Sign in with your NHL account:
  • Submit
  • Or
  • Sign in with Google

NEWS

Czech Republic excited for chance to knock off U.S.

Wednesday, 02.19.2014 / 9:20 AM / News
NHL.com
X
Share with your Friends


Czech Republic excited for chance to knock off U.S.
On paper, there should be no way the Czechs will be able to compete with the high-octane Americans. That reality doesn\'t appear lost on the Czechs. But neither does the reality that if they win one game they are in the semifinals at the Olympics and are guaranteed a shot to play for a medal.

SOCHI -- Czech Republic captain Tomas Plekanec was asked after his team's 5-3 qualifying round win against rival Slovakia on Tuesday how it matched up with the United States, its next opponent in the quarterfinals Wednesday.

Plekanec started to laugh.

"Well, they're the favorites, no doubt about that," he said. "They're rested; they should win [Wednesday]. But we're definitely going out there as a team to play the best game of the tournament for us."

On paper, there should be no way the Czechs will be able to compete with the high-octane Americans, who tied for the tournament lead in scoring through the preliminary round and practiced Tuesday while their opponents played a hard-fought game that they almost let slip away in the third period.

That reality doesn't appear lost on the Czechs. But neither does the reality that if they win one game they are in the semifinals at the Olympics and are guaranteed a shot to play for a medal.

Just one game.

"I'm not putting myself down, but if we played best-of-seven, I don't like my chances," Czech center David Krejci said. "But best-of-one? We're going to try to score the first goal and leave everything out there because we don't have to save ourselves for anything. Just go out there, play the game and we'll see what happens."

Though Plekanec laughed at the question, the position where the Czechs probably match up the best with the U.S. is the one he plays: forward.

The Czechs have three solid lines up front that can attack the net and score, led by Plekanec's line with Jaromir Jagr and Roman Cervenka that combined for five points against Slovakia. Krejci centers the second unit with Milan Michalek and Patrik Elias (who didn't play against Slovakia with an illness), and Martin Hanzal centers the third unit with Jakub Voracek and Martin Erat or Ales Hemsky.

Things get a little dicey for the Czechs from there.

Three defensemen get the bulk of the minutes on the blue line: Marek Zidlicky, Ladislav Smid and Tomas Kaberle. They are followed by three solid NHL defensemen in Zbynek Michalek, Radko Gudas and Michal Rozsival. Against a lesser team that group of six would probably be an advantage, but not against the American forwards that will be coming at them in waves.

The Czech Republic's biggest mismatch may be in goal, where Ondrej Pavelec will face Jonathan Quick with less than 24 hours of rest. Pavelec is 10th in the tournament with a .923 save percentage and Quick is sixth at .944, but the difference in big-game experience is where Quick separates himself the most.

However, as Pavelec pointed out when asked if he's ever faced the U.S. in international competition before, the Czechs beat the Americans in the quarterfinals of the 2011 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships 4-0.

There are 10 players on this Czech team who played in that game, including Pavelec, who made 29 saves in the shutout win. But there were only five Americans who played in that game who will play in the Olympic quarterfinal Wednesday.

"We were a pretty similar team like we have now and they had a little bit different team," Pavelec remembered. "They jumped on us in the first period, I remember that game. They had two chances, they didn't score and we scored. But it's going to be a completely different game."

Pavelec said he has no idea what to expect out of the game against the U.S., but it is exactly the type of game he and every other player here came to Sochi to play.

"It's like the NHL, you want to win every game. But of course, you lose the game you're not out in the NHL," Pavelec said. "Now, everything you've got you have to put it on the ice. We play a lot of times back to back in the NHL so it's going to be the same thing, but one more loss and we're going home. That's why we're here, that's why it's so exciting, that's why everybody wants to play here and that's why we play.

"It's going to be an exciting day for us."

Arpon Basu | Managing Editor LNH.com

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 TBL 48 30 14 4 156 127 64
2 NYI 46 31 14 1 151 129 63
3 DET 47 27 11 9 139 119 63
4 MTL 45 29 13 3 123 106 61
5 PIT 46 26 12 8 138 117 60
6 NYR 44 27 13 4 134 106 58
7 WSH 46 24 13 9 137 120 57
8 BOS 48 25 16 7 126 121 57
9 FLA 44 20 14 10 107 122 50
10 OTT 46 19 18 9 126 128 47
11 TOR 48 22 23 3 142 150 47
12 PHI 48 19 22 7 130 146 45
13 CBJ 45 20 22 3 113 142 43
14 NJD 47 17 22 8 107 134 42
15 CAR 46 16 25 5 98 120 37
16 BUF 47 14 30 3 89 167 31

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
A. Henrique 40 10 16 -1 26
J. Jagr 43 9 16 -10 25
M. Cammalleri 35 15 6 -3 21
P. Elias 37 6 14 -14 20
M. Zidlicky 47 4 16 -7 20
M. Ryder 42 6 12 -2 18
T. Zajac 39 8 8 -7 16
S. Gomez 23 4 12 -5 16
S. Bernier 32 6 7 1 13
M. Havlat 29 5 7 -10 12
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Schneider 16 19 4 .920 2.41
K. Kinkaid 1 3 3 .913 2.54