Thursday, November 3, 2011

Russian Five Alive?

**** While You're reading my post click the link and enjoy the podcast including my interview with NHL veteran official Kelly Sutherland, Lions' Lineman Jesse Newman and our Canucks Analyst Brian Wiebe of Q101: ****
If Scotty Bowman can rip-off the Russian-Five and ride it to Stanley Cup greatness then so can AV, only, without any Russians.
If you’re unfamiliar with it Russian hockey developed a system of deploying a cohesive five man unit rather than a forward line a defense pairing. The system of creating a five man unit became a big story in 1981 when the Soviets defeated Canada in the long anticipated Canada Cup which was twice postponed for political reasons. Wayne Gretzky led team Canada against the Soviet’s famed “Green Unit” and legendary Russian goalkeeper Vladislav Tretiak; it remains one of the greatest international hockey tournaments ever played.
The name for 1981’s Canada Cup Russian Five “Green Unit” was derived from the green pinnies the quintet wore during practice and consisted of Vyacheslav Fetisov and Alexei Kasatonov on defense and Vladamir Krutov, Igior Larionov and Sergei Makarov up front. The “Green Unit” operated with the stealth of a covert-ops unit and scored at will.
In the 90’s then Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman joined original Green Unit members Fetisov and Larionov with a trio of new Russian stars, Sergei Federov, Vladamir Konstantinov and Slava Kozlov. The Wings’ own Russian Five were a major contributor to the 1997 Stanley Cup Winning season.
Now, it remains to be seen if the feat could be duplicated without using actual Russians but the idea of keeping consistent five man units together might help bring chemistry to the newly rebuilt Canucks.
Recently acquired winger David Booth plays a game far too similar to his former minor hockey teammate and second line center Ryan Kesler to ever find chemistry, but how do you justify moving one of them to the third line?  Maybe you could give appropriate ice time to Booth on a third unit?
The Sedins and Burr don’t score off the rush but use a puck possession game in the offensive zone so keeping them on the ice with Sami Salo and Alex Edler who are among the slower footed blue liners but probably have the best two shots on the back end makes sense.
When Mason Raymond is healthy he’ll likely rejoin Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins on the second line; that’s a lot of speed and speed scores off the rush so put these guys together with Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa who were lauded in last year’s playoffs for shutting down opposition offense by getting the puck up and out of their own zone too quickly to be pestered by any kind of forecheck.
This leaves Booth and his break out speed and heavy shot on a third line unit with playmaking Cody Hodgson and grinder Janik Hansen. Who better to form the Canadian-German-American-Danish five with that forward line than Alex Sulzer and Keith Ballard? I can just see Sulzer feeding Hail Mary passes through the neutral zone to Booth in stride and Cody Hodgson giving him a third man high option or speedy Janik Hansen supporting the forecheck.
The answer to the chemistry between David Booth and Ryan Kesler is to give up and think outside the box finding a way to use both effectively on different units.  This will lead to more success for each and an absolute line-matching nightmare for opposing coaches.

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