Sergei Babinov

Back in the 1970s there was one distinct area Canada had a significant advantage over the Soviets: physical play. But slowly but surely the Russians developed some hard thumpers of their own. One of the earliest examples was Sergei Babinov

"He is about as close to our style as any of their defencemen," said Scotty Bowman in 1979 as Team NHL readied for the Soviets at the Challenge Cup. "He's chunky, a Leo Boivin style. He likes to hit people and he gives the puck to his partner a lot rather than control the play.

In the mid 1980s St. Louis Blues boss Ron Caron specifically remembered Babinov playing against the Montreal Canadiens.

"I saw defenseman Sergei Babinov drop three Canadiens in about eight seconds. First, Bob Gainey, who's a tough guy, went to clash with Babinov and went down on his fanny. Then, Guy Carbonneau tried to pick up the play and Babinov dropped him.

"Then, (Chris) Nilan said, 'Come see me,' "added Caron, referring to the Canadiens enforcer. "Babinov dropped him with a body check along the boards. They went at it and Babinov got two minutes for roughing and Nilan got four minutes for roughing and high-sticking. And it cost Montreal a goal.

Babinov was a rock steady defender not noted for his offense. He often played with Zinetula Bilyaletdinov on what amounted to a shutdown pair on the blue line. Babinov played for the Soviet Union in the 1976 Olympics and in the 1976, 1979, 1981, 1982, and 1983 World Championships.

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