Article written by Jordan Leclair - Community Contributor
I’ve always been huge on defense. You can’t run a good team without defensive depth. This Czech team is going to have to focus on their depth, they aren’t a team filled with super stars in their prime so they can’t centre a team around that. The defensive corps for this team is going to have to be at the top of their game all tournament. The Czech goalies are going to be looking to them. If Kovar is starting with Pavelec behind him they’re going to need to have the defense cut off passing lanes and make even more key plays. With the defensive corps the Czech’s are bringing, this might allow them to be the underdogs running for the gold medal.
Tomas Kaberle (HC Kladno) - Marek Zidlicky (New Jersey Devils)
This first pair consisting of former NHLer Tomas Kaberle and Marek Zidlicky will likely be focused on designating play and bringing an offensive role. Kaberle has put up three goals and 22 points in his season with Kladno while Marek Zidlicky has eight goals and 29 points. Now as much as they’d like to see offense coming from the blue line, these are veteran players with incredible hockey sense in their defensive zone. They know when they can take risks and are not often caught in odd man situations. Each of these guys is capable of playing 28-30 minutes a night and keeping defensively sound at the same time. Expect these two to play the top pairing on the power play as well with Zidlicky being the quarterback, setting up plays.
Ladislav Smid (Calgary Flames) - Zbynek Michalek (Phoenix Coyotes)
Another pair of NHL vets. These guys are going to be the shutdown pairing. Though depending on play, Smid could bounce between the first and second pairing to even out the offensive and defensive capabilities of each. Though I think this might be the easiest pair to set up as neither is going to be caught out of position. They may miss some opportunities in the offensive zone as between the pair they only have two goals and 8 points on the season. They make for a good second pairing though as you don’t need a full team of offensive defenders. Expect Michalek to stay on this pair throughout the Olympics and run about 20 minutes a game each. These guys will be on the penalty kill as their defensive zone instincts make it impossible to make dangerous passes and they will make the opposing power play work for every inch.
Lukas Krajicek (HC Dinamo Minsk) - Radko Gudas (Tampa Bay Lightning)
The third pairing is an open door right now. I don’t think Krajicek and Gudas are exactly locks to be playing night in, night out but they will definitely be seeing ice time. The Czech’s don’t have a lot of depth on their left side so they may very well throw people around on both sides of the ice regardless of handedness. Though I believe come opening night against team Sweden both of these players will be on the third line. Radko Gudas is a young player in his rookie season with the Tampa Bay Lightning and could easily make a push for the second pairing. He is an excellent defender in both zones but he is still very much a rookie with a bit of a discipline issue. He could very well become a liability in the long run though. In the 2013-2014 season in the NHL he has amassed a total of 122 penalties in minutes, third in the league. Behind only Tom Sestito (167 PIM) and Antoine Roussel (138 PIM) with Gudas having four less games played.
Barinka - Rozsival
The Czech Republic definitely has a few gaps in their defensive end but if they manage to click for a short period of time, they can definitely be successful. The team is definitely going to ride on the defensive corps as well. This isn’t going to be a team that can score five or six goals a game so defence and goaltending are going to be key. Expect these pairs to move around between games to keep opponents on their toes.