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.


Mr DeBakey said...

If I'd known you were writing about Gilbert, I would've sent a pic. I have a good 'un.

Re the goalies:
In 74, Soviet Coach Kulagin said Cheevers was the best Canadian goalie they'd faced. Ever.

Re discipline:
I've been reading up on the 1977 World Championships - Canada's return, Now with Professionals!
Nothing has changed.
It fact it was worse than ever, a total shitshow.
Meet Wilf Paiement, butthead.
I'll do a post once were done with this series.

Julian said...

I thought it was odd as well that the Canadians had such a high scoring chance ratio but were in the red on corsi. But Ellen was watching the game with me, and we agreed on all scoring chances or not... and she's not Canadian, so no bias there, heh.

The Soviets certainly had a few more chances where if they'd just gotten a shot off, I would have counted it as a scoring chance, but nothing happened. A few times they had the puck in a dangerous area, but either passed or got checked before doing anything. Parise did the same thing, he actually had a breakaway but the puck was bouncing away from him, so he reached for it at the hashmarks and dropped it back to Esposito (I think) who was covered and nothing came of it.

Goldsworthy comes of out this game looking really good, but I think it was mostly the small sample size, he did well, but had very limited time. Like Pat, Ratelle impressed me as well, Thornton seems like a good comp to me

The 4v4 at the end of the game comes from the famous incident with Mikhailov kicking Bergman with his skates, but you can't really see it. Canada had a total of maybe just over a minute of PP time, but I didn't think any of the penalties called against them were undeserved. They probably got away with a few actually, but then my idea of a penalty is the modern one, it's hard to apply the same standards to back then unless you've watched a ton of the game.

Pat, I've got the 87 CC finals on DVD, and the round robin game between Canada and the USSR as well on my computer somewhere. I can do a game or two when that time comes, I love watching those games.
I bought the book Ed Willes wrote on it for $5 when I was home, I was looking forward to reading it and watching the games at the same time, but I forgot the book in Canada when I left. Might be interesting to read the book while watching the games with an incredibly critical eye, see what comes out....

Black Dog said...

I forgot about the Parise breakaway, that was absurd. In all alone and he drops it back. You were right Julian, it was Esposito and he was totally in check. Nothing came of it at all.

I'd be interested in seeing NHL games from this era. I thought it was a lot more vicious than the modern game and based on this series I am guessing that this was the case. Some of the shit the Canadians pull, we're talking blatant stickwork, dirty hits, its pretty over the top yet often when they are called everyone seems honestly flabbergasted and in a number of cases there are no calls. A different game and of course puts the lie to Cherry's story that back in the day it was a good clean game played with honour. Woner what he would have thought about Bergman and Esposito and their throat slashing gestures.

Of course getting kicked would put a guy over the top I think. Bergman seems wound pretty tight in any case. He's one tough dude. Hard rock dman. And in game eight jumps in and has two glorious opportunities, fails to do anything with them though.

Mr DeBakey said...

Looked unconfident [not a word] to me those last few games, especially in 7. He seems to be thinking he has to pass to someone who can do something with it.

The guy was a decent hockey player, just off to a slow start like many of them. In G7 its obvious Sinden told him to leave Mr Truculence in the dressing room.