"Probably the most important and far-reaching sporting contest ever held in this country." This is how Montreal Gazette writer Tim Burke described the New Years Eve 1975 game between Montreal Canadiens and the Soviet Central Army. He continued,"The Canadiens resurrected one of our proudest heritages and enshrined it with an un rivalled display of determination and sportsmanship."
In Burke's analysis "the fact the Canadiens had to settle for the most lopsided tie in memory; 38-13 in shots on goal, takes nothing away from their stupendous effort against a great and dauntless opponent." He summarized that Montreal was, "supreme in all facets of the game, save goaltending and shooting."
The Soviet Central Army team had just managed to tie the Montreal Canadiens 3-3 despite being outplayed by all accounts. In referring to the aforementioned goaltending of Ken Dryden, Bob Gainey offered, "Do you realize that it was more than an hour between the warmup and the time the Russians got their first shot (10:03 into the game), no goaltender can be inactive that long without it affecting him." The Soviets put four weak shots on Dryden in the first period and only three in the second. Two of the three second period attempts ended up as goals. However, Dryden after the game refused to use his lack of work as an excuse, "I wasn't cold because I'd broken into a nervous sweat at the beginning of the game. I had an awful lot of shots at my glove and tonight they were just dropping out of it." Coach Scotty Bowman described the first goal when Dryden stopped Boris Mikhailov's shot with his glove at shoulder level, then let it drop into the net, "I think there was a good chance that if Dryden doesn't stop it, the puck goes over the net."Burke describes how the Canadiens employed Gerry Duggan who charted all their games since Bowman took over. Duggan said, "The Canadiens in the first period didn't give up the puck in their own end once, the first time that's happened since I've been charting them. In the second period they gave it away in their end just once, and in the third period five times." Larry Robinson added, "We made only four mistakes in the whole game and they scored on three of them. On the fourth one, they hit the inside of the crossbar,"- Popov's shot at 14:11 of the third period.
Canadiens superstar Guy Lafleur was a bit more blunt with his analysis of the game, "I didn't learn a thing from them. It was an easy game. We proved tonight that our system is still good. We can dump the puck in and still be more dangerous than them." He went on, "After their power plays I wasn't even tired. That never happens with an NHL team. You just wait at the line. You don't have to skate at all to keep up with them."
Even Soviet coach Loktev agreed, "This was not one of our best performances. Most of our problems came as a result of Montreal's style of play. Their checking was very effective, they played their positions well and they worked very hard. Montreal played a very fine hockey game."
It was a fine hockey game indeed.