32 years since Canada Cup '87

  1. The Panther
    As of August 28th (which it nearly is now in Japan), it's been 32 years since Canada Cup 1987. What a great tournament and some great memories.

    I was a kid of 11 then, and Rendezvous '87 and this tournament were my first exposure to international hockey.

    I thought it'd be fun to re-view the final series between Canada and the Soviet Union, as it's remembered as one of the highlights of hockey history. Tonight, I'm re-watching game one. I haven't seen the game, in full, since 1987, so it's been a while... It's interesting to say the least.

    Some observations about game one:

    -- Canada plays pretty well in the first period (but goes down 1-3), and is mostly terrible in the second (going down 1-4, but they get it to 2-4). By contrast, the Soviets are smart, assured, and poised -- and really take advantage of their chances. But for some bad luck, the Soviets should have been up 5-1 or 6-1 in the second, and we might be remembering this game like the final of Canada Cup '81. USSR wins this game anyway, but they really should have had it done and sealed in three periods.

    -- Canada has two 5-on-3's in the game and fails to score on both. It's also obvious when they get a 4-on-3 that most players on the ice have forgotten there are only four skaters. PP looks totally out of sync, while the Soviets' is smokin'.

    -- Mike Keenan's philosophy in the second, with Canada down 1-4, seems to be: "Play dirty". Hartsburg does a brutal cross-check from behind on Krutov, which Koharski misses, sending him to the dressing room. Rick Tocchet comes on in the second for his first shift of the game, and immediately drives a Soviet defender into Mylnikov, who was probably lucky not to be injured (Tocchet goes to the box). Even Mario gets into it, throwing a big check at Fetisov, who wasn't happy about it (Fetisov, unusually, makes a couple of brutal giveaways in this game). Makarov is classy early in the third as Larionov (who was otherwise invisible) skates in on Fuhr and makes a great move and shot that Fuhr stops, and Makarov kinds of accidentally runs into Fuhr, who's down. Makarov visibly apologizes to Fuhr after the play. I think even Keenan kind of realized, as this game went on, that playing dirty wasn't going to work.

    -- Krutov looks really good in this game. Some great defensive plays, just superb puck control (a nice goal on a rebound), and overall poise and speed combined.

    -- Mylnikov took some heat around this time, but he sure looked good in the first and second period. After that early goal by Gartner (which he should have had), he shuts the door for two periods, including a bunch of Canada power plays... except for the late-second goal by Bourque, which bounced a Soviet D-man's skate and in. In the middle of the second, Gretzky hits Mario at the side of the goal, 15 feet out, for a one-timer that looks like a sure goal, and Mylnikov makes a heck of a save.

    -- My memory is of Grant Fuhr being kind of mediocre in this tournament. The Kamensky goal early in the second is brutal, just a total whiff by Fuhr, but I don't think I could blame him on any of the first three. As was his custom, however, Fuhr gets a lot better as the game goes on.

    -- One of the lesser-celebrated Canadians, Norman Rochefort, looked really good in game one. Throws some hits, makes some good offensive and defensive plays.

    -- Alexei Gusarov, who went on to play for Quebec/Colorado, is very Alpha male-ish at times. He roughs up Gretzky a lot in the first, and knocks down Messier in the third.

    -- Doug Gilmour doesn't get a lot of ice-time, but he starts getting a regular shift in the third, scores, and then looks really good after that. Tocchet doesn't get a lot of ice-time either (his knee was bothering him). Brian Propp only gets about one shift per period, but it must be said he doesn't look very good in this game. James Patrick was playing forward in game one, though he doesn't play much.

    -- Mike Gartner looks good in this game, esp. in the first and second periods. We often talk of him as a lower-end Hall of Famer, but it's good to be reminded that he looked first among equals in game one among some heavyweight peers.

    -- Gretzky and Lemieux play good-ish, but not great. Keenan seems determined to play Wayne with every possible forward on Team Canada in the first period, and I really think this isn't helping him as Wayne seems a bit out of sorts. In the first period, you can Gretzky (who's already double-shifted the first two shifts of the game!) skating really hard, really fired up. He even looks really committed defensively. But on the PP and on the rush he seems to makes passes and plays that don't really connect as much as usual, and no wonder as he has about 15 line-mates in the first period (including, if you can believe it, James Patrick). Mario has a few chances and throws that big check, but I notice he seems to be standing still a lot when he receives passes. You'd like to have seen him carrying the puck a lot more, but he seems to let his teammates do a lot of the carrying. He also passes off a bit too much around the net. (Anybody ever clock Gretzky in this game? Geez, he has a lot of ice-time. You can see him gassed, at the bench, with 10 minutes left in the third... and then he goes out and plays about another 1.5 minutes on a PP!) Gretzky makes an amazing pass to Goulet with 5 minutes left and the game tied, but a nice save. Then Wayne gets the big goal with three minutes left to put Canada in front, and it looks like he'll be the hero... but then on the very next shift Khomutov's centering pass goes off Wayne's stick and into the net to send it to overtime.

    -- Mario nearly wins it with two minutes left, making a great shot to the far side that Mylnikov surprisingly stops.

    -- The winning goal in OT by Semak is a great shot, though maybe Fuhr could have had it. Team Canada appears in good position defensively, but it was just a super-fast shot.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts on the very enjoyable game one... a great game, though not quite a classic, I think (it actually gets a bit dull in the second period amid an endless succession of penalties).

    What do you remember of this particular game, or indeed anything from Canada Cup '87?

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