Game three. Winnipeg.
First of all thanks to Julian Albrecht for doing the heavy lifting on this one and tallying all of the data. Julian has been commenting in the Oilogosphere since the beginning. I actually met him on the last good night for the Oilers, game six in 2006. Nice fellow. Thanks for this Julian.
Most of what Julian did was the counting, he made a handful of notes as well which I have tried to credit to him in the following writeup
The game three lineup is similar to the lineup in game two as one would expect. In game one the Canadians actually had the better of it but Seiling and Awrey got eaten alive and the Rangers' GAG line was poor and so those five took the gaspipe along with fourth liners Redmond and Berenson. In came Mikita to centre Frank Mahovlich and Cournoyer and Parise and Cashman to flank Esposito. Goldsworthy came in as the second spare forward as Sinden went with six defencemen, Savard, White and Pat Stapleton drawing in.
And Tony Esposito in net.
The results were hard to argue with. The Canadians had the better of the Russians in almost every aspect, scoring chances were lower but they again outchanced them. They had the better in Corsi and in faceoff zone starts.
So in game three only one change. Goldsworthy is out (he played two shifts in G2) and Jean Ratelle who struggled in game one is back in as a second spare.
Gary Bergman (2) - Brad Park (5), Guy Lapointe (25) - Serge Savard (23), Pat Stapleton (3) - Bill White (17)
JP Parise (22)-Phil Esposito (7)-Wayne Cashman (14)
Frank Mahovlich (27) - Stan Mikita (21) - Yvan Cournoyer (12)
Paul Henderson (19) - Bobby Clarke (28) - Ron Ellis (6)
Peter Mahovlich (20), Jean Ratelle (18)
All six defencemen were solid in game two. Stapleton and White were sheltered at first but as the game moved along they were given tougher sledding and did fine. Up front the Mikita line was sheltered to start off and also were given more responsibility as the game went along and they too responded very well.
And Tony Esposito was wonderful in his first start of the series so he gets to start again.
The game is a lot more sloppy in the first from Canada's point of view. I just watched an interview with Serge Savard (buddy is the shit btw) and he says that in game one the Canadians had no respect for the Russians. You have to play hockey scared a little he says and in game two he says the Canadians do so. Well at the start of game three it looks like the fear is gone. The passing is not crisp, the errors are pretty blatant. The shifts are ridiculously long again.
The Canadians talk about conditioning in all of these interviews. We weren't in good shape. Blah blah blah. True enough but in game three can you guess what the end result might be despite their conditioning issues? Well, here are the numbers.
Faceoffs are pretty even. Overall its sixteen in each zone with twenty six in the neutral zone. At ES its eleven in Russia's end, twelve in Canada's, twenty two in the neutral zone. When on the power play there are five in the Russian zone and two in the neutral zone, both after Russian goals. Shorthanded there are four in Canada's zone and two in the neutral zone.
The difference is special teams. The Russians don't score on the PP although they have their chances. The Canadians are undisciplined. Cashman takes two slashing penalties in the offensive zone. The second one earns him a misconduct. Parise takes a needless tripping call in the neutral zone. White retaliates with a vicious slash which earns him a coincidental minor early in the third. And this doesn't include what doesn't get punished - two wild two handers by Bergman, low bridges by Clarke and Cashman. A lot of dirty stuff going on, probably on both sides, the Russians are certainly subtle about it though.
The Canadians don't pay the price when shorthanded. Peter Mahovlich is again the primary penalty killer. In the first he and his brother team up with Park and Bergman to kill most of Cashman's first infraction. Then Clarke, Ellis, Stapleton and White mop up. The second kill is the younger Mahovlich, Phil Esposito, Savard and Lapointe and in the third Sinden goes with Pete Mahovlich, Esposito, Park and White who are then replaced by Clarke, Ellis and Bergman. Park remains on for the entire kill.
The Russians threaten. They get some great chances. But Tony Esposito is excellent.
What kills the Canadians is their own PP which ends up minus two. (!) A terrible pass by Mahovlich just inside his zone on the first PP is intercepted and Petrov pours in alone and blasts one past Esposito. Then in the second Canada is on the PP and on a run that includes the three to one goal and eight out of the previous nine scoring chances. Not bad for a team that is so out of condition, eh? And then as Julian describes it:
the second Soviet goal is a bit odd, on the PK, puck in the corner, Mikhailov picks it out and fires it off the far boards. Kharlamov must have seen it coming, because somehow he gets behind the Canadian defence and picks it up for a breakaway from the blueline in.
Much like the first goal its a bonehead breakdown. Do the Canadians collapse? Nope. Henderson comes right back and scores.
And once again, regarding conditioning. The remainder of the period sees four chances apiece and the third begins with four straight Canadian chances as well.
the reality is that while they probably were firing back sirloins and Du Mauriers in between periods their conditioning wasn't stopping them from being the better team!
As an interesting aside during the third I heard a PA announcement reminding fans that there is no smoking in the arena. Considering that you could smoke on an airplane at the time and that smoking and drinking while pregnant was standard practice I found the announcement to be a weird kind of anachronism.
Of course maybe they were just saying that there was no smoking because there were no cigarettes left. Mikita smoked them all.
But what kills Canada is a return to bad habits. Game two saw quick shifts. Game three sees a return to the lengthy shifts of game one. And so at the end of the second the Russians score twice after extremely long shifts by the Canadians. First the Esposito line gets caught out too long. Then Ratelle, Cournoyer and Frank Mahovlich take too long a shift and Mahovlich loses the puck at his own blueline. His teammates never get it back. Tie game.
So it ends up as a tie but once again the Canadians deserve better. They make a couple of bonehead plays and pay the price each time and they get back into bad habits and that costs them too.
Maybe when they talk about getting in condition they are talking about their ability to play three minute shifts. Short shifts you bunch of mod haired fuckers!
So first to the goaltending. Esposito is excellent again. The first goal is from inside the circle, Petrov puts it fivehole as 35 drops into the butterfly. Might call it a little iffy, certainly today you would, but back in the day, believe it or not, that was considered a standard play. The weakness of the butterfly goalie was that opening as he dropped. Petrov hits it. The other three are no doubters. Kharlamov on the shortie breakaway. A deflection on a point shot. A Russian left alone in the slot with all the time in the world picks the corner. By my count Esposito is left alone four other times one on one and only gets beat once, getting a piece of a Kharlamov shot that Park clears out of the crease as it trickles towards the net.
But he is great. He deserves the start in game four again. But as we will see a lot of changes in this lineup in game four, despite three points out of four in two games. In the end this lineup is the one that Sinden will run with but he switches it up after this game. Its a move I don't agree with at all.
On the blueline Sinden runs three pairs again. For the most part he rolls them. It looks to my eye like Bergman and Park tend to get the Kharlamov line quite a bit but overall there isn't much going on. Stapleton and White get a few more offensive draws than the other two pairs but they are also out at a lot of key moments of the game, including in the last couple of minutes so obviously Sinden trusts them.
Park and Bergman end up with terrific numbers again and its easy to see why. Park was considered the second best defenceman of that generation, behind only Orr. He is a tremendous skater, closes to his man immediately, moves the puck swiftly. He's not a gambler at all though. Makes the safe play. Does tend to leave his feet and sprawl at times though. Bergman, who I barely had heard of (I certainly did not know the role he played in this series), is the prototypical defensive defenceman. Just plain solid. Makes his reads, reacts quickly. Active stick. Good decisionmaking. Never leaves his feet.
For the third straight game they are either even or in the black. Just as in game one their numbers are extraordinary.
Lapointe and Savard are once again quietly effective. Did I mention that Savard is the shit? Seriously though you don't even notice these guys in their own end and against the Russian quality that's something. They are pretty well just even or barely in the black but unlike the other four (including Park) you don't ever look at a play and say 'wow did Savard or Lapointe ever blow that one'. I said it before - watching these two guys makes it pretty clear as to why Montreal would win five of the next seven Cups. Ridiculous. Watching G8 right now and its 1-0 USSR and they have their second straight five on three. Who's out there? 23 and 25. Says it all right there. At one point Savard is on the PK and the Russians pour down his side, he takes the puck easy as can be, starts skating and creates a TWO ON ONE the other way. Skates through the whole team, passes it off, gets back into position and then for good measure he breaks up the next Russian attack.
White and Stapleton take on more responsibility right away this game. An interesting pair. White is all legs and elbows and stick and defensive conscience. Getting around him is impossible. Very effective on the PK. The Russians pass the puck crazily and the end result is Canadian defenders chasing the puck and sprawling everywhere and Esposito bailing his club out. When White is on the ice you see a man up to the task. At one point he is caught in a two on one down low on the PK. A minute before Park, in the same situation, panicked and slid to the ice. Esposito was forced to make the save. Here White turns calmly and takes his man. The Russian with the puck is in no position to score and so he is forced to pass and the puck slips harmlessly by his teammate who is tied up completely.
As we will see the seeds for the series victory were planted in Toronto and Winnipeg. Sinden meanders a bit now, partially due to necessity (the injuries to Savard and Lapointe) partially due to madness but the roster that he ices in game eight contains all six defencemen who play games two and three and nine of the eleven forwards.