Other International Stars
In the early days of Soviet hockey, Vsevolod Bobrov was quick to get much
of the attention and credit as the first Russian hockey star. Like a Pavel
Bure, he was an exciting scorer, not paying much attention to team defense
or even passing the puck. He was an electrifying skater, a deadly marksman
and an entertainer whose obvious skill level was much better than anyone
Bobrov often played on a line Yevgenni Babich and Shuvalov. Preceding
Shuvalov was a young Anatoli Tarasov, who of course would go on to become
the legendary "father of Soviet hockey." He would become a
brilliant coach who masterminded the quick rise of Soviet dominance in the
world hockey scene.
Tarasov admired Bobrov's skill level, but he felt Babich was the better
player. Babich was a complete player who sacrificed the spotlight for the
good of the team. Babich, who could probably be compared to a Sergei
Federov, and Shuvalov did the "hard labour" while Bobrov
finished plays off with a scoring chance. The trio worked as a team, with
the purpose being to get the puck to Bobrov.
This early thought process would stick with Tarasov. As a coach he tried
his best to instill the same collectivism on his lines.
However Tarasov had thought of other tactics as well. One of the, as
illustrated in his book Road to Olympus, indicates how he felt Babich was
a better player than Bobrov, even though he wasn't as good a scorer.
"If we rejected the 1+2 principle (one scorer and two
assistants)," he wrote, "then how were we to build our forward
line? Perhaps, we should include three aces, three Bobrovs, all the more
so since with the passing of time more high-calibre players appeared.
However, was it possible for three Bobrovs' to play on the same line -
three outstanding but quite similar attacking players? I do not think so.
But three men lik Babich could have made a winning combination. I n fact,
I feel sure that even the best defensemen in the world could not stop a
line of three Babichs. Because Babich could do everything. He would wind
up a beautiful attack, he could feed his partners sizzling passes and if
need be, he could play defense!".