Wednesday, September 12, 2012
The team was battling the injury bug, with only 10 regular forwards in the lineup. It got to the point that defenceman James Patrick was being used up front.
But like every smart coach before him, Mike Keenan went to his big guns to pull out the victory. He sent Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux over the boards every chance he got, basically running them into the ground.
It was a wild back-and-forth affair that took two overtimes to solve. After the game Gretzky would tell reporters that it was the most physically and mentally draining game of his life.
- This game and the next game are being played in Hamilton, Ontario. Can you believe that? Two games that will rank among the best hockey games of all time were played in Hamilton. Not Toronto, not Montreal, not Vancouver. Hamilton. Think about how crazy that is. But it actually makes sense. At the time Copps Coliseum was the state-of-the-art facility in Canada, opening less than two years earlier. The Montreal Forum and Maple Leaf Gardens were built in 1924 and 1931, respectively. Hold your heads high, Hamiltonians.
- I realized I didn't say enough good things about Paul Coffey last game. He was so far and away the best defenceman for Canada. I could watch a video of him skating for hours.
1-0 Canada - Grant Fuhr makes a big save early and Canada marches back down the ice and scores less than a minute into the game. Messier circles around the net with speed and finds Normand Rochefort sneaking down into the slot. A quick shot and the place goes berserk.
- Hey, it's Larry Murphy. I almost didn't recognize him without idiot Leafs fans booing him.
1-1 - Fuhr gives the lead right back. He gets bumped in the crease and takes a swing at his assailant. In the confusion, the Soviets score a goal. Ron Hextall was selected as a backup for this tournament, and you have to wonder whether this would have happened with him in the net. My guess: He would have been suspended for beheading whoever dared come near the crease.
- The line of Gilmour-Lemiuex-Gartner is back and pressing. Unfortunately, Gilmour takes a high sticking penalty and the deadly Soviet power play has a chance to take the lead.
2-1 Canada - The Soviets fail to capitalize on the power play and as Gilmour steps out of the penalty box he's involved in the go-ahead goal, made possible by the brilliance of Gretzky. The Great One skates into a one-on-three, only to turn around and make a subtly brilliant pass to Rochefort who breaks in before dropping a pass to Gilmour, conveniently alone in the slot. Bingo!
- "Doug Gilmour lets a great shot go," the announcers said. The puck went right along the ice. It didn't take much to impress people in the 80s.
- I miss Doug Gilmour.
- The announcers say something that makes sense: "Mark Messier is the most intimidating player in hockey today." Most of my memories of Messier growing up were of a bald guy doing those silly Lay's commercials. And I can't seem to shake those Vancouver years, so I never really understood him as this certifiable bad-ass. But re-watching these games, he looks absolutely frightening. He's blazing fast, hits like a truck, and takes borderline (and not so borderline) cheap shots.
- The Soviets have killed off a penalty but Canada was impressive, taking 100 shots. Not quite, but the shots are 13-2 in Canada's favour.
- Brent Sutter just annihilates a defenceman in the corner and is now on a line with Gilmour. Fun fact: In St. Louis, Brent's brother Brian was the one to give Gilmour the nickname "Killer". The more you know.
- Lemieux springs Brian Propp in on a break, and by the time he can look up the goalie is flying out, standing up, at about 100 mph. What a crazy style of playing goalie, but it works.
- Mike Keenan has finally started playing Lemieux on Gretzky's wing at even strength. What a genius move to put the best play-maker with the best goal-scorer. Can't believe it took so long. The sheer obviousness of this move is making me think that Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos need to play together in Sochi.
- Glenn Anderson just made a brutal giveaway, but Fuhr is there to make a big save. It amazes me how bad Fuhr can be, yet minutes later he's absolutely fantastic. He's really confusing. Is this what it's like to cheer for Marc-Andre Fleury?
- Messier gets a penalty for high sticking, but he really just took a straight shot at someone's face.
- Rochefort is a beast in front of the net, just hacking away. He's been really underrated so far in this series, and the announcers have stated that his selection for the team was somewhat controversial. His 15 points the year before were the fewest of all Canadian players by far. In truth, I had never heard of him before re-watching these games. But he's probably become one of my favourite players to watch in this series.
- The Soviets don't capitalize on the power play, even though they had a ton of chances. Fuhr, with the help from a few posts, shut the door. They do score, but it gets called off on account of a small army occupying the crease.
3-1 Canada - Gretzky and Gartner are in on a 2-on-1 and after getting in a good position to score, Gartner passes back to Gretzky, who might have been surprised if he was a lesser man, but he's not, so he finds a trailing Coffey who buries the shot in the slot.
- Vyacheslav Fetisov pastes Gilmour at the blueline with a solid hip check and Gilmour limps to the bench. Fetisov is being billed as one of the best defencemen in the world during this tournament, and considering he shut down the Legion of Doom in the 1996 Stanley Cup Final, at the age of 37, I believe it.
- There's just wild action right now. There isn't really any technique. It's as beautiful as it is chaotic. Like improvised jazz if people could slug each other in the face.
- At the end of the period Evgeny Belosheikin, the Soviet netminder, is playing the puck in the corner and gets hit by Gartner, who makes no attempt to disguise what he's doing. He's getting a penalty, despite the crowd's chants of "bullshit" and the announcer's claim that he "thought it was a clean hit." Tell that to Ryan Miller.
- The Hamilton fans are being praised for the electric atmosphere. Someone give this city a team right now!
- What is Brian Propp doing on this team? Hold on while I check his stats. Well, 1004 points in 1016 games. I guess he isn't better remembered today because everyone who played during the 80s had those stats. I mean, Dennis Maruk (who?) scored 136 points in 1981-82.
- Gartner is stopped on a break by a nice shoulder save. Why anyone is trying to go top shelf when nobody plays the butterfly is beyond me.
- Oh god, the fans are doing the wave. I take back every nice thing about Hamilton.
- In the crowd I've spotted a guy in a Leafs jersey sporting a mullet. Must be inspired by Wendel Clark.
3-2 - Doug Crossman is off for holding and Fetisov sends a rocket from the point that deflects in mid-way through the period.
- Belosheikin is having an Eddie Belfour-like adventure outside his crease, he doesn't get drilled, but has to slide back into the crease to make a miraculous save on Lemieux.
3-3 - Canadian special teams strike again. Once again, on a Canadian power play, Sergei Makarov makes a few nice moves in the offensive zone and lets a nice wrister fly, beating Fuhr and catching the Canadian defence chasing the play. Canada has allowed three shorthanded goals allowed in three games against the USSR.
- Somehow the Soviets have a 3-on-1. Can someone please play some defence.
4-3 Canada - Gretzky and Lemieux break in on a 2-on-1, which is pretty much a nightmare scenario for goalies everywhere. Gretzky passes across to Lemieux and it's in the back of the net. Easy money.
- Gretzky has three assists now. He's so great because he makes passes to people that you can't even see from watching above. Plenty of times he passes off screen and you think, "what the hell is he doing?" A lot of times he passes from areas most people would shoot from and gives someone else what essentially turns into an open net.
- Gartner has a wicked slap shot, but I'm not sure who should be more afraid: the goalie or the glass.
4-4 - The Soviets have had a great push to start the third period and they score a beautiful goal to tie the game. Viacheslav Bykov is tripped as he enters the zone but still manages to send a nice pass to Valeri Kamensky, who sends a terrific backhand past Fuhr.
- Gilmour is now on a line with Gretzky and Lemieux. Be still, my beating heart!
- Canada is playing with 10 forwards and they are starting to get exhausted by the relentless pace. They got into this predicament because Claude Lemieux, Kevin Dineen, and Rick Tocchet are all out with injuries. Both Wendel Clark and Steve Yzerman were late cuts from selection camp and would be a nice addition right now, at least to ease the heavy minutes everyone else is playing.
5-4 Canada - No goal for the Soviets on account of a crazy high stick and the Canadians respond by scoring a goal of their own. Coffey fires a point shot that bounces right to Gretzky, who promptly shovels it through the crease to Lemieux. That's Gretzky's fourth assist of the game and Lemieux's second goal. Gretzky has also assisted on seven of Lemieux's nine goals. Hey, Keenan, play these two together you bozo!
- Sutter just lays a pretty meek hit but the crowd goes crazy. They love this guy. Or it's like the World Juniors, when a Canadian can throw the smallest of hits or the most blatant of charges, and everyone goes berserk.
- Speaking of berserk, that's a good way to describe the crowd right now. The Soviets are reeling.
- The game is almost blown open as Gretzky and Lemieux skate in on another 2-on-1. This time, however, Mario can't get off a great shot and it is sent softly over the net.
5-5 - That missed opportunity hurts as the Canadian defence breaks down and Kamensky knifes through Crossman and Rochefort and chips the puck top corner. The announcers are going on and on about how it was such a beautiful play, but in reality both defenceman lamely try to take the body while totally disregarding the puck that can easily be swatted away. Great effort by Kamensky to break through and find the puck, but this was a pretty simple crisis to avert.
- The momentum has shifted entirely and the burst of energy Canada got from Lemieux's goal has disappeared entirely. The Soviets take a time out before the end of the period but can't take advantage of a dead tired Canadian group (taking the time out probably didn't help). The game is going to overtime once again. Canada is on the ropes, one shot from elimination.
- Krutov has a great chance to end the game early, but Fuhr makes a huge save.
- Announcer anecdote: The Soviets don't try to match lines because any time they try Keenan just throws Gretzky on the ice.
- Michel Goulet takes a high stick to the face and there's no call. No, Kerry Fraser is not working this game, but I felt a tinge of pain nonetheless.
- Whoa! A two-line pass. What a stupid rule.
- Gretzky is in prime scoring position and passes instead. It doesn't work out, and although his teammate would have had an even better chance, you can't help but feel Gretzky should shoot a little more. I mean, he's the NHL's all-time leading goal scorer for a reason.
- There are hardly any whistles right now. It's going back and forth and somehow the USSR ends up with an obscene 2-on-1 when Coffey falls down and it essentially turns into a 2-on-0, yet Fuhr is there to slam the door twice to save the series. I'm a convert! He's playing out of his mind right now.
- Fuhr makes another couple of saves and Gilmour responds with a nice chance of his own. Hawerchuk is busy basically fighting a defenceman behind the net. It's becoming a battle.
- Every time Gretzky and Lemieux are on the ice you get the feeling that you're about to see the greatest goal you've ever seen. Sometimes you get mad at whoever the third guy is on the line because these two are light years ahead of him, and then you remember that the third guy is probably in the Hall of Fame with 500 goals.
- The Soviets have come within inches of winning multiple times now. Fuhr was down and out but somehow the Soviets miss the net. God loves Canadians, perhaps.
- Next, Fuhr snaps a slapper with his glove and gets a standing ovation from the crowd. He's locked in.
- The announcer just described the wingers as the centre's "wingmates". That's cute.
- The announcers next say "It's tough out there," to describe Ray Bourque smashing someone's face into the glass. Shea Weber found his inspiration.
- Messier basically looked at a guy without the puck skating cross ice and the guy fell down. That's what happens when you have a reputation of hitting people anytime, anywhere.
- The period ends with both teams playing a little tentative. The sheer amount of hockey, plus the ferocious style, has really drained both teams. But there's another period to play.
- The announcers are telling me the Soviets don't view the faceoff as a tactical weapon and they don't have faceoff specialists. That seems like a bad idea when you could have Gretzky and Lemieux starting in the offensive zone. Don't give them more opportunities, dummies.
- The Soviets criss-cross so well, almost as well as the Canadians stop at the half-boards and find the trailer through the middle.
- We've hit the combined 100 shot mark and Gartner has two excellent chances to end the game. Lemieux follows up with a nice backhand and the crowd is alive, willing the Canadians to force a deciding third game.
- They will get a chance because of Fuhr, who stops Andrei Lomakin on a breakaway.
- A Canadian player trips a Soviet and the ref momentarily looks like he might call a penalty until he realizes it's DOUBLE OVERTIME OF AN ELIMINATION GAME IN 1987. If you kill someone on the ice you might go to jail for manslaughter, but there won't be a penalty on the play at this point.
- A Soviet player almost splits the Canadian defence again, but this time he is properly mauled on the way through and there is no chance.
6-5 Canada - There is a mad scramble around the Soviet goal and the puck bounces out to Lemieux. With only a sprawled goalie to beat from in close, he doesn't miss. That's the hat-trick for Lemieux, and once again Gretzky assisted on it, giving him five in the game.
- The players of the game are Vladimir Krutov for the USSR and Wayne Gretzky for Canada. Normand Rochefort is the Five Minutes for Fighting Underrated Player of the Game.
- The Hamilton crowd is chanting, "Hey hey hey, goodbye," despite the fact that the Soviets will be back here to play a third game in a couple of days. Sigh... Hamilton.
0:43 - Leon Rochefort 1 (Dale Hawerchuk, Mark Messier)
1:27 - Andrei Khomutov 3 (Viacheslav Bykov)
3:48 - Doug Gilmour 2 (Wayne Gretzky, Leon Rochefort)
12:41 - Paul Coffey 2 (Mike Gartner, Wayne Gretzky)
32:11 - PP - Viacheslav Fetisov 1 (Vladimir Krutov, Alexei Kasatonov)
34:17 - SH - Vladimir Krutov 8 (Sergei Makarov)
36:32 - Mario Lemieux 8 (Wayne Gretzky)
44:45 - Viacheslav Bykov 2 (Andrei Khomutov, Valeri Kamensky)
50:14 - PP - Mario Lemieux 9 (Paul Coffey, Wayne Gretzky)
58:56 - Valeri Kamensky 6 (Viacheslav Bykov, Vasily Pervukhin)
90:07 - Mario Lemieux 10 (Larry Murphy, Wayne Gretzky)
Penalties: USSR: 12 min, Canada 16 min
Shots: USSR: 33, Canada: 43
Click here for the recap of the deciding third game.