It’s finally here. With the Olympics getting under way and the hockey starting soon, it’s time to roll out our preview of each team between now and puck drop. May the best team win.
The men’s team from the Czech Republic is currently ranked fourth overall by the IIHF, one spot ahead of Canada because…I dunno, Marek Zidlicky or something. They’re sporting 17 NHLers on their roster, are coached by Alois Hadamczik, and finished 7th at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
C, with Switzerland, Sweden and Latvia.
|Ondrej Pavelec||Winnipeg Jets|
|Marek Zidlicky||New Jersey Devils|
|Ladislav Smid||Calgary Flames|
|Radko Gudas||Tampa Bay Lightning|
|Michal Rozsival||Chicago Blackhawks|
|Zbynek Michalek||Phoenix Coyotes|
|Jaromir Jagr||New Jersey Devils|
|Patrik Elias||New Jersey Devils|
|Tomas Plekanec||Montreal Canadiens|
|Ales Hemsky||Edmonton Oilers|
|Jakub Voracek||Philadelphia Flyers|
|Michael Frolik||Winnipeg Jets|
|Martin Hanzal||Phoenix Coyotes|
|Vladimir Sobotka||St. Louis Blues|
|Martin Erat *||Washington Capitals|
|Ondrej Palat||Tampa Bay Lightning|
|Milan Michalek||Ottawa Senators|
|David Krejci||Boston Bruins|
Jaromir Jagr, David Krejci, Patrick Elias, Tomas Kaberle…Peter Nedved?
While the majority of the players play, or have played in the NHL, they’re largely replacement-level guys. So while the roster doesn’t have the bottom fall out of it after the NHLers like some of the other teams (I see you, Austria), they’re not exactly all-stars down there either.
The Czechs biggest strength is probably what I laid out in “depth” – they never get too far removed from NHL talent, so they should be able to stay in games, which at least keeps them around to hope for some bounces and an upset or two. It also helps that some of their best players are on the older side, meaning hopefully they’ve got the experience to keep from getting overwhelmed when they’re overmatched.
And hey, they have a few guys who can still put the puck in the net – from Hemsky to Jagr to Plekanec, Voracek and others.
This team lacks game-breaking talent on their top lines and has a generally weaker d-corps. As much as the names I mentioned “can still put the puck in the net,” they’re nowhere near the level of Russia’s elite firepower, or Canada’s, or Sweden’s and so on. They’re going to need to keep games close to have a chance, and with middling NHL defenders (Michalek, Zidlicky, Roszival etc.) likely to see a lot of big minutes, that could be awfully hard to do. Especially since they’re likely going to be going with Ondrej Pavelec in net when it matters, he of the career .906 NHL save percentage, of course. (Note: Pavelec, the only NHL goalie on the roster, isn’t dressing for game one but will start game two. Probably not a great sign about their confidence in their goaltending.)
Route to the Olympics
Fourth overall rank by the IIHF equals an auto-bid.
I have the Czech’s at sixth, which might be a bit generous, but they’ll almost certainly be somewhere in that 5th-to-8th range. They’re clearly better than the bottom teams, clearly worse than the top ones.
Times are GMT+4, (MSK – Moscow Standard Time)
Wednesday, February 12th: CZE 21:00 SWE
Friday, February 14th: CZE 12:00 LAT
Saturday, February 15th: SUI 21:00 CZE