Sochi 2014: Pre-Game – Group C: Czech Republic vs. Sweden
Our first important game of the Olympic schedule is the showdown with the likely top-two of group C: the Czech Republic and Sweden. With mediocre Switzerland and also-ran Latvia in this group, this first game of the schedule will also be key in determining who garners the first bye to the quarter-finals.
Keys to the game
Sweden is a powerhouse, and should be right there with Canada, USA, and Russia in contention for the gold medal. The Czechs, while still a respectable team, should not be able to keep pace with the high flying Swedish contingent. The Tre Kronor are packed with a potent offense, a speedy defense, and world-class goaltending.
If Sweden is to win this game, they should focus on trying to dictate the tempo of the affair. This is their game to lose, and their serve to hold.
This will be an uphill climb for the Czechs; while their expected top line of Jakub Voracek-David Krejci-Milan Michalek should be a handful for the Swedes to deal with, their defense is wholly lacking in their ability to withstand the attack of four deep Swedish lines. Their only hope will be to employ a defensive trap system, and try to limit the shots to the outer perimeter, and importantly, away from the point where Erik Karlsson and Oliver Ekman-Larsson can pick them to pieces.
Dan’s Guaranteed Prediction™: 5-2 Sweden
News & Noteworthy
Revealed earlier today, expected Czech starter Ondrej Pavelec will not start for this game. He’ll be a healthy scratch for this, the first and most important game in the round-robin for the Czech contingent. There hasn’t been too many details as to why Pavelec was omitted from the roster, but it will likely be Alexander Salak from the KHL getting the start. This is definitely unexpected, as the Czechs will have to be at the top of their game to have any hope of toppling one of stronger teams in the tournament, and missing a key piece in the crease does not bode well for them.
Sweden has had to name not just one but two replacements for their roster due to the injuries of Henrik Sedin and Johan Franzen; in their stead, the Swedes have named Marcus Johansson and Gustav Nyquist, respectively. While neither is up to the level of who they are replacing, neither one is a slouch. It will be interesting to watch where they slot into the depth chart of the team.
Jakub Kovar (Expected Starter)
Henrik Lundqvist (Probable Starter)