January 22, 2007

Rendez Vous '87 - Personal Impressions of Team NHL

I had the opportunity to watch these games on VHS. It was a great chance to relive some hockey and hockey players of the past. Posted below are some brief comments I noted while watching the series 20 years later.

The most obvious thing I notice when watching Team NHL is Wayne Gretzky. The ESPN commentators actually say Gretzky wasn't overly effective, particularly in game one, but he was by far the best player on the NHL side in my opinion. Almost every shift featured Gretzky setting up a potentially dangerous scoring play, or so it seemed. That being said, I noticed Gretzky was on the ice for more than a couple of the Soviet goals.

One thing I found odd was the defensive pairings with the Gretzky-Kurri-Tikkanen line in game one. Coach Jean Perron wanted the steady veterans Rod Langway and Rick Green out with Gretzky in game one, presumably to make up for any defensive shortcomings created by the offensive risk-taking Oilers. Though Langway and Green were great, their lack of offensive game might have hurt Gretzky's line, who of course were used to someone like Paul Coffey acting as a 4th forward.

I found that pairing odd, and noticed in game two Ray Bourque and Doug Wilson were paired with the Gretzky line. Gretzky played better in game two, according to ESPN, though I thought he was impressively fine in game one.

Kudos to the Team NHL coaching staff. They put together a great game plan and had the team performing surprisingly well under the circumstances. Jet-lagged players who battled each other all season flew in, practiced just a couple of times, and took on the cohesive, well trained Soviet National team. Realistically, Team NHL was at a huge disadvantage. The coaches deserve much of the credit.

Here's some commentary on each of the players... Full Story

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