Did Phil Esposito ever reach his '72 Summit Series level of play in the NHL?

Discussion in 'The History of Hockey' started by daver, Dec 31, 2018.

  1. daver

    daver Registered User

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    The Summit Series was such a unique event. The cultural and political overtones seemed to bring out the best and worst in players. Phil was great all series and off the charts in Game 8 with 2 goals and 2 assists, and points on all three goals in the third period to cap Canada's famous comeback.

    Did he ever come close to matching this level of passion in the NHL?
     
  2. ForsbergForever

    ForsbergForever Red Rocket

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    I'd think his 76-goal/152 point season would indicate a strong level of involvement or the 27 points in 14 games he put up in the 1970 playoffs en route to Boston's Stanley Cup win.
     
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  3. JackSlater

    JackSlater Registered User

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    Probably. Esposito isn't Henderson, who reached a world class level in the series that he never showed before or after. He was likely the best forward in the NHL at the time and probably had 8 game stretches of similar or better quality. From what I've read of Esposito though, I do think that he probably took the latter games of the series more seriously than he did NHL playoff games.
     
  4. frisco

    frisco Some people say that there's a woman to blame...

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    Esposito was a beast in that series. That being said, he was probably the best forward in the league for a 6-8 year stretch so his play in the Summit was probably more typical of his overall play during that time period than a "peak" although it is to his credit that he stepped up in the series.

    My Best-Carey
     
  5. The Panther

    The Panther Registered User

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    Since by 1975 he had six of the top eight point seasons in NHL history, and had led the NHL in goals for six years in a row, I'm thinking... yes?
     
  6. BobbyAwe

    BobbyAwe Registered User

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    I think a lot of his success in the Summit series may have had to do with the fact that the Russians had never defended against that type of strategy (the way he played the slot)? Of course, that was Esposito's forte his whole career, but against the Russians it may have been something they couldn't adjust to immediately?
     
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  7. frisco

    frisco Some people say that there's a woman to blame...

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    Plus, he had a huge size advantage on the Soviets even more than typical NHL players as the Russians in general were smaller. And you're right he played basically the antithesis of your typical weaving Euro player in that he maintained position in the high slot and his wingers pounded the corners in an attempt to retrieve the puck. He shot relentlessly and often from a standing position. That being said, the NHLers knew his style and they weren't able to stop him either so it must've been extra hard for the Soviets to defend.

    It's been three or four years since I've sat down and watched the Summit series but Espo was the best player on the ice.

    My Best-Carey
     
  8. BigBadBruins7708

    BigBadBruins7708 Registered User

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    Was going to say the same thing.

    His 76 goal season broke the record by 18

    His 152 points broke the record by 32

    He was also the first player to score 1000 points in a decade.

    The man was legendary but unlucky. 5 years after smashed every scoring record Gretzky came along and broke them again.

    There wasn't enough time between them for Esposito's legend to grow. Which is unfortunate because his dominance is largely forgotten and written off as because of Orr
     
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  9. Big Phil

    Big Phil Registered User

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    Esposito talked in his book how he never got credit in Chicago because of Hull. Then in Boston it was all because of Orr. Well, what is the common denominator of the 1972 series? Neither of those two played. So this leaves Esposito as "the" guy of that team. What a leader he was in that series, just amazing. He had incredible passion to win that series too, and all of them did, but there was almost something (in retrospect of course looking back) comforting about Esposito being there. He really took the bull by the horns. Espo gets some undeserved flack on here and I defend the guy a lot and point to the 1972 series as his moment to shine where he had no other superstar teammate "carrying" him like what happened in Boston supposedly.

    Well, let's take a look here. The following year Espo - who scored 130 points - gets hurt in Game 2 of the opening round against the Rangers. He's out for the playoffs. Boston doesn't do a single thing that series. No Bruin had more than three points that series, not even Orr. Small sample fine, but that team just fell apart without Esposito, and why not? How many teams are better when a 130 point guy is out? 1974 Cup final is a time Esposito didn't have a good series and the Bruins lost that series. Is that a coincidence? I don't think so.

    But to answer your question, I don't know if he ever played better considering the height of the stakes. He had tons of good postseasons and was instrumental in 27 and 24 point playoff runs to the Cup. But in those games he wasn't playing for hockey superiority in a foreign country either. It would have been so easy to quit in Moscow, in fact we all know many players did literally do this and go home. But Espo didn't and he is the reason they won as far as I am concerned. I don't know if he played better. 13 points in 8 games is obviously something he achieved a ton of times in his career, even in the playoffs, but were the stakes as high?
     
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  10. Sentinel

    Sentinel Registered User

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    It always pisses me off when Esposito is written off as a product of Orr, whom he has repeatedly beaten for Hart. The man was amazing.
     
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  11. Big Phil

    Big Phil Registered User

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    About as underrated as they come, I think. Or at least underappreciated. I have heard people say that "Well, the reason he dominated the 1972 series is because the Soviets didn't know how to defend against a player with his style in front of the net." Yeah, neither did the NHL guys. What a coincidence.
     
  12. Sentinel

    Sentinel Registered User

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    I've heard people say this... in this very thread.
     
  13. JackSlater

    JackSlater Registered User

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    Eh his Hart record overrates him if he's fully given credit for winning the MVP over Orr. He shouldn't have won one, but that's due to competition. He was a Hart worthy player at least. Esposito is a player often caricatured. Some make him out to be some slug who hung around the slot and had pucks ricochet in off him, which is clearly wrong. Recently I've noted some trying to take his accomplishments at near face value however and that's a distorted picture too.

    Esposito was an elite offensive player and he demonstrated as such in 1972 and at other times. Among the five or so players who carried team Canada he was best. I doubt that he was ever as important to his team as he was in 1972.
     
  14. wetcoast

    wetcoast Registered User

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    It almost sounds like that you think that Phil is better than Bobby which was never the case in Boston.

    Orr was driving that bus to be sure.
     
  15. Merya

    Merya Jokerit & Finland; anti-theist

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    Espo is tragically underrated because he played with two very romantic Bobby-named heroes of hockey. The gap between Phil and the Bobbies has been exaggarated more and more as their myth has risen. Hull already back then, Orr growing to a more and more godlike figure every year (mostly bcs of Wayne opposition).
     
  16. Mike Farkas

    Mike Farkas Grace Personified

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    I mean, Orr was pretty Godlike though in reality...watch a Bobby Orr game from 1970...I have never seen anything like that in my entire life...

    Esposito, especially, was never on his level or even on the next level down...
     
  17. Crosbyfan

    Crosbyfan Registered User

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    Absolutely. Canada was still ahead of the USSR in 1972...just not in September...the Russians were in much better condition in that series, especially at the start.
     
  18. Dennis Bonvie

    Dennis Bonvie Registered User

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    Bruins always needed both Orr & Esposito to be a championship level team.
     
  19. Dennis Bonvie

    Dennis Bonvie Registered User

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    The complete opposite is true.

    Orr is diminished more and more every year because of Gretzky devotion.
     
  20. NyQuil

    NyQuil F.Y.R.O.U.S.

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    I think there has been a hipster Orr resurgence in the last decade or so.
     
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  21. BobbyAwe

    BobbyAwe Registered User

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    I just watched the documentary on that series and there was a very interesting quote by Vladimir Petrov of the Soviets which seems to confirm the point you and I agree on...

    "With Phil it was very difficult to take the puck from him, to even get close to him. I've never seen a player like him before."

    ;)
     
  22. koyvoo

    koyvoo Live on Blueberry Hill

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  23. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    Anatoly Tarasov echoed the problems Phil Esposito caused the Soviets in 1972:
     
  24. BobbyAwe

    BobbyAwe Registered User

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    Did he say Phil was "VERY FAST"??? o_O

    Historically, the only knock against Esposito is that he WASN'T fast? :huh:
     
  25. Thenameless

    Thenameless Registered User

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    Did Phil Esposito ever reach his '72 Summit Series level of play in the NHL?

    Yes, he most certainly did. He was wrecking the NHL both before and after the Summit Series, setting new records while he was at it. His performance in '72 was the cherry on top.
     

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