Saturday, September 1, 2012

Summit Series '72 Game 1, "Damn it, did we learn a lesson!"


"We were stunned, absolutely stunned." Harry Sinden said. "Yeah, I'm still stunned. I never kidded myself about the Russians, but I never realized their individuals could be as good in one-on-one situations. I didn't expect to see that." Sinden and the rest of Canada were in shock after the unknown, under-rated Russian squad shellacked Canada's professionals by a score of 7-3. Ted Blackman of The Montreal Gazette wrote, "To say we took Russia lightly is to hear General Custer ask: 'What Indians?' Sinden attempted to break down his sqauad's numerous shortcomings and failures in the newspapers of the next day, some of his thoughts follow.
In analyzing the GAG line of Ratelle, Hadfield and Gilbert, Sinden offered, "Ratelle's line is not ideally suited to the type of game we need. We'll have to go to more of a forechecking game. We have got to make the Russians commit mistakes in their own end. Forechecking is the best answer I have." Yvan Counoyer offered his thoughts on the GAG line, "They never played a worse game in their life."
On the Esposito, Mahovlich, Cournoyer trio (which recorded 14 of the team's 32 shots on goal) Sinden offered, "You just can't play without Yvan getting good shots. Phil...he'll get seven shots playing with two rag dolls. The line never sustained an attack. Most of the shots were on powerplays. We need Cash and Parise to forecheck, dig it out." Cashman and JP Parise would join Esposito on a line for Game two while Stan Mikita would return between Mahovlich and Cournoyer.
Turning his attention to defenders Rod Seiling (who was on the ice for six goals) and partner Don Awrey, Sinden said, "They drop to block shots and that style isn't the best here, because the Russians fake and pass." They would be replaced in Game Two by Bill White and Pat Stapleton.
Sinden continued, "Yes, their goaltender was very good. But we didn't muster what we think is the NHL assault on the goal. We never had two or three shots in succession to test him, which is largely due to the excellent manner in which his teammates give him support."
The players themselves were no less critical of their own efforts. Frank Mahovlich exclaimed simply, "Damn it, did we learn a lesson!" Ken Dryden said, "They got to almost every loose puck before we did. They were in such remarkable physical condition, it was embarrassing. After they tied it up, we started playing a panic type of game."
Guy Lapointe was one of the few players that wasn't shaken by the loss, "So we lost one game. It's not the end of the world. We lose one game during the season and we come right back. Hell, we could take the next seven games. One thing I'm pretty sure of. If we hit them Monday we'll win the game." Phil Esposito said the Russians were a lot better than he had expected, "But I don't know if they could go 78 games in our league. What was the score tonight? 7-3? Well, you'll never see that again. We didn't shoot half as much as we should have. I missed three unbelievable chances. That would never happen at Christmastime, baby."
Russian coach Kulagin was gracious in victory saying, "Maybe we played well because we were not playing against your best players, Stapleton, White and Mikita." Of his own players he said in typical Russian fashion, "They managed to carry out the tasks given to them by their coaches."
Other Game One Notes
-Team Canada's equipment almost didn't make it to Montreal for Game 1 from Toronto. Trainers Frosty Foristall and Joe Sgro found it at Toronto Airport labelled for a flight to Paris.
-John Ferguson drew one of the biggest cheers during introductions, but the rafter-shakers were in honour of Frank Mahovlich and Ken Dryden.
-About 200 million people watched the game on TV - 100 million in Russia, 80 million in 26 U.S. cities, 12 million in Canada and 8 million in other European countries.
-A scalper outside the Forum was asking $75 for two seats in the reds.
-There were about 100 Russians cheering on their team. One made an innocuous sign in Russian and waved it when the USSR squad scored it's first goal but Forum securiy men asked him to put it away.

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