Men’s Hockey: United States vs. Czech Republic preview
The U.S. men’s hockey team plays the Czech Republic today (Feb. 19th) at noon, EST, on the USA Network. The United States won all three games they played in the preliminary round of the Winter Olympics, but the stakes are much higher in the quarterfinal round. Starting today, all of the games are “win or go home” affairs.
The espirit de corps is at an all time high right now for the Americans, according to defenseman Brooks Orpik.“It kind of seemed like we just got better and better as it went [in the preliminary round],” he said on Tuesday, via ESPN. “That’s the key to tournaments like this, I think. I think you kind of see guys’ confidence growing and growing as you go because in a short tournament like this, confidence is huge…”
The Czech team’s mood is probably not so upbeat after nearly blowing a 4-0 lead to Slovakia Tuesday in a game they needed to win in order to advance to the quarterfinals.
Team U.S.A. has been idle since Sunday, when they easily beat Slovenia 5-1. Ryan Miller was in net for that contest, but now the Americans will put Jonathan Quick back between the pipes. Quick was one of the heroes of Saturday’s unforgettable win over the Russians.
Goaltending for the Czech Republic will be Ondrej Pavelec, who was in net Tuesday when the Czechs beat Slovakia 5-3. He will need to be at his best if the Czechs want to pull off the upset, but his record in back-to-back games in the NHL is an appalling 4-17-0, with a 4.22 GAA and a .866 Save Percentage.
The Czechs are likely to see the return of forward Patrik Elias, who missed the prior two games with an illness. It remains to be seen how the Czech lineup is reshuffled.
On the U.S. side, the top forward line will once again be James Van Riemsdyk, Joe Pavelski and Phil Kessel. They have been reliable so far, but it’s more than likely that the remaining teams will now key in and try to shut this trio down. This puts a bigger burden on the secondary scorers.
The lineup was shuffled slightly from Sunday’s, so the second line now consists of team captain Zach Parise along with Ryan Kesler and Patrick Kane. The third line is now Dustin Brown, David Backes and Ryan Callahan, and the fourth line is Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny and living legend T.J. Oshie.
Team U.S.A. coach Dan Bylsma said he has drawn up a more aggressive gameplan for this matchup.
“We’ve set up a lot and we’ve had a lot of controlled neutral zones, but we think we can play quicker. And turning that into a forecheck more aggressively than we have,” he told reporters.
It should be an exciting game.