Team USA vs. Czech Republic: Preview and Prediction for 2014 Olympic Hockey Game
Unbeaten and second-seeded Team USA will resume play in Wednesday's quarterfinals by taking on the Czech Republic, which dispatched Slovakia, 5-3, in qualification play on Tuesday.
The last time these countries met in the Olympics was the 1998 Nagano Games. The Czechs won, 4-1, behind 38 saves from Dominik Hasek and went on to win gold.
The only player left from either of those teams who will participate in this game is Jaromir Jagr, who had a goal and an assist in the game 16 years ago.
Will things turn out differently for the Americans this time around? Can the Czechs go on another run to gold?
This preview and prediction will give you TV info, potential line combinations and a prediction on what should be a competitive quarterfinal matchup.
TV and Live Stream Info
The puck drops on this contest on Wednesday at noon ET and can be seen on the USA Network in the United States and TSN2 in Canada. The game will be streamed in both the United States and Canada.
How will the rested Americans handle a (theoretically) tired Czech team?
There are two schools of thought when a team is playing the second half of a back-to-back against a team that has had a couple days off: either the rested team will come out rusty and be caught off-guard by the busier team, or the busier team will run out of gas and succumb to the rested team. The U.S. team will try to wear down the Czechs with physical play and a quick pace.
Will Patrik Elias play for the Czechs?
He missed the qualification game with the Slovaks because of the flu and has sat two straight games overall. A healthy Elias would mean a great deal to the Czechs, but if he plays at far less than 100 percent, it may not matter much anyway.
Can Team USA continue scoring at this rate?
Team USA scored 15 goals in three games during the preliminary round, but 13 came against the Slovaks and Slovenians. They scored just two goals—zero at even strength—against Russia, their only true competition. The Czechs likely fall between Russia and the other two teams in terms of competition, so it will be interesting to see what Team USA can do offensively.
Team USA Projected Lineup
• Phil Kessel—Joe Pavelski—James van Riemsdyk
• Dustin Brown—Ryan Kesler—Patrick Kane
• Zach Parise—David Backes—Ryan Callahan
• Max Pacioretty—Paul Stastny—T.J. Oshie
Extra: Blake Wheeler
• Ryan McDonagh—Ryan Suter
• Cam Fowler—Kevin Shattenkirk
• Brooks Orpik—Paul Martin
Extra: John Carlson
• Jonathan Quick
• Ryan Miller
Scratches: Derek Stepan, Justin Faulk, Jimmy Howard
Czech Republic Projected Lineup
Roman Cervenka—Tomas Plekanec—Jaromir Jagr
Milan Michalek—David Krejci—Ales Hemsky
Jakub Voracek—Martin Hanzal—Martin Erat
Michael Frolik—Petr Nedved—Ondrej Palat
Extra: Jiri Novotny
Marek Zidlicky—Ladislav Smid
Radko Gudas—Michal Rozsival
Zbynek Michalek—Tomas Kaberle
Extra: Lukas Krajicek
Scratches: Patrik Elias (flu), Michal Barinka, Jakub Kovar
Patrick Kane, United States
The right wing has yet to score in the Olympics but is tied for second on Team USA with nine shots. With his speed and skill, it bodes well for him to get on the board against a tired Ondrej Pavelec.
Jaromir Jagr, Czech Republic
Despite being 42 years old, he looks like he has plenty of gas left in his tank. But back-to-backs could be difficult for him, and cameras have shown trainers massaging his legs on the bench after almost every shift.
Marek Zidlicky, Czech Republic
The defenseman is playing nearly 27 minutes per game at the Olympics and was on the ice for 24 minutes against Slovakia on Tuesday. How he bounces back against Team USA will go a long way toward determining the fate of the Czechs.
Jonathan Quick, United States
The only cause for concern is Quick hasn't played since beating Russia on Saturday. That's three days without action for Quick, which could leave him out of sorts early.
Ondrej Pavelec, Czech Republic
He was a healthy scratch in the opening game of group play and has had an NHL save percentage better than .906 just once in his seven-year career. Team USA should be able to get to him for a few goals.
Team USA Will Win If They Get off to a Great Start
The Czechs faded late against the Slovaks and had to hold on for dear life. It's probable that the Czechs will fade against Team USA as well, so it's important for the Americans to weather the storm in the first period.
If Team USA can exit the first period with a lead, it should be fine the rest of the way.
The Czech Republic Will Win If They Take Advantage of Every Chance
The Czechs have enough talent to skate with anyone, but Team USA should be their toughest opponent in the tournament thus far. Russia showed that it's very possible to generate scoring chances against the Americans, and the Czechs will need to do the same and finish on almost all of them.
They'll need a power-play goal and to finish those prime scoring chances, especially if they come early. If nets are missed or pucks are thrust into the chest of goaltender Jonathan Quick, it will be a long day for the Czech Republic.
This game isn't a layup for Team USA, but it should be a victory for the Americans. A semifinal showdown with Team Canada looks like it's in the cards for Team USA.
Predicted score: Team USA 5, Czech Republic 2