Game 8: September 28th, 1972
Henderson’s game-winning goal, his 7th goal of the tournament tied him for most by any player and it was his third consecutive game-winner.
Henderson didn’t register a shot attempt until the 54 minute mark of the game and only had two total. His second, which was his only attempt from the slot, proved to be the biggest goal scored in Canadian hockey history.
Once again, the Soviets won the possession battle spending more time with the puck in the offensive zone and overall. Once again, Canada won the net-front battle, outshooting the Soviets 15-7 from the all-important inner slot. Today, the value of puck possession and shot quality are carefully studied by fans and teams alike. 50 years ago, the contrast in styles provided hockey fans with a thrilling series in which each team gained an appreciation for a different brand of hockey.
The Summit Series represented far more than a battle between hockey nations. As Phil Esposito would go on to say, "This became political, and it became political very quickly. It became society against society. For me anyway, it was almost like war.”
The series changed the way the game would be played at its highest levels for generations to come. 50 years later, hockey fans across the world are still fascinated by what took place in September of 1972. We hope you have enjoyed our inside look at the Summit Series, using modern day analytics to gain never before seen insights and context on this transformative series.
Game 7: September 26th, 1972
The Esposito brothers, Phil and Tony raised their game in a critical Game 7 to set up a winner take all, final game of the Summit Series. Canada won the seventh game by a score of 4-3 with Phil Esposito scoring twice and Paul Henderson adding the game-winning goal with just over two minutes to play. Esposito made his opportunities count, scoring on both inner slot shots he had in the game.
Tony turned aside 26 of 29 shots but many of the shots he faced were dangerous, quick-strike chances. The Soviets put 12 shots on goal off-the-rush compared to just 5 from Canada - Esposito stopped all but one of them.
In what would prove to be a major theme in this series, the Soviets controlled the puck for a majority of the game however, Canada won the shot quality battle.
While Henderson played hero, the Esposito brothers deserve their share of the credit for putting Canada in position to win the deciding eighth game of the series in Moscow.
Game 6: September 24th, 1972
Three must win games in a hostile environment. This was the challenge Canada faced entering Game 6 of the Summit Series. After blowing a third period lead in Game 5, the Canadian squad officially had no room for error in the remaining games in Moscow.
The first 20 minutes proved uneventful with neither team scoring. After the Soviets took a 1-0 lead early in the 2nd period, Canada rattled off three goals in a span of 80 seconds, capped by Paul Henderson’s game-winning goal. The goal came off an uncharacteristic defensive zone turnover with Henderson putting a harmless looking shot on net from above the face-off circles. This would, of course, be the first of three consecutive game-winning goals scored by Henderson.
While Canada won the game, the reality is this series could have been over based on how well the Soviets played and how much they controlled the game. The Soviet squad dominated the possession game, as it did in several games during this series. However, the Canadians did a phenomenal job of getting in shooting lanes to make life as easy as possible for Ken Dryden who was named co-MVP of the game for Canada. Dryden stopped 29 of the 31 shots he faced but Canadian defenders deserve credit for helping to keep the puck out of the net.
Canada blocked 22 of the 52 shot attempts the Soviets had including 9 on shots from the slot.
A one-timer from the slot is among the most dangerous shots a team can produce. Canada limited the Soviets to one in the game while producing four, scoring on two of them.
Canada kept its hopes alive with a 3-2 win in a game controlled by the Soviets. Terrific goaltending and shot blocking were two of the main reasons the Soviets didn’t end the series on this day, 50 years ago.
Game 5: September 22nd, 1972
Our Summit Series recap continues on the 50th anniversary of Game 5, the first game played in Moscow as the series shifted to Europe. Trailing the eight game series, 2-1-1, Canada came out strong in the first couple of periods, building a 3-0 lead. However, the Canadians collapsed in the third, allowing five goals en route to a 5-4 loss.
To a man, the Canadians said they stopped skating in the 3rd period, opening the door for the talented USSR team. Despite knowing they needed to continue to push the pace of play, the Canadians felt they focused too much on protecting their lead, which evaporated in the final 11 minutes of the game. However, the numbers tell a slightly different story. Canada outshot the USSR and doubled them on shots from the slot in the 3rd period. The USSR scored on nearly every other shot they put on net in the final frame which appears to be a bigger reason why Canada lost as opposed to simply being outplayed.
One area the USSR did see a significant improvement from in the final period was generating net-front shots from the inner slot, the most dangerous scoring area on the ice. After Canada limited the Soviets to just three inner slot shots through forty minutes, the USSR put four on net in the final frame, scoring on three of them.
With the added context of modern day analytics, it would appear the Canadian collapse wasn’t as simple as the team taking its foot off the gas pedal, allowing the Soviets to generate more offense in the final period. Tony Esposito, who played well in the opening forty minutes, couldn’t make the key saves his team needed and the Soviets got every bounce and break to fall their way in the third period.
Canada now found itself in a seemingly impossible predicament - needing to win the final there games in Moscow to win the series. How did the manage to do it? Find out as we recap the final three games of the Summit Series on the anniversary of the dates they were played.
Game 4: September 8th, 1972
Game Four of the Summit Series was played in front of 15,000 plus fans in Vancouver. Famously, Phil Esposito expressed his dissatisfaction at how some fans reacted to Canada’s loss in the game during his post-game interview.
Team Canada got behind the eight-ball early with Bill Goldsworthy taking a pair of penalties in the first six minutes of the game. Boris Mikhailov scored on both Soviet power plays. Mikhailov finished the game with three points and was named player of the game for the Soviet squad.
Canada once again struggled to contain the Soviet’s speed as USSR out chanced Canada 14-8 off-the-rush. Through four games in the series, the Soviets held a 46-32 advantage in rush chances and 6-3 lead in rush goals.
The Canadian team would now have to win three of four games in Moscow to take the series. Find out what adjustments they made and how they did it as we continue our detailed look at the Summit Series, 50 years later.
Game 3: September 6th, 1972
Today marks the 50th anniversary of Game 3 of one of the most iconic events in hockey history - the Summit Series between Canada and the USSR. We have analyzed the series using the same state-of-the-art technology we use to process games today and will be releasing never before seen insights on each game on the date it was played.
After splitting the first two games of the Summit Series, Canada and the USSR played to a 4-4 draw in front of nearly 10,000 fans in Winnipeg. This was the first game of the series in which Canada outplayed its opponent. Despite winning Game 2, Canada had sill not figured out how to take the puck from the Soviets or slow them down. In Game 3, Canada created more and better scoring opportunities than its opponent.
Vladislav Tretiak was brilliant in goal for the Soviets and was named Soviet player of the game for his efforts. Tretiak stopped 37 of 41 shots with over half the shots he faced coming from the high-danger slot area.
Tretiak thwarted every speed attack the Canadians threw his way and was the biggest reason the Soviets escaped with a tie.
After three games, the series was tied 1-1-1. Canada had seen improvements in each game and hoped to take the momentum into Game 4 in Vancouver before heading overseas. However, the Soviets had other plans. Find out how they beat the Canadiens Game 4 on Thursday as we continue to look back on the Summit Series - 50 years from when each game was played.
Game 2: September 4th, 1972
Today marks the 50th anniversary of Game 2 of one of the most iconic events in hockey history - the Summit Series between Canada and the USSR. We have analyzed the series using the same state-of-the-art technology we use to process games today and will be releasing never before seen insights on each game on the date it was played.
After dropping Game 1 by a score of 7-3, Canada switched things up in goal, replacing Ken Dryden with Tony Esposito. The move paid off as Esposito was named co-player of the game along with his brother Phil. The Esposito boys helped Canada to a 4-1 win in a game where the Soviets once again controlled most of the play.
Canada was out-chanced off-the-rush 8-4 in Game 1, allowing 4 rush goals and again, it could not contain the Soviets speed in Game 2. The Soviet team created 9 rush chances, putting 6 on net - Esposito shut the door on all of them.
Phil Esposito continued to pepper Vladislav Tretiak, scoring the game’s first goal midway through the 2nd period. Esposito led all skaters in just about every meaningful stat pertaining to goal scoring in Game 2.
After underestimating the Soviet team in Game 1, Canada put forth a better effort in Game 2 but, as you likely know, this series was long from over. Stay tuned as we will have more never-before-seen insights coming your way on Tuesday as we look back at Game 3 in Winnipeg.
Game 1: September 2nd, 1972
Today marks the 50th anniversary of Game 1 of one of the most iconic events in hockey history - the Summit Series between Canada and the USSR. We have analyzed the series using the same state-of-the-art technology we use to process games today and will be releasing never before seen insights on each game on the date it was played. We start with Game 1 which was played on September 2nd, 1972.
The Soviets shocked Canada with a dominant 7-3 win in Montreal. Canada learned firsthand how fast the Soviets play and got their first taste of future Hall of Famer, Valeri Kharlamov.
The Soviet team created twice as many rush chances compared to Canada and outscored them 4-0 off-the-rush.
Former Montreal Canadiens’ head coach Claude Ruel would go on to say of the Soviets, "They are always moving, never standing around, they head-man the puck as well as anyone has ever done.”
Kharlamov was the most dynamic player in the game, entering the offensive zone with possession of the puck 15 times - no other player hit double digits. For some context, only two players in the NHL last season finished a game with more controlled zone entries than Kharlamov’s 15. Kharlamov also led all players with 2 goals in the game.
Canada’s biggest challenge heading into Game 2 - find a way to slow the Soviets down.
Stay tuned, we will recap Game 2 on Sunday, September 4th - 50 years to the day the game was played.