David Krejci, Jaromir Jagr and the Czech Republic beat Zdeno Chara and Slovakia, 5-3, on Tuesday. Here's how we saw the game break down.
GOLD STAR: David Krejci was one of several Czech players that stepped up in their country’s time of need, and produced two points and his first goal of the Olympics on a top shelf snipe on the power play. He also engineered a nice bank pass off the side boards to Tomas Plekanec for an empty net goal for the Czech Republic that iced a furious Slovakian comeback. On top of that Krejci won 12-of-18 face-offs and really formed a potent 1-2 combo with Plekanec as the top two centers for the Czech team that could give the US some problems on Wednesday. Krejci had been decent in the preliminary round, but he brought his “A” game for the playoffs as he always does.
BLACK EYE: Tough Olympic stint for former Bruins draft pick Milan Jurcina, who looked about three steps too slow in the loss to Team USA in the preliminary round. Clearly the Slovakian coaching staff felt so as well as Jurcina never got off the bench for the Slovaks against the Czech team in the elimination game, and Team Slovakia was a better club for it. The Slovaks out on the ice that battled their way to the bitter end of the third period deserve credit while following the lead for Zdeno Chara and Marian Hossa. Hossa, in particular, finally showed up and dominated for the Slovaks after struggling in the preliminary round.
TURNING POINT: The Slovaks never responded to the opening bell until things got desperate in the third period, and it ended up writing their Olympic obituary. The Czechs scored two goals within the first 7:22 of the game, and ended the first period with a 3-0 lead on a Slovak team that really played poorly throughout the tournament. The Czechs outshot the Slovaks by a 13-7 margin in the opening 20 minutes, and Zdeno Chara and Co. never recovered. It was an extremely disorganized Czech team coupled with some shaky moments from Ondrej Pavelec that helped open the door for Team USA.
HONORABLE MENTION: Roman Cervenka scored the game-winner for the Czech Republic on a nasty breakaway backhanded bid, and had two of the first four goals for the Czechs prior to the Slovakian comeback. Cervenka finished with two goals, three shots on net and a plus-1 in 17:13 of ice time, and gave the Czechs another dangerous forward along with the ageless Jaromir Jagr. The top line of Cervenka-Plekanec-Jagr was dangerous throughout the game for the Czech Republic, and is the kind of forward group that could put some pressure on the largely inexperienced US defense.
BRUINS BY THE NUMBERS: Zdeno Chara finished his stint with Slovakia by playing 24:19 of ice time with three shots on net, but didn’t factor into the scoring during a quiet Olympic tour for him. The big Slovakian defenseman didn’t play outlandish minutes for the Slovaks, and should be ready to return to Boston on Thursday while getting some rest prior to the NHL season starting up again next week.
NEXT OPPONENT: The Czechs will take on Team USA at noontime Eastern on Wednesday, and will certainly face some challenges. They've got some older players like Jaromir Jagr, Peter Nedved, Patrik Elias and Tomas Kaberle among others, and the bounce-back in a back-to-back won't be easy. Winnipeg Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec also looked like he had a case of the yips in the third period with the Slovaks applying pressure. But the Czechs have a legit top forward line, and their 1-2 center combo of Tomas Plekanec and David Krejci is something that will give Team USA some problems. The US should win, but it won't be easy as Canada tuning things up with Latvia at the exact same time tomorrow.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “We’re on the same page. Everybody’s here to do one thing, to compete hard, and this is the best tournament in the world. You want to finish first. There are no fights in the dressing room, or anything like that.” – Former B’s defenseman Tomas Kaberle to Pro Hockey Talk following their 5-3 win over Slovakia.