The men’s ice hockey tournament at the 2014 Sochi Games is expected to be the most thrilling and popular even at the Olympics. We’re breaking down all 12 teams until the tournament begins on Wednesday, Feb. 12.
The Czech Republic competes in Group C in the 2014 Winter Olympics. They're coached by Alois Hadamczik, who led them to bronze in Turin. Here are five reasons why they could totally medal in Sochi:
1. Age Before Beauty
There are 10 players on the Czech roster 30 years old or older, including 42-year-old Petr Nedved and Jaromir Jagr, who will turn 42 on Feb. 15. So, uh, they’ve got experience on their side. But that also means they have familiarity, too.
2. Up The Middle
David Krejci of the Boston Bruins, team captain Tomas Plekanec of the Montreal Canadiens and Martin Hanzal of the Phoenix Coyotes are a heck of a trio at center for the Czechs. Krejci has reached another level as a player since Vancouver 2010, where he had two goals and an assist.
3. The Stay-At-Home Defense
The Czechs aren’t exactly going to have a strong puck possession blue line, despite Marek Zidlicky’s presence as their best offensive defenseman. But with Zbyněk Michálek, Radko Gudas, Ladislav Šmíd and Lukáš Krajíček, they have a veteran group of stay-at-home defensemen – deep enough where Jan Hejda was left off the roster.
Sonnets have been written about Jagr this season with the New Jersey Devils, playing beyond expectations. These are his fifth Olympics, and he has 10 points in his last 13 games in the tournament. He’s still a difference maker … provided Ovechkin doesn’t run him over again.
5. Maybe Goaltending Isn’t Completely Important?
Who knows? Maybe a team with some of the weakest goaltending in the world can somehow win despite relying on Winnipeg Jets keeper Ondrej Pavelec and NHL castoff Alexander Salak. And hey, maybe Pavelec will play like he did against the Ducks recently in a big spot in Sochi. Anything can happen! It’s hockey!
OK, C’mon, Can They Really Medal In Sochi?
The Czechs are in a tricky group, with a dangerous Swiss team and a dominant Swedish team. The odds are against them, but this is a veteran group that can generate goals and won’t be rattled. If they get a scintilla of defense, they could surprise. As Nedved told us: They’re not just here to watch.