Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
The Problem: The Czech Republic's blue line can not keep up with their high-scoring opponents.
When taking on opponents with three or four lines of strong top-six NHL forwards, a team needs defenders who are already accustomed to taking on the world's best. That's not the case here.
Only Zbynek Michalek and Marek Zidlicky are currently regularly facing the type of opponents they will likely see in Sochi. To make matters worse, Zidicky won't help in shorthanded situations, where he's averaging just 0:21 minutes per game in the NHL this year.
Ladislav Smid is the only other Czech blueliner who is averaging at least two minutes of penalty-killing time per game (2:14), though Radko Gudas isn't far off the mark (1:55).
Though Zidlicky, Smid, Gudas and Michal Rozsival clearly have some defensive talent, Michalek is the only one who has had any experience and success this season in consistently shutting down the league's best.
Potential Impact: While a questionable defensive blue line might not have been that serious an issue when they had the legendary Dominik Hasek in net, it's actually aggravated by having Ondrej Pavelec instead, one of the NHL's least effective starting goalies.
The Czech Republic could bleed goals this year, and not just against the powerhouse teams.
How to Fix It: Where is Jan Hejda? Including the nation's best defensive defenseman (potentially after Michalek) would have gone a long way to upgrading the blue line.
In the absence of effective goal prevention on the blue line (or behind it), the Czech Republic will be relying on their otherwise defensively sound forward corps. It is led by Selke oversight Tomas Plekanec, who could be awesome alongside two-way veteran Patrick Elias. Underrated secondary players like Ondrej Palat and Vladimir Sobotka could also help.
Having left potentially their best top-six scoring line at home, the Czech Republic is going to have to keep opposition scoring to a minimum in order to get back on to the podium. That will depend greatly on Michalek, aggressively backchecking forwards, and a serious step up from the team's other defensemen.