Foster Hewitt Division Final: #1 Montreal Candiens vs #2 Spartak Moscow

BM67
12-08-2006, 09:22 AM
The Montreal Canadiens will face Spartak Moscow in the Foster Hewitt Division Final. The Canadiens defeated the Saskatoon Blues in a best of seven second round series, winning in four games. Moscow defeated the Quebec Citadelles in a best of seven second round series, winning in seven games.

MONTREAL CANADIENS

Coach: Tommy Ivan

Paul Kariya - Adam Oates - Gordie Howe
Johnny Bucyk - Doug Gilmour - Peter Bondra
Dean Prentice - Hooley Smith - Bobby Rousseau
Ryan Smyth - Doug Risebrough - Stan Smyl
Brad Richards

Sprague Cleghorn - Brad Park
Chris Chelios - Jim Schoenfeld
Stefan Persson - Charlie Huddy
Ted Harris

Johnny Bower
Gump Worsley
Mike Liut

Spartak Moscow

Coach: Al Arbour
Captain: Bryan Trottier
Alternate Captains: Danny Gare, Jacques Laperriere

Clark Gillies - Bryan Trottier - Mike Bossy
Patrik Elias - Vyacheslav Starshinov - Jarome Iginla
Gerard Gallant - Bobby Smith - Danny Gare
Yvon Lambert - Dale Hunter - Jean Pronovost
Garry Unger

Jacques Laperriere - Eric Desjardins
Bill Quackenbush - Jean-Guy Talbot
Herb Gardiner - Sylvio Mantha
Garth Butcher

Glenn Hall
Tiny Thompson
Alex Connell

God Bless Canada
12-08-2006, 01:43 PM
Goaltending: Moscow. Not only do they have the better No. 1 goalie, they have a better back-up and No. 3 as well. It's not as clear-cut as one might think, but it's definitely one Moscow has to exploit. Hall’s one of the top five ever, Thompson is one of the top 5 back-ups in the draft, and Connell’s the top No. 3. That’s not to say Montreal’s goaltending is suspect – Johnny Bower’s on the outer periphery of the top 10, and Gump Worsley’s a great back-up. While Bower does hold the 4-1 edge in rings, Hall had several great playoffs, especially late in his career in St. Louis.

Defence: Montreal. Still the best 1-2-3 punch in the draft. Any team facing the Habs will have to prepare to have one of Chelios, Park or Claguehorn on the ice for the entire game. At least until Chelios or Claguehorn flips out and gets suspended. Until that time, it’s going to be a long night for Moscow. Moscow has a steady, unspectacular defence, but their best – Laperriere and Quackenbush – would be the No. 4 on Montreal. Moscow might actually have a slight edge in terms of depth in the 4 to 6 spots, with solid players like Talbot, Gardiner and especially Mantha. But it still doesn’t overcome Montreal’s terrific trio. Both teams have an excellent array of two-way forwards. Montreal’s defencemen will get a lot of help from scorers like Howe, Gilmour and Oates, and Montreal can toss out two strong checking lines. Outside of Mike Bossy, the entire Moscow forward corps knows the way to the defensive zone. Patrick Elias’ defensive abilities are horribly underrated.

Offence: Montreal. I have reservations about Moscow's ability to get scoring from beyond their first line. The first line is awesome - a reunion of the best line from one of the best teams in hockey history. I love their collection of gritty, two-way forwards on the next three lines, but I don't see that game breaker who'll get two and two if the Trottier line is shut out. Also, Moscow doesn't have that dominant offensive defenceman. Quackenbush would likely be the best, and while he's a slick puck-move, he isn't a top 10 offensive guy. Montreal went with the two scoring line system (which seems to be the ticket to success in this draft). The first line is very well built. Bucyk and Gilmour will be a very potent second line. Hooley Smith should generate offence on the third line. The Big 3 on defence are all offensively capable, and Persson is a very good puck-mover, too.

Coaching: Moscow. If Moscow is going to win this series, Al Arbour will have to be at his best. If Moscow does win this series, Arbour should be the first star. He's going to need a performance on the level of the Pittsburgh/NYI series in 1993, when he outcoached Bowman. Ivan's an all-time great, don't get me wrong, but Arbour is one of the top three, ever.

Intangibles: Moscow. Very tough call here. Went with Moscow because of the Islanders factor. It's one thing to reunite the top line and a coach. It's another thing to reunite the top line and a coach from a dynasty. Nobody in the draft can say that. Chemistry won't be as much of a factor in the playoffs as it was in the early stages of the regular season, since players have had the full year to adjust to their surroundings. Both teams have an excellent assemblance of character players, leaders and winners. You realize how much character is in Moscow's room when you see that Dale Hunter, one of the best leaders of the last 25 years, isn't wearing a letter.

Grit: Montreal. Another very tough call. Both teams have plenty of grit up and down the lineup. They have two solid checking lines. I went with Montreal partially on the defence - again, the Big 3, combined with the shot-blocking of Schoenfeld and the superb defensive play of Charlie Huddy - and the collection of forwards. With the exception of Bucyk, Kariya and Bondra, they're all solid. Adam Oates was great in the faceoffs and on the penalty kill. Guys like Smyth and Smyl are definitely the types you want on your team at this time of year.

I think this series goes the distance. The deciding factor is how does Moscow get around Montreal's Big 3. If they find a way, or if someone gets hurt or suspended, they've got a great chance. If they don't, HO survives the challenge.

BM67
12-10-2006, 03:37 PM
Coaching: Both Ivan and Arbour are first rate, but I have to give the advantage to Arbour. Ivan will put in a system to win, but Arbour will out coach him in game. Advantage: Moscow

Goaltending: In the regular season, Hall would be the man, but this is the playoffs. As much as Hall's so-so playoff record is a product of the team in front of him, Bower is the better playoff goalie. He backstopped the Leafs to 4 Cups, twice beating Hall to do so. If the backups came into it, I'd also say Thompson's playoff record is not as good as Worsley's. While neither team is going to lose the series based on "bad" goaltending, if I had to pick one team to have a goalie steal the deciding game, I'd go with the Canadiens. Advantage: Montreal

Defense: While Moscow has a solid line-up, until you get to Butcher, they have nothing to match the "Big 3" of Montreal. The only real problem with the Canadiens D, is that they might be prone to penalty trouble. Since some of their better pk forwards also have a habit of taking a few penalties, this might cost them a few close games. In all this still has to count as a clear advantage to Montreal though. Advantage: Montreal

Forwards: There is a lot of offensive firepower on both teams #1 lines, and a head-to-head matchup of the two would be great to see. Beyond that much of the offense is "solid" rather than "elite", but most of it is backed up by a gritty two-way edge. Neither team has a true shutdown line, but none of the lines are defensively challenged or a physical non-factor. In other words, the goals are likely to be hard fought at even strength, but there will be lots of PP and 4 on 4 play. I see Montreal more of a team of passers, and Moscow as goal scorers, but otherwise they are very much alike. Advantage: Even, but Montreal will get more offense from the D

In the end I guess Montreal's big edge on D and home ice will get them through, but not in less than 6 games.

God Bless Canada
12-10-2006, 03:55 PM
I don't think Hall's playoff performance dipped that much. He was a Cup winner in 1961, and backstopped teams to the final on five other occasions. He's no Jacques Plante or Patrick Roy, but I think he still has enough to get the edge over Bower in a best-of-seven.

Also, Hall did manage a Conn Smythe in a losing cause in 1968.

Bower essentially backstopped Toronto to three championships. Sawchuk won six of the eight games in 1967.

BM67
12-10-2006, 04:48 PM
I don't think Hall's playoff performance dipped that much. He was a Cup winner in 1961, and backstopped teams to the final on five other occasions. He's no Jacques Plante or Patrick Roy, but I think he still has enough to get the edge over Bower in a best-of-seven.

Also, Hall did manage a Conn Smythe in a losing cause in 1968.

Bower essentially backstopped Toronto to three championships. Sawchuk won six of the eight games in 1967.

Bower played in 6 Finals with Toronto and won 4 Cups. He also won a Retro Conn Smythe Trophy (http://www.hhof.com/html/newsconn.shtml) for '63. Bowers 2 wins in '67 came in the Final against Montreal, including a shutout at Montreal and an OT win in Toronto.

I'm not saying Hall sucked in the playoffs, but he just didn't "step it up". He got 3 "gift" final appearances from the east/west seperation in St. Louis, and one of those was on Plante's back more than '67 was on Sawchuk.

Player - RSGP - POGP - RSW - POW - RSW% - POW% - Dif - RSGAA - POGAA - Dif Ė Cups
Bower - 552 _ 74 _ 250 _ 35 _ .551 _ .507 _ -.044 _ 2.51 _ 2.47 _ -0.04 _ 4
Hall - 906 _ 115 _ 407 _ 49 _ .545 _ .430 _ -.115 _ 2.49 _ 2.78 _ +0.29 _ 1

Player Ė GAADif
45. Bower -0.04
53. Hall +0.29

Player - W%Dif
32. Bower -.044
49. Hall -.115

SV% from the Hockey Compendium:
Bower .921 - .923
Hall .917 - .913

God Bless Canada
12-11-2006, 12:53 PM
I didn't include Hall's trip in 69 among the five Cup finalists that he "backstopped," since he wasn't the No. 1 in 69. But he was the No. 1 for five teams that reached the final.

While I respect the efforts of the HHOF with the "retro Conn Smythe winners," I do take it with a grain of salt. There are some obvious choices - Beliveau in 56, Boom Boom in 57 - but you're trying to figure out how a panel of voters would choose the playoff MVP. The standards of those who decided the retro Conn Smythe winners could be completely different from those who would have voted at the time. And I have my doubts as to how much those voting on the Retro Conn Smythes would have actually seen from the series.

On the surface, Bower would be an ideal choice for the 1963 Conn with his miniscule 1.6 GAA. And anybody who does their research can tell you that Bower was brilliant for the Leafs in their three Cup wins. But I definitely put more stock in an actual Conn Smythe than a hypothetical Conn Smythe.

Hockey Outsider
12-11-2006, 07:42 PM
BM67 and GBC, I think your assessments are very reasonable. No major objections to what you guys said.

The key to this series is if I can shut down the Trio Grande. This certainly wonít be an easy task, but Cleghorn and Chelios can play for 30 minutes per game if necessary. Even a line as talented as Trottierís would have trouble scoring if they faced those two tough, nasty warriors the entire series. (Iím looking forward to some Gillies vs. Cleghorn battles). Laperriere and Desjardins are good defensemen, but they lack the toughness and intimidation factor needed to shut down players like Howe, Gilmour and Bucyk.

Also, I agree that Moscow would have a fairly big goaltending advantage in the regular season, but in the playoffs I see Hall and Bower as nearly equal. Hypothetical Conn Smythe or not, Bower was a dominant playoff goalie who routinely shut down players like Beliveau, Hull, Mikita, Geoffrion, Bathgate and (indeed) Howe when it counted most and was always relied upon to make the big saves. Check out Chicagoís playoff stats in the sixties; their offense always remained deadly but their goals-against increased dramatically. Hall has to take some of the blame there.

Anyway, this should be a great series. Iím definitely looking forward to the results and the write-up.

Nalyd Psycho
12-12-2006, 02:11 AM
(Iím looking forward to some Gillies vs. Cleghorn battles).

I'm definitely looking at one of Gillies key jobs being to keep Cleghorn away from Bossy.

Spitfire11
12-15-2006, 09:07 PM
(Iím looking forward to some Gillies vs. Cleghorn battles)

From what I've read I think it would end up being Cleghorn vs. the Cops :D