bruins and see if he will answer some questions.

Bruce and Vic - absolutely great stuff, thanks Bruce for your insights on the players and events. Your take on the personalities of the individual players and how they responded to the pressure is just wonderful.

And Vic - that's a great story. Thanks for that.

Black Dog said...

LT - do you know off the top of your head if he would have talked about the Summit Series after all.

I love those old 70s books. I have a biography of Mikita (I Play To Win), books on the Bruins and Blackhawks and one on the Grey Cup. Old weathered paperbacks in my basement. Except the Mikita book is hardcover. And signed, of course.

Bruce said...

BDHS: The book you want is "Hockey Showdown" by Harry Sinden, written soon after the series. I own this book although can't seem to lay my hands on it this morning, read it ages ago. It's out of print now, might be hard to find.

A review of this book and many others about the Summit Series can be found on Joe Pelletier's site. Here's a link.

Bruce said...

Btw, I did come across Scott Morrison's book "The Days Canada Stood Still", and found this reference to Frank Mahovlich:

Mahovlich is alleged to have been involved in an incident that has become part of the grand lore of these Soviet excursions. According to Dick Beddoes, the tale goes that Mahovlich, suspicious that his room was bugged with listening devices, conducted a thorough search, which revealed an object neatly hidden beneath the rug. The carpet in the room was peeled back and sure enough there was some form of metal object, a listening device no doubt, attached to the floor. He then proceeded to unscrew it and kept unscrewing it until he was stopped by a loud crash from the floor below. A light fixture had dropped from the ceiling.


"He was psyched about Russia", said Serge Savard, Mahovlich's Canadien teammate. "We don't know what happened to him over there."

"I remember Frank said to Serge prior to the Vancouver game, 'You never know about the Russians. I bet at 3 a.m. they'll start up the jackhammers to try and keep us awake. We should take tents and camp away from Moscow'," recalled Beddoes. "He was really bugged over there."

Bruce said...

Oops, that book link appears dead. Try this instead.

Anonymous said...

I would just like to say I love what you guys are doing with this series and look forward to game 7.

Since this seems to be such a hit, would you guys be interested in doing something similar wuth the 80's oilers?

Maybe do the 1984 SCF? Is there a way to get each game in full length?

Black Dog said...

anon - yep its in the plans, don't know if we can get the 84 SCF for example but I'm going to look at it

I know there's a ten greatest games dvd - so may start with that

Bruce - thanks, I'm going to pick that sucker up

Heard that Mahovlich story before, that's a great one

hunter1909 said...

Then of course there's the first period intermission in game two, where either Foster Hewitt or the other guy commented that the Soviets had just met up with their very first all out goon in Wayne Cashman, and after a 20 minute session on the ice with the 70's equivalent of Glenn Anderson meets Genghis Khan, about the only words coming out the their mouths heading into their dressing room was "Cashman, Cashman".

Julian said...

G7 is two periods done, hopefully have the 3rd finished by Monday night (Monday AM for you guys).

Pat, I'll email it to you right away, but you may want to watch the game to take your own notes, we've been busy just tracking guys, not making notes on who's been involved in what matchups and that sort of thing. I'll try to email you a proper summary this time as well, counting up events for the individuals and everything.

Julian said...

Also, I don't know where the official shot summaries come from, but the ones at are different from what I've got....

For P1, that site says shots were 12-7 for the USSR, I've got them at 9-7 for the USSR. It says they were 8-8 in the second, I've got them at 12-6 USSR. Sometimes it's hard to tell if a shot was on net or blocked before it reached the goalie, or if it was going wide when the goalie stopped it, so we just guessed or took whatever Foster Hewitt said happened as the official record. I assume this site has the "official" numbers, but I'm not sure why my numbers are so far off...

sa said...

Great job with this. Have to share this quote from Ken Dryden's Face-off at the Summit (1973).

"I’m afraid that this series will be analyzed and analyzed ad nauseam. People in the street. Cab drivers. Bellboys. Waiters. Writers. Coaches. League presidents. Prime ministers. Everyone. They all have a theory. They all picture themselves as a coach or a player, and they become theoretical and hypothetical. It’s so much bull, believe me. They’re all sitting there and playing verbal games to make themselves sound important. We have to play the real games. We know what we have to do. Or do we?" (p. 64)

Black Dog said...

ha, great quote

now maybe if he'd stopped a few more pucks ... ;)

thing is I think what we are finding here is cutting through the bull, if anything the Canadians look better after all of this by my eye, they were the superior club by quite a margin

Black Dog said...

btw the 'you never played the game' line I think is known as the 'Domi Gambit'