Twenty years of Soviet Hockey: 1962 - 1982 (Index of player profiles in OP)

Discussion in 'All Time Draft' started by Sturminator, Oct 24, 2008.

  1. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    VIKTOR POLUPANOV (C, *1946)

    Recognition in USSR:
    1965-66: #4 center
    1966-67: #2 center
    1967-68: #2 center, 10th in Best Player of the Year voting
    1969-70: top 7 center

    National team (major tournaments):
    1966 WCh, 1967 WCh, 1968 Olympics, 1970 WCh

    Viktor Polupanov started his hockey career with the youth team of Dinamo Moscow. In 1961 he switched to CSKA.

    General comments:

    Hockey handbook: "Particularly proficient in the area near the goal of the opponent. Used to shoot right on target from the slot. He went into combat without hesitation."
    Boris Mikhaylov: "Viktor Polupanov was a sturdy center forward. He was a fine skater and entered the physical battles with bravery."
    Anatoly Firsov: "Polupanov was a player of the battering ram type. Like Starshinov, he went straight ahead and didn't avoid the tightest defence. To him it wasn't a threat, he just made his way through the thick of the barriers the opponent put up."
    Vyacheslav Starshinov: "He likes to get into a clash, that is: to play on the brink of an infraction, on the verge of what is allowed by the rules and on the verge of a penalty."
    Leonid Goryanov: "Some players seem to be born for finesse hockey, like Veniamin Aleksandrov for example. And then there is another type of players who are eager to jump right into the melee. People from my generation will remember how Mikhail Bychkov of Krylya Sovietov was right in his element there in the mid-1950s. Viktor Polupanov's strength and distinction lied in the fact that he had a fine understanding of the most complex game situations and at the same time he was a master in close combat, a master in deflecting pucks and using his body against opponents, and a master with his strong and accurate shot from any distance. In one word, his versatility was admirable."
    Tarasov (1974): "Polupanov was good at winning the puck and quite tough in close engagement."

    In 1965, Polupanov (19) was promoted to the senior team together with Vladimir Vikulov (RW, 19). They formed a line together with top LW Anatoly Firsov (24) in what Tarasov describes as a "risky experiment".

    Tarasov (1968): "Anatoly Firsov was a good teacher. He supported Viktor and Vladimir very calmly, benevolently and tactfully. He did not boast with his experience but consulted both as his equals, and the two guys, especially the somewhat insecure Polupanov, literally flourished from the respect shown to them."
    Tarasov (1971): "Polupanov was inferior to his linemates when it came to creativity. However, he made up for it with hard work, drive for the goal, good sense of tactics and fine technique."

    From 1965 to 1968, Polupanov was a fixture on the national team. Afterwards, disciplinary issues started to derail his career.

    Tarasov (1971): "His lack of will and ability to subordinate himself for the purpose of attaining an aim, the 'liberties' he took with the sporting regime – all of that he never managed to overcome. (...) We endured it for a long time. Perhaps no-one at CSKA was given as much consideration as Viktor. The team forgave him a lot and believed his vows and assurances, but he didn't appreciate the efforts of his comrades."
    Anatoly Firsov: "I'm not exaggerating when I say Vikulov and I talked with Polupanov dozens of times. We begged him, reasoned with him, persuaded him and finally insisted that he should think of himself and us. Viktor swore that he had gotten the message entirely, that he would honour the sporting regime and that he would forget about alcohol completely. He swore, promised and assured us. And then he deceived us."

    In late 1968, he lost his spot on the national team and subsequently missed the 1969 World Championship. One year later he was back on the team. Then CSKA Moscow had a weak start into the 1970-1971 season and Polupanov was named one of the culprits. He was a healthy scratch for a few games. After a stern talk by Tarasov, his effort and performance improved, but at the Izvestia Cup in December 1970 Polupanov missed a team meeting on an off-day as he spent the time drinking beer. As a consequence he was removed from the national team again, stripped of the title "Honoured Master of Sports" and left home when CSKA toured Sweden.

    Anatoly Firsov: "Unfortunately, the removal from the national team did not teach our center forward anything. He believed the coaches were wrong, were treating him unfairly and that the punishment didn't fit his crime. But since then, our team has repeatedly had the sad opportunity to find confirmation that the coaches were right...".

    As Polupanov's showing didn't get better in January 1971, Tarasov sentenced him to additional training sessions. Once again the player declared he understood the message.

    Tarasov (1974): "But Viktor deceived the team again. This time he violated the military discipline and therefore he was punished very severely. (...) He deceived me. And not only me, but the whole team. And most of all, he deceived himself."

    Polupanov didn't play another game for CSKA after February 1971. The next season he had an unsuccessful stint with Krylya Sovietov and that was the end of his career in the top tier of the Soviet league.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2018
  2. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    VLADIMIR VIKULOV (RW, *1946)

    National team (major tournaments):
    all WChs and Olympics from 1966 to 1972; 1972 and 1974 Summit, 1975 WCh, 1976 Canada Cup

    Soviet honours:
    1965-66: #2 right winger
    1966-67: #1 right winger
    1967-68: #1 right winger
    1968-69: #2 right winger
    1969-70: top 7 right winger, All-star, 4th in Best Player of the Year voting
    1970-71: top 7 right winger, All-star, 2nd in Best Player of the Year voting
    1971-72: All-star, 3rd in Best Player of the Year voting
    1973-74: top 18 forward, 11th in Best Player of the Year voting
    1974-75: top 18 forward, 10th in Best Player of the Year voting
    1975-76: top 22 forward, 10th in Best Player of the Year voting
    1976-77: top 11 forward, 9th in Best Player of the Year voting
    1977-78: 15th in Best Player of the Year voting

    Vikulov (RW) played on a line with Anatoly Firsov from 1965 to 1973. Up until early 1971, their regular center was Viktor Polupanov (replaced by Aleksandr Maltsev at the 1969 and 1971 World Championship). For the 1971-1972 season, the line was re-arranged: Firsov switched to the halfback position and Vikulov played forward together with Valery Kharlamov (LW) as Tarasov made them employ his 1-2-2 system. At CSKA this trio was kept together until early 1973, but on the national team halfback Firsov was replaced by center Aleksandr Maltsev when Bobrov became head coach after the 1972 Olympics.
    Playing RW on the line with Kharlamov (LW) and Maltsev (C) at the 1972 Summit Series, Vikulov's performance there was considered a severe disappointment and cost him his spot on the national team. After two years, he regained it for the 1974-1975 season which enabled him to play at the 1974 Summit Series and the 1975 World Championship before he was dropped again. After another season, he was called up again for the 1976 Canada Cup: the Soviets decided to leave several top players at home, to the benefit of Vladimir Vikulov (among others). That was his last big appearance on the big international stage. His career for CSKA in the Soviet league continued until 1979.

    General comments:

    Hockey handbook: "A player with fine technique, a quick and accurate shot, an excellent pass and the highest art of stickhandling. Great at creating favourable conditions for his partners to score."

    Note: Viktor Polupanov didn't talk as kindly of Vikulov's shot. See further below.
    Boris Mikhaylov: "Vladimir Vikulov had distinguished technique and vision of the ice. He often found original solutions in the attack and was difficult to neutralize."
    Anatoly Firsov*: "Cunning, very cunning, unusually cunning hockey player. Understands the game very well. Artistic forward. Controlling the puck, carrying it with great speed, seeing the ice clearly and thinking, thinking...his pass is precise...punishes his opponent for the slightest, most imperceptible error. Tremendous hockey sense. Loves the puck, knows what to do with it, but gives it up willingly, gladly. Of course, not out of kindness - Vikulov has a keen sense for the moment, the time to 'deliver' a pass. And our production, our goals – Volodya's passes, his work."
    Vadim Krivenko, Novosti Press Agency (1967):
    "Is chiefly noted for his combinational play, speed and decisiveness."

    Tarasov (1974): "The most powerful trump card of Vikulov is the art of deception. Usually he doesn't show off his athletic abilities, he comes across as a puny guy when in reality he has strong muscles and is a physically strong athlete. At the same time he's a very clean player. (...) His passing and stickhandling are complemented by the stealthiness he changes gears with. Vladimir's acceleration is deceptive: he neither tilts his head forward nor makes additional moves with his stick, his intentions do not manifest themselves outwardly in any way. It's only in hindsight the opponent learns what our forward was up to."
    Leonid Goryanov: "His moves and actions on the ice were unusually delicate and always took the opponent by complete surprise."
    Anatoly Firsov: "There really is no cleverer and more cunning forward than him. He is capable of giving passes that make you marvel at how he managed to even see his partner since he had his back turned to him and was just occupied with getting around an opponent."
    Viktor Polupanov*: "Invention, initiative - Vikulov had these qualities over everyone. He was always in motion, searching, offering himself to receive a pass, aiding the defense, if necessary. Having received the puck at the red line, he doesn't wait for numbers to attack - initiates the attack himself, takes over the game. Physically strong, agile, nimble, not afraid of the physical game, and almost never loses battles. But always very polite, correct - is very seldom sent off!"
    Tarasov (1971): "Regardless of the circumstances, Vladimir keeps the puck under control."
    Tarasov (1974): "He doesn't fall to the ice, he's strong on his skates and he goes for physical clashes. His technique, skill and agility and the shifty movement that allows him to keep and control the puck remind me of Nikolay Khlystov."

    Physical situations:

    Tarasov (1971): "If the situation requires it, he doesn't shy away from physicality, although he doesn't look for it either as his light weight puts him at a disadvantage. But when Vikulov can't avoid a physical clash, he puts his body in such a way that the opponent usually misses him and falls down while shrewd Vladimir continues to rush towards the goal. The more complicated the situation, the closer the opponents, the more rugged, fierce and merciless his guard, the calmer and cooler-headed Vladimir acts."
    Tarasov (1974): "He doesn't avoid the melee, doesn't shy away from the clash with the opponent and still doesn't lose the puck. Usually he attacks the opponent at the moment when he starts some movement and is therefore not entirely stable on his skates. Entering the physical combat, Vikulov uses a feint and makes the opponent look clumsy."

    Potential or actual weaknesses:

    Viktor Polupanov*: "Weaknesses? His shot. Ah...Vikulov's shooting - the butt of many jokes! How often we laughed at him, trying to get him to shoot on goal from the blueline (18 meters) - it was useless. Volodya does not favor hard shots. For him, a goal from far away is not a goal. To deke the defenseman in the 'slot', to 'lay down' the goaltender with a clever feint, and flip the puck into an empty net - this, he considers a real success."
    Vyacheslav Starshinov: "Vladimir Vikulov loves and knows how to beat you one against one. He is light in weight, agile, fast and very skilled. But his infatuation with going around opponents is also a vulnerability, at times he's a little careless, a little irresponsible. Playing against him, we don't engage him straight up. It's better to roll back, drive him into a corner and let him go on until he makes a mistake."

    Note: * indicates that the translation was provided by Sturminator.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2018
  3. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    In the following passage, Anatoly Firsov draws a comparison between Vikulov and Kharlamov. (From Firsov's 1973 book.)

    "The way these two wingers approach the game is similar. Both have a wide repertoire of deceptive feints and their stickhandling is on par with how true musketeers handle the sword. To take away the puck from them is very difficult. Neither Kharlamov nor Vikulov need free ice, on the contrary, they deliberately search for an opponent. It's not so much speed that they beat their guardians with, but finesse and stickhandling, and they beat them right where they encounter them, without delay and without waiting for a partner. They don't like it when their linemates rush to their help. From the corner of the rink, they try to get out by themselves, and all their linemates have to do to assist them is to take the face-offs and to signal their readiness to help."

     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2018
  4. Batis

    Batis Registered User

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    So it seems like my video studies of Firsov and the Green Unit were lost in this migration. Fortunately I had most of it saved on my e-mail and the posts from the Firsov study were all there. So I figured that I could repost it in this thread.

    The games which have been used for this study are the following.

    Full games

    USSR-Canada 1964 Olympics
    USSR-CSSR 1967 WHC
    USSR-Canada 1967 WHC
    USSR-West Germany 1968 Olympics
    USSR-Sweden 1968 Olympics
    USSR-Canada 1968 Olympics
    USSR-CSSR 1969 WHC
    USSR-Sweden 1969 WHC
    USSR-Sweden 1970 WHC (group game)
    USSR-Sweden 1970 WHC (final round)

    Partial games

    USSR-Finland 1968 Olympics (only the third period)
    USSR-USA 1968 Olympics (approximately 2 periods worth of footage)

    So we have 10 full games and 2 partial games which approximately equals 1 full game of footage. So all in all we have 11 games worth of footage of prime Firsov.

    Before doing this study I had already watched all of these games except for one (the 1968 West Germany game) but I had never done it with so much focus on Firsov.

    During the Top-50 Non-NHL European project it was brought up by VMBM that Firsov not was on the ice for a single goal against during the 1969 WHC and only for one goal against during the 1972 Olympics. Here is the quote.

    This made me want to look at whether Firsovs ability to prevent goals against would be possible to see during the available games on youtube too. And it turned out that it was. In the available games with Firsov he was only on the ice for 1 goal against at even strenght (against Sweden in 1968) and 1 goal against while penalty killing (against West Germany in 1968). So all in all only 2 goals against during approximately 11 games. As a comparison the Mikhailov, Petrov and Kharlamov line was on the ice for more goals against during these games even if they only played in 4 of them.

    If we add the remaining 8 games from the 1969 WHC which are not available on youtube and the 5 games from the 1972 Olympics to the 11 available games we see that Firsov only was on the ice for 3 goals against during a sample size of 24 games. So in my opinion we have a very good reason to believe that Firsov had some abilities which often helped him and his linemates to prevent the other team from scoring while he was on the ice.

    Based on watching these games focusing on him I would personally say that one of Firsovs most important qualities when it came to prevent the other teams from scoring was his ability to help out his defencemen with the transition from defence to offence by giving them support along the boards and make great passes from his own zone. Firsov also had the ability to use his stickwork to steal pucks from his opponents and regain puck possession for his team. Firsov was also a player who was not afraid to get his nose dirty. He was a hard worker along the boards both offensively and defensively and he was most of the time very responsible on the backcheck when he had to cover up for when some player had been caught out of position.

    First I will show some examples of Firsovs ability and willingness to help his defencemen with the transition out of the defensive zone. Firsov was very good at making himself available for receiving passes along the boards close to the blueline (in his own zone) and from there make a play to breakout of the defensive zone.

    Here we have a first great example of this. Firsov makes a really clever play along the boards to get the puck out of the zone and at the same time starts a dangerous counterattack.

    Firsov gets the puck along the boards from his defenceman and then makes a nice move and passes it to Yakushev in the middle who then finds Volkov for a chance on the quick counterattack.

    Firsov makes a great one-touch pass from his own zone to keep puck possession.

    Firsov makes a great pass from his own zone to give Vikulov a one against one. Vikulov makes a great move and scores.

    This is another example of Firsovs ability to help his teams transition from defence to offence. Intercepts a pass and makes a great one-touch pass to Polupanov who can start a counterattack.

    This time Firsov and his line uses another strategy to break out of their own zone. Firsov passes the puck along the boards all the way to Vikulov on the other side who makes a one-touch cross-ice pass back to Firsov who uses his speed to breakout and get a counterattack. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8D6CCIadRn8&t=27m17s

    Firsov makes a great play along the boards to breakout of his zone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlZdzko7DH0&t=83m36s

    Firsov makes a clever play along the boards while penalty killing and the Soviets can clear the puck. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28mLLsfVM8E&t=52m21s

    Firsov makes a one-touch pass to Vikulov who can counterattack. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6bClxtdzr0&t=14m54s

    Firsov gives support along the boards when the Soviets builds up an attack from the backend. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlZdzko7DH0&t=7m16s

    Another example of Firsov finding a pass to break out after a defensive zone face-off. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlZdzko7DH0&t=25m22s

    Nothing spectacular but Firsov once again is in a great position along the boards to help with the transition to offence. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3q-FxeHubc&t=82m50s

    Here Firsov shows many of the qualities I talked about earlier. He first helps Ragulin along the boards in his own zone and then after a rush up the ice carrying the puck he works hard in the offensive zone. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3q-FxeHubc&t=16m10s

    A great play from Firsov. Here he shows his ability to quickly transition from defence to offence. He intercepts a pass from Tord Lundström, then sets up Mikhailov for a breakaway and a goal. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28mLLsfVM8E&t=45m53s

    Firsov combines with Ragulin and Ivanov to build up a Soviet attack from the backend. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7JsFnf-rDI&t=37m43s

    Lets move on to Firsovs ability to pick other players pockets and steal pucks.

    Here we can see Firsovs ability to pickpocket. While penaltykilling he first skates the puck out of his own zone. After he loses controll of the puck Firsov comes back and picks Pospisils pocket and almost scores a shorthanded goal. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRRBwrw4Ze8&t=51m18s

    Great shift from Firsov. First he makes a great pick pocket and makes a great pass to Vikulov who gets a chance to shot. Then he steals the puck another time and makes some more good passes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6bClxtdzr0&t=56m0s

    Firsov steals the puck and works hard in the offensive zone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3q-FxeHubc&t=4m43s

    Another example of Firsovs hard work and puck stealing abilities. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3q-FxeHubc&t=67m37s

    Great shift from Firsov. Here he shows both his ability to work hard, steal the puck and make good passes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28mLLsfVM8E&t=82m8s

    Firsov first dumps the puck into the offensive zone and then steals the puck. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6bClxtdzr0&t=49m30s

    After missing a offensive zone cross-ice pass Firsov backchecks and regains the puck with a steal. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VqPHBqdeqw&t=38m48s

    Another steal. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28mLLsfVM8E&t=65m0s

    Yet another example of when Firsov uses his stickwork to get the puck away from his opponent. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psibElYk5Gc&t=55m10s

    Firsov works hard and steals the puck from Lars-Erik Sjöberg. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8D6CCIadRn8&t=43m33s

    Once again Firsov uses his stickwork to make a defensive play. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28mLLsfVM8E&t=77m26s

    Firsov steals the puck and draws a swedish penalty. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlZdzko7DH0&t=73m49s

    Firsov pokes the puck away from the Canadian defenceman. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7JsFnf-rDI&t=14m47s

    Firsovs combination of skill and hard work also made him a great puck possesion player in the offensive zone. And puck possession is of course a very effective way to prevent your opponents from scoring.

    Firsov works very hard and protects the puck along the boards. At the end of the shift he makes a great pass to give Vikulov a chance. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VqPHBqdeqw&t=19m28s

    Firsov again does a great job at protecting the puck in the offensive zone and creates a shot opportunity for Polupanov. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlZdzko7DH0&t=84m48s

    Firsov and his linemates Vikulov and Polupanov has a very good shift and does a great job with protecting the puck in the offensive zone until Polupanov almost gets a chance in front of the net. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRRBwrw4Ze8&t=15m14s

    Firsov first does a great job protecting the puck along the boards and then gets it deep where his linemates Vikulov and Polupanov works hard. Then Firsov gets the puck back and moves around another defenceman and throws the puck at the net. The puck goes through the traffic in front and into the net. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7JsFnf-rDI&t=59m53s

    Firsov makes some good plays to keep the puck possession on his team. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7JsFnf-rDI&t=94m27s

    First Firsov dumps the puck in and then after they have retrieved the puck the Firsov-Polupanov-Vikulov line has another strong shift in the offensive zone. Firsov gets a chance at the end. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRRBwrw4Ze8&t=24m0s

    Puck possession was one of Firsovs main strenghts while penalty killing too. Now Firsov may not have been quite as skilled as someone like Makarov when it came to holding on to the puck on the penalty kill but it was still one of his strenghts. Here we have some examples of this.

    Here we have Firsov and Ivanov doing a great job holding on to the puck while penalty killing 3 against 5. The second time that Firsov holds on to the puck he also manages to make the Czechoslovakians take a penalty. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRRBwrw4Ze8&t=30m54s

    Firsov scores a great shorthanded goal after holding on to the puck and combining with Ragulin and Polupanov. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psibElYk5Gc&t=27m12s

    Here Firsov uses his brilliant puck skills to skate the puck out his own zone and hold on to it for abit while penalty killing before he fires a shot at the Czechoslovakian net from center-ice. A great example of his famous skate to stick move. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRRBwrw4Ze8&t=86m0s

    Firsov makes some good moves on a offensive rush while penalty killing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPFE1Q-r0hI&t=39m16s

    Firsov and Vikulov kills some time on the penalty kill. Look at Firsovs turn in the beginning. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DR_2f6YEHes&t=54m41s

    Firsov wins a faceoff and creates a shorthanded chance for Vikulov. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPFE1Q-r0hI&t=16m20s

    Here Firsov makes some nice moves and holds on to the puck while penalty killing. Sure the West German team already seems to have given up so their effort is what it is but it is still possible to see Firsovs abilities. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VqPHBqdeqw&t=79m57s

    As you could see in some of the puck possession clips Firsov did not shy away from physical play for the most part. Here are some more examples of this.

    Firsov makes a great play along the boards against Canada. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7JsFnf-rDI&t=42m16s

    Firsov shows great balance along the boards before making a great play which gives Maltsev a good chance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28mLLsfVM8E&t=78m0s

    Firsov against Carl Brewer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7JsFnf-rDI&t=19m50s

    When Firsov did get hit he seemed to be able to take it very well. Here he just jumps back up for example. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7JsFnf-rDI&t=45m14s

    The only hit that seemed to take the air out of him was this one from Jaroslav Holik at the beginning of the 1967 game. But then Firsov went on to have what I probably consider his finest game among the available footage. So he seemed to have taken that hit very well too. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRRBwrw4Ze8&t=3m27s

    So lets now look at some examples of backchecking and responsible defensive play from Firsov.

    Here Firsov shows some of his speed while backchecking. After a faceoff in the offensive zone Firsov almost gets a chance at the side of the net but the pass to him is intercepted and the Canadians can counterattack. Even if Firsov is on his way forward and has to turn he still manages to be the first forward back and help his defencemen. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7JsFnf-rDI&t=105m20s

    Firsov first backchecks and pokechecks the puck away from Tord Lundström. Then he makes a great offensive play right after. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28mLLsfVM8E&t=28m56s

    Good shift from Firsov. First he backckecks hard. Then he makes a great pass and gets a shot opportunity. At the end of it he makes some nice moves too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28mLLsfVM8E&t=34m58s

    A example of responsible backchecking by Firsov who backchecks hard and gets on the right side of his opponent to turn a possible 3 against 2 into a 3 against 3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3q-FxeHubc&t=9m35s

    Here is the example that I brought up during the Non-NHL European project to describe Firsovs hard work. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRRBwrw4Ze8&t=2m14s After that he backchecks deep into his own zone, wins a puck battle at the boards and starts a counterattack. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRRBwrw4Ze8&t=2m44s

    Another example of a good backcheck effort from Firsov. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VqPHBqdeqw&t=74m43s

    Firsov backchecks and ties up the stick of Björn Palmqvist. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8D6CCIadRn8&t=59m43s

    Firsov first backchecks and then counterattacks and gets a shot off at the Canadian net. Later in the shift Firsov scores a brilliant goal. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psibElYk5Gc&t=95m36s

    Here we see a example of when Firsov makes a very responsible choice and covers up defensively when the Canadian team tries to counterattack. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psibElYk5Gc&t=51m14s

    Another example of Firsovs defensive play. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psibElYk5Gc&t=76m35s

    Firsov first helps out Davydov along the boards in his own zone and gets tripped up but manages to get the puck out. When Davydov joins the attack Firsov stays back and takes his place on defence when the Canadian team counterattacks. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7JsFnf-rDI&t=112m12s

    Lars-Erik Sjöberg tries to get an attack started but Firsov intercepts his pass and clears the puck out of the zone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6bClxtdzr0&t=109m34s
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2017
  5. Batis

    Batis Registered User

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    This post will focus more on Firsovs offensive qualities. Firsov may not have been quite as impressive as someone like Kharlamov when it comes to beating his opponent with skating and moves but he was still very effective at it. Here we have some examples of this.

    Firsov makes some great moves past 3 opponents.

    First Firsov makes a nice pass and then he makes some nice moves to gain the offensive zone.

    Nice rush from Firsov showing both his skating and stickhandling.

    Another nice rush after a combination with Davydov.

    Here Firsov shows his great skating again. Look at how easily he moves past his opponents.

    Nice rush from Firsov to get the puck in deep. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28mLLsfVM8E&t=71m45s

    Brilliant moves from Firsov before scoring. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRRBwrw4Ze8&t=78m50s

    Firsov makes a very nice move past Oldrich Machac on a counterattack. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRRBwrw4Ze8&t=64m37s

    Here Firsov shows his great skating again after a nice play by Maltsev. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPFE1Q-r0hI&t=44m46s

    Nice moves to create a scoring chance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3q-FxeHubc&t=63m11s

    Making rushes with the puck to gain the zone was also something that Firsov was responisble for on the powerplay.

    Good example of this here. Good rush showing both his skating and a nice move to gain the zone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8D6CCIadRn8&t=9m15s

    Here we can again see what a great skater Firsov was. Gains the zone with ease. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPFE1Q-r0hI&t=107m8s

    Firsov moves past 2 opponents to gain the zone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DR_2f6YEHes&t=14m58s

    Again a nice play by Firsov to gain the zone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psibElYk5Gc&t=67m32s

    This time Firsov just uses his skating to make the boxplay unit back off and gains the zone with a pass to Maltsev. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8D6CCIadRn8&t=77m15s

    Firsov gains the zone and makes a drop-pass. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPFE1Q-r0hI&t=26m1s Later in the same shift he gains the zone again http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPFE1Q-r0hI&t=26m18s

    Firsov makes a spinorama before gaining the zone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPFE1Q-r0hI&t=111m19s

    So if we continue with his role on the powerplay it should be noted that Firsov played two different positions on the powerplay during these games. The first one as a playmaker on the left side along the boards and the second one as the left pointman. These were his main positions but at times he would play at the right boards or at the right point too. Here we have some examples Firsovs powerplay performances. Starting with the playmaking role along the boards.

    Great example of Firsovs play in this position. First he wins the faceoff and then he makes some very nice plays from the playmaking position along the left boards. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VqPHBqdeqw&t=9m18s

    Great powerplay shift from Firsov when he makes some good plays from the left boards and then later shifts to the right boards and makes another good play. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlZdzko7DH0&t=74m37s Later in the same shift
    Firsov makes a nice powerplay assist. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlZdzko7DH0&t=76m17s

    First Firsov makes the play to gain the zone then he gets the puck on the left side and sets up some plays. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRRBwrw4Ze8&t=8m16s

    Firsov makes a great play to setup Polupanov for a good chance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psibElYk5Gc&t=20m18s

    Very good powerplay shift from Firsov. First he helps the Soviets to gain the zone then he makes some great plays. Especially the off the boards pass to Ragulin at around 41:26. Honken Holmqvist then makes a great save to deny Firsov from scoring. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlZdzko7DH0&t=40m46s

    Firsov fires a shot towards the american net and then he makes some plays. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DR_2f6YEHes&t=9m27s

    Firsov wins the faceoff to himself, turns in the corner and sets up his defenceman. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DR_2f6YEHes&t=14m3s

    Another example of Firsovs playmaking from this position. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEacUFeMJfc&t=26m0s

    Lets now move on to some examples of Firsovs play from the point position.

    Firsov builds up the attack by finding Kharlamov who can enter the zone. Then Firsov makes a nice pass which Maltsev deflects and the puck hits the crossbar. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPFE1Q-r0hI&t=104m51s

    Here Firsov makes another nice deflection-pass which Petrov deflects towards the net but Honken makes a good save. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28mLLsfVM8E&t=9m24s

    Firsov makes some good plays from the point position. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPFE1Q-r0hI&t=112m35s

    Firsov fires a rocket of a shot above the net. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPFE1Q-r0hI&t=115m11s

    Firsov clearly could play very well in both of these positions on the powerplay but I personally prefer him in the position along the boards. He just seemed far more comfortable there and he did create far more scoring opportunities from that position.

    As you can see in the powerplay clips Firsov was a great playmaker which along with his great goalscoring abilities made him a very well-balanced offensive force. Here we have some more examples of Firsovs passing/playmaking.

    Lets start with this nice assist. Firsov first beats Machac and then finds Polupanov in the slot. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRRBwrw4Ze8&t=45m38s

    Really great play by Firsov here. Nice flippass on the backhand. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8D6CCIadRn8&t=42m59s

    Nice play by Firsov entering the zone and finding Polupanov with a pass. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VqPHBqdeqw&t=52m17s

    Another really nice stickhandling and playmaking play from Firsov. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VqPHBqdeqw&t=53m54s

    Very nice move and pass to Volkov. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3q-FxeHubc&t=44m25s

    Here we have 3 different behind the back passes from Firsov against Sweden in 1968. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlZdzko7DH0&t=46m19s https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlZdzko7DH0&t=84m10s https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlZdzko7DH0&t=56m18s

    Nice move and pass from Firsov which creates a chance for Victor Yakushev. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3q-FxeHubc&t=4m6s

    Here Firsov makes two nice passes to create opportunities for first Maltsev and then Vikulov. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28mLLsfVM8E&t=5m51s

    A nice little pass to Vikulov. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6bClxtdzr0&t=85m3s

    Nice one touch pass to Polupanov who scores. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VqPHBqdeqw&t=60m39s

    One thing that struck me about Firsovs offensive game was how he did not rely on his famous shot to create offence. At least based on these games most of Firsovs goals were rather based on great positioning and stickhandling. Here is the available goals in the footage for you to judge yourself.

    Here is his brilliant goal against Czechoslovakia in 1967 again. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRRBwrw4Ze8&t=78m50s

    His goal after protecting the puck against Canada in 1967. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7JsFnf-rDI&t=59m53s

    Scores after picking up a rebound against USA in 1968. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DR_2f6YEHes&t=4m25s

    Scores another goal against USA in 1968. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DR_2f6YEHes&t=26m55s

    Scores against Sweden in 1968. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlZdzko7DH0&t=12m39s

    Scores another goal against Sweden in 1968 on a deflection. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlZdzko7DH0&t=72m52s

    His great shorthanded goal against Canada in 1968. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psibElYk5Gc&t=27m12s

    Scores another goal against Canada in 1968 after some nice stickhandling. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psibElYk5Gc&t=96m5s

    Now Firsov clearly had an absolute rocket of a shot and surely scored a lot of goals thanks to it but at least based on this sample size of footage many of his goals also came as a result of other skills.

    In the available footage of Firsov it is obvious that he used his famous skate to stick move relatively often. Here we have some examples.

    Here is the example I showed earlier when Firsov does this move while penalty killing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRRBwrw4Ze8&t=86m0s
    Great example of this move. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VqPHBqdeqw&t=46m33s

    Here Firsov uses this move to get by his opponent in the neutral zone and get the puck in deep. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7JsFnf-rDI&t=37m9s

    Another example already shown in the puck possession while penalty killing part. Here Firsov uses this move to keep the puck away from his opponents. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRRBwrw4Ze8&t=31m37s

    Now it should be noted that a very creative player like Anatoli Firsov of course also made mistakes with the puck. But I personally think that Firsov made very few mistakes when we take into consideration how creative he was as a player. Anyway here is some examples of when Firsov did too much with the puck.

    Firsov turns at his own blueline and tries to make his very common pass to the middle of the neutral zone but no one is there. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3q-FxeHubc&t=24m28s

    Here Firsov makes something as uncommon as two mistakes in a row with the puck. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3q-FxeHubc&t=83m27s

    Here Firsov tries to find Polupanov in the middle as usual but the pass is off target and Nedomansky can counterattack. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRRBwrw4Ze8&t=65m50s

    While killing time at the end of the game against Czechoslovakia in 1967 Firsov does to much with the puck and loses it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRRBwrw4Ze8&t=106m23s

    Here Firsov tries to be to fancy with the puck. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psibElYk5Gc&t=39m56s

    Here Firsov tries to make a move close to the offensive blueline but loses the puck. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VqPHBqdeqw&t=1m43s

    Here Firsov throws a blind pass which goes to the wrong adress. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VqPHBqdeqw&t=8m21s

    Here Firsov takes two bad decisions on the powerplay. First he shots the puck straight into the blocking player and it leaves the zone. Then he tries to make a cross-ice pass which is off target and the puck leaves the zone again. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPFE1Q-r0hI&t=24m27s

    Here Firsov tries a spinorama pass on which is intercepted. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPFE1Q-r0hI&t=111m10s

    Here Firsov tries to make a turn with the puck and start a rush but the puck gets stolen from him. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28mLLsfVM8E&t=45m6s

    Here Firsov tries to be a bit to fancy in his own zone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JlZdzko7DH0&t=90m26s

    During the Top 50 Non-NHL European project here at this site I ranked Firsov third on my list behind Fetisov and Makarov and just ahead of Kharlamov and Tretiak and doing this study has only made my belief that Firsov belongs among these players even stronger. Firsovs ability to find creative solutions with the puck along with his ability to steal pucks from his opponents just made him such a versatile player that could control the game in a impressive way. Which I believe is the reason why the opponents scored so few goals when Firsov was on the ice. His offensive game was so well-rounded too and he could take on so many roles on the ice (playmaker from a deep position, shooter from the point, hard working player along the boards and puck-carrying dangler) which made him extremly hard to contain for his opponents.

    Some additional thoughts. While Firsov was a great player during the entire time frame covered by this study (1964-1970) the eye test tells me that his absolute peak as a player probably was in 1967 and 1968. This is also supported by him being the runaway leader in the all-star voting among forwards during those tournaments. 1968 was also Firsovs strongest year in the Soviet player of the year voting where he ended up with a voting share of 89.5 percent. During his other two wins in the Soviet player of the year voting Firsov got voting shares of 41.2 percent in 1969 and 64.2 percent in 1971. Unfortunately the award had not been created yet in 1967 so we dont know how Firsov would have done in the voting that year. But considering how similar Firsovs 66/67 season was to his 67/68 season when it comes to achievements it seems very likely that Firsov could have recieved similar voting support in a hypothetical Soviet player of the year voting in 1967 as he did in 1968.
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2017
  6. Batis

    Batis Registered User

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    This quote made me think about this pass from Vikulov against USA at the 1976 Canada Cup.

    Yes one thing that I have noticed with Vikulov is how difficult it seems to have been for the defencemen to pin him to the boards. Here is one example of this when Pospisil tries to pin him to the boards but with his shiftiness Vikulov manages to get away and helps create a goal for the Soviets.
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2017
  7. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    Another piece on Chernyshov and Tarasov, this time from Aleksandr Gorbunov's book "Anatoly Tarasov":

    "During training, Tarasov almost always worked on the ice and Chernyshov behind the board. It was believed that the coaches had agreed on this division of positions during talks in advance. Few, however, knew that Chernyshov was suffering from severe chronic radiculopathy which deprived him of the opportunity to lead the training process on skates and with a stick in his hands. (...) Tarasov, it is worth noting, believed that 'working with a team is incomparably easier if you are on the ice next to the athletes and let the rhythm of the training flow through yourself.' 'But at the same time,' Tarasov said..., 'Arkady [Chernyshov], having thought out and planned the training in detail, conducted it from behind the board no less interesting and productive than if he was on the ice.' (...)
    Chernyshov himself, it must be said, never wrote anything beyond rare notes and observations about games or tournaments. In the late 1960s, Tarasov suggested Chernyshov should write a book together with him, but Chernyshov refused. With the irony characteristic for their conversations, he said: 'You are the writer, so you do the writing.'"​
     
  8. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    In his 1973 publication Зажечь победы свет, Anatoly Firsov gives a detailed insight on a specific instance (1971 World Championship):

    "Chernyshov managed the tactical employment of the third line [Starshinov line] and Tarasov of the first [Maltsev] and second [Petrov] line."​

    However, this doesn't mean each coach only had his own line(s) to care about. The following quote concerning the first line shows that there was mutual consulation and coordination between Chernyshov and Tarasov on all units:

     
  9. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    After a little break I will continue to mine the Russian sources I have available over the upcoming weeks. For now, here's an interesting comment by Anatoly Tarasov on how to evaluate hockey players. From his book Хоккей грядущего ("Hockey of the Future"):

    "Often when I watch a young athlete, I'm impressed with his stickhandling and the accuracy and timing of his passes, but frustrated with how very weak he interacts with his linemates in a complex game situation. He hasn't learned to align his actions with the actions of his partners and therefore he isn't able to keep track of their intentions and mistakes. And that's why he makes mistakes himself as he can't react to threats by the opponent in time. (...) Getting acquinted with a young player who has been recommended to me as a future 'star', I monitor him closely and try to understand whether he anticipates the development of the attack, in which scale he thinks and what he does after he has played a pass. (...) The player has parted with the puck and his pass was perfectly accurate. What is he going to do now? How many fractions of a second does it take him to choose a promising position? Is he going to offer himself to his linemates or threaten the goal or divert the attention of the opponents away from his partners? Is he going for a hard bodycheck in the final stage of the attack? Or, when the puck is turned over, does he immediately engage the opponent one against one, switch to defending and guard the closest opponent? In modern hockey, this moment – the seconds after the athlete has parted with the puck, when he is actively and vigorously continuing to participate in the development of the attack, – is the decisive indicator of the player's calibre."
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2018
  10. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    FIRSOV – POLUPANOV – VIKULOV

    (Heads-up: This is the first in a series of posts dedicated to Anatoly Firsov. The two posts after this one will focus on Firsov individually.)

    The troika was put together in 1965. At the national team level, they played in the following World Championships and Olympics together: 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1970. (Additionally, Firsov and Vikulov played together without Polupanov in 1969, 1971 and at the 1972 Olympics.)

    In 1967 and 1968, the trio was used as a 1-2-2 unit with defencemen Aleksandr Ragulin and Eduard Ivanov ('67) respectively Viktor Blinov ('68). The assignments in the 1-2-2 system were: Ragulin – stopper, Ivanov/Blinov – halfback, Polupanov – halfback, Firsov – left forward, Vikulov – right forward. After the 1968 Olympics the 1-2-2 system was discontinued.

    In 1968-1969 Polupanov started to miss trainings and team meetings. This cost him his spot on the national team. Firsov and Vikulov were centered by Aleksandr Maltsev instead at the 1969 World Championship. In 1970 Yevgeny Mishakov shared center duties with Polupanov. In the following season, the Firsov – Polupanov – Vikulov line was dissolved by short-term CSKA head coach Boris Kulagin. Polupanov ran into disciplinary issues again and was suspended while Firsov was assigned to another line. But Kulagin's reign didn't last long. When Anatoly Tarasov returned, he put the established trio back together. However, Polupanov's issue continued and in early 1971 he disappeared from the ranks of CSKA Moscow for good. At the 1971 World Championship, Firsov and Vikulov were centered by Aleksandr Maltsev again.

    In 1971-1972, the 1-2-2 system was revived and Firsov moved from LW to halfback (nominally center). He now formed a 1-2-2 unit with Vikulov, LW Valery Kharlamov and defencemen Gennady Tsygankov and Aleksandr Ragulin. The assignments were: Ragulin – stopper, Tsygankov – halfback, Firsov – halfback, Kharlamov – left forward, Vikulov – right forward.

    After the 1972 Olympics, new national coaches Bobrov and Puchkov discontinued the 1-2-2 system and Firsov disappeared from the ranks of the national team while Vikulov remained. At the club level, Firsov continued to play on a line with Vikulov together until his retirement in 1973.

    International honours Firsov and Vikulov received in their years together: Firsov made the World Championship respectively Olympic All-star teams in 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970 and 1971 and he was named as "Best Forward" of the tournament in 1967, 1968 and 1971. Vikulov was voted on the World Championship All-star team in 1971. Polupanov didn't get any individual honours.

    General comments

    Anatoly Firsov (1973):
    "Movement is an important component of our game – however, it is more about moving the puck than moving ourselves. We work with tactical delays and in some cases we rather outsmart than outskate the opponent. For example, we frequently leave our own zone without the puck. In the initial stage of the attack, our troika tries – above all – to leave at least one opposing forward trailing behind our backs, in our zone. (...) We usually get through the neutral zone by means of a fast pass. Sending the puck to Vikulov who is lurking ahead, we try to get open as fast as possible and therefore neither Vikulov nor I wait for our linemates in the neutral zone. We know they're already hurrying up and coming to our aid anyway. (...)
    Our principle: the player who has the puck in the corner of the rink doesn't wait for his comrades, instead he tries on his own to beat his guardian and to immediately attack the goal if he gets out of the corner. Or, at worst, he tries to play in such a manner that he ties up two opponents and thus creates space for his partners. If I wrote a book of instructions for young hockey players, one of the first instruction would be: don't ever stop in the corners during an attack. It's a sad sight: a player in the corner of the rink, anxiously looking for the best way to continue the attack. He will hardly find a winning solution. The opponent has time to cover all the dangerous areas and the opposing defenceman has an easy job: he can use physical force against the forward standing still and strip him off the puck. Many years of experience have taught me to try to stay away from the board whenever it is possible.
    Having managed to beat our guardian one against one, Vikulov or I drew the next opponent to us and Viktor Polupanov, who had an excellent instinct and great knack of picking the right spot to finish the attack, got the space he needed."
    Anatoly Tarasov (1971):
    "In modern hockey it is extremely important how many of his partners the puck carrier has in his sight. It seems to me that even the younger players [Polupanov and Vikulov] – not to mention Firsov, this renowned ace of Soviet hockey – constantly see three and maybe even four of their linemates and monitor their actions and movements on the ice. This applies even in the moment of a tough combat, when they are surrounded by several opponents and in danger of losing the puck."
    Anatoly Tarasov (1971):
    "It's understandable that young players, the representatives of a new generation, have some advantage over their older comrades. The Almetov line was able to play with the highest pace for the first 15-20 seconds of a shift. The Firsov line was able to do it twice as long."
    Vyacheslav Starshinov (1971):
    "The remarkable troika Firsov – Polupanov – Vikulov came up with a new maneuver. It was made possible by the fact that all three were individually very strong players who operated at high speed and outside the norm. Here's their new maneuver: to pass not to the linemate, but to the defenceman ... of the opposing team! Let's say Anatoly Firsov has the puck. Instead of passing it to Polupanov, he strongly throws it into the direction of an opposing defenceman. That would seem like an absurdity impossible to expect from a player of Firsov's calibre. For a second the defenceman is confused... And that's what the whole calculation is build on. The defenceman is confused by the unexpected gift and Polupanov steals the puck away from him and goes one against one with the goaltender. Thus, the line plays on the verge of giving the puck away. It often appears as if Firsov makes a mistake, but it's just that: mere appearance."
    Compare this quote by Starshinov with what Tarasov says about Firsov in the second of the upcoming posts in the section puck control ("often on the verge of a mistake").

    Comments on the 1-2-2 unit (1966-1968)

    Anatoly Tarasov (1971):
    "Aleksandr Ragulin played stopper and Vladimir Vikulov and Aleksandr Ragulin played forwards. The middle line was formed by V. Polupanov and E. Ivanov. Both alternately connected to the attack – especially when Ivanov was in form –, both brought excellent performances, both had time to work in the defence."
    Anatoly Tarasov (1971):
    "For the sake of objectivity, I must say that in Vienna [at the 1967 World Championship] the strongest line on our team was the Firsov line."
    Anatoly Tarasov (1968):
    "The Polupanov line set an absolute record of effectiveness: 45% of their attacks resulted in a goal. (...) What is the secret of their success? It's simple: Those fine players used a new tactical scheme unknown in the world of hockey and their opponents weren't able to adapt."
    Anatoly Firsov (1973):
    "In Vienna our line was the outstanding one. We reached the peak of our game and glory right at that tournament. But I have already written about that earlier and I won't repeat myself. I will only add that the 'system' was of crucial importance for our success."
    After Eduard Ivanov's retirement from the top league in 1967, young defenceman Vladimir Lutchenko (18) succeeded him as one of the two halfback on the unit. However, this experiment didn't turn out to satisfaction.

    Anatoly Tarasov (1971):
    "Vladimir was still inferior to Eduard in game expertise and physical strength. The latter was allowed and entrusted to go deep into the offensive zone, attack the opponent there, carry the puck and stickhandle there. For obvious reasons, I didn't give Vladimir the same tasks yet."
    On the Soviet national team, Ivanov's halfback spot went to Spartak Moscow defenceman Viktor Blinov. After Blinov's premature death in July 1968, Tarasov had to abandon the 1-2-2 system for the time being:

    Anatoly Tarasov (1971):
    "I believe that over time Lutchenko will grow into an excellent halfback and then this unit will again employ the system with the two halfbacks, but in a qualitatively different and tactically broader setup."
    Tarasov would later revive the system in 1971-1972. More on this in the following posts.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2018
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  11. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    Some additional quotes added to the post about Firsov – Polupanov – Vikulov above.

    While working on the bio of Anatoly Firsov, the wealth of material prompted me to decide to create two separate posts instead of one extremely long mega-post. The first of the following two posts will focus on the characteristics of his game, the second will give an overview over his career.
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2018
  12. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    ANATOLY FIRSOV – His game

    Note: A video study on Firsov can be found here. Full credit to Batis who created it.

    1) His game in general

    Hockey handbook (1977):
    "One of the best players in the history of Soviet and world hockey. Equally skilled as a playmaker and a finisher. A fine technician, he particularly stood out with his powerful and sudden slapshot, his fast skating and his perfectly honed dekes, including the feint 'skate to stick'. Had good vision of the ice and directed the attacks of his linemates impressively. He was masterful on his skates. A very clean player and a smart mentor for younger players."

    A remark: Firsov might have been a clean player in general, but he could also get angry and give some payback. See here for some observations by Batis and here for a telling comment by Firsov himself.

    Anatoly Tarasov (1968):
    "The most striking feature of Anatoly's game is speed. First of all, the speed of thought. Sometimes it seems to me that Firsov's game consists of a continous succession of brilliant thoughts: even in the most tense situation, he immediately orients himself and finds the most surprising solutions. Next the speed with which he uses this or that technical skill, passes or stickhandles. And then the speed of his feet. Put these three speeds together and they multiply. The way he thinks the game, there is no separation between the idea and the execution. He conceives synchronously with the actions and acts synchronously with the search for the right solution."
    Anatoly Tarasov (1987):
    "An individual uniqueness in performing a cascade of feints, stickhandling, concealed passes, and of course his shots, trained to perfection and used variably depending on the game situation, but with the invariable outcome of a goal – all of this is what made Anatoly Firsov stand out even among the relatively small group of elite forwards from our country and others. Anatoly mastered all means of attack perfectly well."
    Veli-Pekka Ketola (1979):
    "A perfect hockey player? To me Anatoly Firsov was one. Anatoly had it all. (...) That man was a shooter, skater, passer, playmaker. And he was tough – which was rare among the Russian forwards at the time. (...) A top player in every way; he had incredible vision. At his best, Kharlamov might have been a better 'solo artist' and a better dangler, but he lacks Firsov's skills in many other areas."

    Note: Ketola played for the Finnish national team from 1968-1981. Translation from the Finnish source provided by VMBM as documented here.

    Josef Černý (1973):
    "Hockey is not just a game of strength, agility and speed, but also one of tactical prowess. And that's why Firsov is one of the best masters. (...) He's a clever and cunning fox who knows dozens of paths to the cherished goal. For every step you take, for every attempt you make to beat him, Firsov has a convincing answer, a witty reply and an unexpected feint."

    Note: Černý played for the Czechoslovak national team from 1959-1972.
    Vyacheslav Starshinov (1971):
    "Don't let him get started. Pressure him actively. Playing against Firsov is no joke. Vikulov's shot is not always on target, but Firsov can shoot and he knows how to give a sharp pass. Firsov is Firsov. He's a stronger player than his linemates."
    Vladislav Tretyak (1979):
    "He went out on the ice and the stands immediately started to buzz in expectation of a goal."
    Vyacheslav Fetisov (2008):
    "A couple of generations of kids grew up wanting to play hockey because of Firsov and what he did on the ice. He was electrifying. His shot was unstoppable. All the tricks he did on the ice are unrepeatable."

    Note: Quoted after John McGourty, NHL.com.

    Vyacheslav Starshinov (1971):
    "In the technique of Firsov and in his manner to play, all the best qualities of our strongest forwards seem to come together: the ability to change the direction and rhythm of the attack abruptly and unexpectedly peculiar to Boris Mayorov and the brilliant stickhandling and fine speed of Veniamin Aleksandrov."
    Valery Kharlamov (1979):
    "My teammates and I believed that Anatoly Firsov was the number one player in Soviet hockey, not only in his time but also in the history of our sport."
    Lawrence Martin (1990):
    "Of all the Russian players Seth Martin faced in the 1960s, none, he said, compared with Firsov. To Martin, he was the Gretzky of his time, a creative scoring machine."

    Note: Quote provided by EagleBelfour as documented here.

    Marshall Johnston (2008):
    "Firsov might have been the best hockey player I've ever seen."

    Note: Johnston played for the Canadian national team from 1963-1968 and in the NHL from 1968-1974. Quoted after John McGourty, NHL.com.

    Scotty Bowman (2010):
    "Russia have always had great players , but the best I've seen, was no doubt, Firsov. He was just a brilliant passer! And had magical hands."

    Note: Sourced from an interview with Aleksandr Chekhov of "Sports Express". For Russian original, see here.

    Anatoly Tarasov (1974):
    "In my opinion Firsov was the best forward of the 1960s, even if you compare him with the Canadian professionals."
    David Bauer (1968):
    "Both the NHLers and the Soviets have their own qualities. It would be difficult for the players to play on the team of the opponent. In my opinion the only Soviet players who wouldn't be at loss [switching to the NHL] would be Firsov and Starshinov."

    Note: Bauer coached the Canadian national team from 1963-1970. Quoted after Tarasov (1971). The original source, an interview Bauer and Jack McLeod gave to Czechoslovak journalist Ladislav Krnáč, is not available to me.
    2) Creativity and art of deception

    Anatoly Tarasov (1971): On where he sees advantages Firsov has over NHL stars like Bobby Hull.
    "In his constant search. In his endless and inexhaustible creativity. In the constant and unique novelty of his decisions."
    Anatoly Tarasov (1971):
    "To me, the most outstanding feature of Firsov's talent is the speed of his actions and his decisions. And the way he covers and hides them. Approaching the opponent, he appears relaxed, perhaps even a bit sluggish, but in the next instance he explodes and turns into a passionate and fierce athlete. These instant transformations are the feature of Firsov's talent that make him stand out...".
    Anatoly Tarasov (1971):
    "Who understands a complex game situation better than Firsov? His shots – sometimes spectacularly powerful and sometimes cunning and stealthy – deceive every goaltender and his passes are perfect and unexpected. Even his smart linemates are often unaware of what he is about to do."
    Anatoly Tarasov (1968):
    "The partners on his forward line know him well, but even they can never say with certainty what he is going to do in the next moment. Therefore they always try to be ready. They're always waiting for his pass."
    3) Puck control

    Anatoly Tarasov (1971):
    "If you look closely at Firsov you will notice that he always opts for a solution that is on the verge of a mistake. He rarely beats an opponent cleanly when he goes one against one and he often loses the puck over the course of a battle. But his strength is that he most often wins it back immediately. Occasionally Firsov loses the puck two or three or even four times during an individual battle. The reason is not a weakness in his stickhandling, it's his decision to make a direct, knife-like move towards the goal that leads him into a difficult spot. Without looking for a simple solution, he jumps straight into the risk and tries to slip through two or even three opponents at once. He wants to draw the main force of the opponent on him to make the job of his comrades easier. Of course, that approach doesn't allow him to count on simply outplaying the opponents. Firsov 'plans' to lose the puck, so to say, but at the same time he sets himself up to get it back quickly.
    Put yourself in the position of the defenceman and try to imagine his attitude and psychology in the happy moment when he has stopped the attack and beat the forward. Now, as soon as he has won the puck, he must raise his head to see who to pass to and what decision to make. And because of that, he is forced to take his eyes off the puck for at least a split second... And that is exactly the moment Firsov anticipates to win back the puck."
    Vyacheslav Starshinov (1971):
    "Their line plays on the verge of giving the puck away. It often appears as if Firsov makes a mistake, but it's just that: mere appearance."
    Jack McLeod (1968):
    "Puck control? Both [Boston Bruins and the Soviet national team] are on par. Esposito and Firsov are exemplary."

    Note: McLeod coached the Canadian national team from 1965-1970. Quoted after Tarasov (1971). The original source, an interview McLeod and David Bauer gave to Czechoslovak journalist Ladislav Krnáč, is not available to me.
    4) Team play

    Anatoly Tarasov (1971):
    "He never leaves a partner in trouble, he always comes to his rescue and always works for him. In order to make life easier for his partners, Firsov puts himself second."
    Anatoly Tarasov (1968): On 1964-1965.
    "On the second line [of CSKA] there were Leonid Volkov, Valentin Senyushkin and Anatoly Firsov. It's no secret that Firsov was individually the strongest player on that line. But the manner of Firsov's game is such that he never asks others to serve him. He gladly plays towards his comrades."
    Valery Kharlamov (1979):
    "Anatoly Firsov set records not only with the results he achieved but also with how devoted he was to the interests of his comrades."
    Boris Mikhaylov (2008):
    "This great master was demanding to himself and selfless towards his linemates in the game."
    Valery Kharlamov (1979):
    "In Switzerland at the 1971 World Championship, Anatoly once went out to play with a temperature of about 39° C [102.2 °F] when his presence on the ice was needed. He told the doctor that he was exactly at 37° C [98.6 ° F] and that he felt fine again. It was a difficult match and Firsov's game and example could spur his comrades. (...) I think that Anatoly, an experienced athlete, understood that he was hurting himself and that the game could come back to haunt him, but he also knew that the team on the ice needed him."
    5) Shooting

    Vladislav Tretyak (1979):
    "Goaltenders were afraid of his lethal slapshot. He shot the puck with such force and speed that it was not possible to follow it."
    Vladislav Tretyak (1979):
    "Swedish hockey has a lot of experience in training goaltenders. As far as I know, there was only one player in amateur hockey who made the Swedish goaltenders tremble: Anatoly Firsov. Once he had unleashed his famous slapshot, the goalie didn't have time to blink before the puck was in the net. Sometimes I think how lucky I was that Firsov played on my team and I never had to face him as an opponent. I know that some goaltenders surrendered in advance and just closed their eyes when he swung his stick."
    Anatoly Tarasov (1968):
    "Almetov and Firsov have great [shooting] technique. They can easily fulfill any request of the goaltender [during training or warm-up], they send the puck exactly where he asks them to put it."
    Anatoly Tarasov (1971): On Firsov being used on the point during PP.
    "Both CSKA and the national team have frequently used Firsov as a defenceman, ususally when we have a powerplay. More than once have his shots from the distance reached the net. The high accuracy and power of Firsov's shots are explained by his magnificent technique, great strength of hands and the excellent development of his pectoral arch."
    Boris Mikhaylov (2014):
    "He was often used as the fourth forward and his slapshot was the best in Europe."
    Anatoly Tarasov (1987):
    "Unlike many current hockey players, he never used his famous shot blindly. Anatoly saw everything and took everything into account: the goaltender coming out and the position of the partners and the opponents. Depending on the situation, he could pause before shooting or put the puck on the stick of a linemate. Only the result remained the same: a goal was scored."
    John McGouty, NHL.com (2008):
    "Firsov possessed the hardest slap shot in international hockey, as well as a quick and accurate wrist shot."

    Note: Sourced from here.

    6) Toughness

    Anatoly Tarasov (1968):
    "During the match, Firsov willingly takes on a tough battle. Lean and of medium height, he doesn't look like a giant but is inclined to demonstrate his colossal strength at any time."
    Veli-Pekka Ketola (1979):
    "He was tough – which was rare among the Russian forwards at the time."

    Note: Translation from the Finnish source provided by VMBM as documented here.

    Anatoly Tarasov (1987):
    "True, he never had the appearance of a strongman, but only a few opponents were able to win a one against one battle against him and even then rarely."
    Vladislav Tretyak (1979):
    "He consisted entirely of resilient muscles."
    7) Ice time

    Anatoly Tarasov (1974):
    "Firsov was more often on the ice than anyone else and the demands on him were high. He was sent on when CSKA had the man advantage and he stayed on the ice when the team was shorthanded."
    Valery Kharlamov (1979):
    "Once when I was still in the youth team of CSKA Moscow, the senior team had a very hard game in Leningrad. In that game Firsov spent 45 or 46 minutes on the ice. Our team was behind 0-3 and Firsov who was in fantastic form went out on the ice again and again: he took regular shifts with his line, played when CSKA was shorthanded, stayed on the ice for double shifts and took additional turns when the coaches benched others who didn't play well. CSKA won 4-3, but it took Firsov quite some time to recover from this game."
    Boris Mikhaylov (2014):
    "Sometimes it was difficult to get Anatoly off the ice. Even at the World Championships, he tried to make his shifts longer."
    8) Training regime

    Anatoly Tarasov (1968):
    "Firsov is not just a gifted player. His success is explained by his greed for hockey. He can never get enough time on the ice, neither in the training nor in the game. After each training, he spends another 15-20 minutes on the ice to tinker with the puck together with his linemates Vikulov and Polupanov. More than any other player does he ask for additional training sessions with his linemates. He also trains on free days when the rest of the team does not go out on the ice. He uses every free minute to work out. In training, Firsov goes all out. He likes to test his physical stength against our strongest defencemen, Aleksandr Ragulin and Oleg Zaytsev."
    Vyacheslav Starshinov (1971):
    "In order to clearly understand how Firsov became Firsov, it's necessary to attend the training of the national team or CSKA Moscow. Of course, he has a huge talent for hockey. But what endless and incredible loads of training work on top of that! They don't bother Anatoly at all. He lives it. He lives hockey. The time he spends on the ice, both in training and in the game, is enormous. Firsov spends himself fully and freely."
    Anatoly Firsov (1973):
    "It turned out the harder I train, the easier it is to play. If I trained with an iron stick, (...) then later on the ice I would get wings and move extra lightly. It's no accident that Anatoly Vladimirovich Tarasov makes us train with an iron belt weighting 10-12 kilograms [22-26.5 lbs]. When you later take off the belt, you don't feel like you're running over the rink but you feel you're flying."
    Vladislav Tretyak (1979):
    "Anatoly Firsov was a hockey fanatic and an example of training attitude to me. No-one worked more than him or showed more discipline."
    Anatoly Tarasov (1987):
    "I would say Firsov trained and played furiously. Sometimes we coaches tried to restrain him in training, but out attempts were useless. In fact, he himself increased the complexity of the exercises we came up with."
    9) Influence and leadership

    Vladislav Tretyak (1979):
    "We particularly appreciated Firsov for his ability to lead the team and rally the guys in difficult moments. He was the captain of CSKA Moscow and something of a playing coach."
    Anatoly Tarasov (1968):
    "His passion [for training] infected many other players, especially the younger ones."
    Anatoly Tarasov (1968): On mentoring Polupanov and Vikulov:
    "Anatoly Firsov was a good teacher. He supported Viktor and Vladimir very calmly, benevolently and tactfully. He did not boast with his experience but consulted both as his equals, and the two guys, especially the somewhat insecure Polupanov, literally flourished from the respect shown to them. (...) It is thanks to him that the young line with Polupanov and Vikulov grew by leaps and bounds."
    Valery Kharlamov (1979):
    "Performing next to such a master as Anatoly Firsov, I discovered many intricacies of hockey in a new fashion. I developed a different and deeper understanding of the tactics of the game."
    10) Attitude

    Anatoly Tarasov (1971):
    "This talented hockey player appears to already have learned and mastered everything, but he still approaches me and he asks me – I emphasize, he himself asks! – to raise the demands on him: to think up a new exercise for him and give him a new task."
    Anatoly Tarasov (1968):
    "He is an Olympic champion, four times champion of the World and of Europe, has won the championship of the USSR and is written and spoken about, but the glory has not spoiled him at all. This 'star' is the furthest from the disease of considering himself a 'star'."
    Boris Mikhaylov (2008):
    "Firsov was easy to talk to and he was never rude to the youngsters."
    Quoted literature (by publication date):

    Anatoly Tarasov: Совершеннолетие (1968=2nd edition)
    Anatoly Tarasov: Хоккей грядущего (1971=2nd edition)
    Vyacheslav Starshinov: Я – центрфорвард (1971)
    Anatoly Firsov: Зажечь победы свет (1973)
    Anatoly Tarasov: Путь к себе (1974)
    Arkady Komarov (editor): Хоккей. Справочник. ("Hockey handbook", 1977)
    Valery Kharlamov: Три начала (1979)
    Veli-Pekka Ketola/Jyrki Laelma: Vellu Ketola – Ässien Ässä (1979)
    Leonid Goryanov: Рыцари атаки (1983)
    Anatoly Tarasov: Настоящие мужчины хоккея (1987)
    Lawrence Martin: The Red Machine (1990)
    Boris Mikhaylov: Такова хоккейная жизнь (2008)

    Jack McLeod and David Bauer quoted after Tarasov (1971). Josef Černý quoted after Firsov (1973).
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2018
    Batis likes this.
  13. Batis

    Batis Registered User

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    Thanks for the excellent first part of the Firsov bio.

    That is some seriously high praise for Firsov. While I don't fully agree with these two statements I do think that Firsov is far closer to being the greatest Soviet player of all time and the greatest forward in the world during his prime than he often gets credit for. In my opinion Firsov is the third greatest Soviet player of all time behind only Makarov and Fetisov and slightly ahead of Kharlamov and Tretiak. Reading this bio has helped cement my opinion on that Firsov belongs among those players.

    Regarding quotes on Firsovs greatness it is also notable that Marshall Johnston in 2008 said that "Firsov might have been the best hockey player I've ever seen." Considering that Johnston played in the NHL when Bobby Orr was in his prime this statement is of course also somewhat over the top but that Firsov was even able to attract such praise should tell us something about his quality as a player. Couple this with the comments from Seth Martin, Jack McLeod and David Bauer and it is very obvious that the Canadian players and coaches who faced Firsov held him in very high esteem. Firsov was Russia's greatest player
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2018
  14. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    Some nice quotes in that link. I will edit them into my post.
     
  15. ImporterExporter

    ImporterExporter I troll harder than Poppy

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    Thank you @Theokritos for putting so much great information out there on the Soviet greats!
     
  16. BenchBrawl

    BenchBrawl joueur de hockey

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    Yes, this is very much appreciated.Thank you Theo.
     
  17. jarek

    jarek Registered User

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    So how does Firsov fit in an ATD context? He has a case for best LW since Lindsay was taken. Proving that is the hard part. Offensively, he suffers in the same way Nighbor did, in that assists were not consistently recorded during his time. I also still have questions about his all around game. Yes, contemporary sources paint a positive picture about that part of his game, but unlike, say, Mayorov and Mikhailov, who carry heavy praise about their physical games, I just don't see the glowing praise that needs to exist for it to be taken very seriously. It feels more like "he was an elite scorer, but he was also pretty good at everything else too". As in.. this guy is mostly about offense but he won't hurt you in other areas.
     
  18. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    Which aspects of the game do you have in mind? Physicality and ... ?
     
  19. jarek

    jarek Registered User

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    Everything beyond offense. Literally everything. I've read everything. I see him as a better version of Vlad Martinec. "Good" all around but nothing special. I think Martinec actually has a stronger case as a penalty killer than Firsov.
     
  20. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    Batis has recently covered a lot of ground on HOH. Firsov was one of the top penalty killing forwards for the Soviets in the 1960s, as demonstrated in a Penalty Killing Study that was posted this month.

    Also, the video study linked at the beginning of my bio highlights several aspects of Firsov's game that doesn't get a lot of coverage in the bio itself. Like his defensively responsible game at even strength or his good work at the boards.
     
  21. jarek

    jarek Registered User

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    Cool, that answers that I suppose.

    Even with that, I would be very interested to see how the Soviet PK fared against the other best teams, not just everyone.

    Even with all this data, I still think there are a lot of unanswered questions.. mainly because these players never really played against the best of the NHL.
     
  22. Batis

    Batis Registered User

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    Firsov has a strong case for being a top 10 all-time Soviet penalty killer among forwards. Whether Martinec was a stronger penalty killer than Firsov I don't feel comfortable to answer right now considering that I have not done any in-depth analysis of Martinec penalty killing yet. Based on my memory he was a great penalty killer as well though. This year I plan on doing a study of the penalty killing of Czechoslovakian forwards though so in a couple of months I might be able to give a more educated answer on this.
     
  23. jarek

    jarek Registered User

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    I won't dispute that. I just question how good a top-10 Soviet penalty killer is compared to all time PKers from the NHL.
     
  24. Theokritos

    Theokritos Moderator

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    The latter sentence is true, but at least there is a lot of overlap between Firsov et al and the Soviet stars from the Summit Series. Based on everything up until 1972, there is very little reason to assume prime Firsov was notably worse than e.g. prime Kharlamov.

    BTW, I just realized you said "good all around, but nothing special" as far as his game beyond offence is concerned. From an ATD perspective, you're not necessarily wrong on that. He is a very well rounded offensively (lots of tools plus the toolbox) and on top of it defensively responsible (not ATD elite) and a good (not ATD elite) penalty killer.
    He can take a hit and isn't intimidated, but he's not going to throw around bodychecks himself. You definitely want to pair him with a center who has a physically strong presence (and isn't lacking hockey sense, so he can play with Firsov). As usual, the safest way to go is to try and rebuild what actually worked but upgrade on it for the ATD. Firsov was at his best when being centered by Polupanov and Mishakov who were among the physically strongest and most aggressive Soviet players. The ATD pool holds lots of possibilites to draft centers with similar characteristics plus additional qualities.
     
    Namba 17 likes this.
  25. jarek

    jarek Registered User

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    Thanks for the input guys.
     

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