Looking for the magic that helped the Czechs win gold in 1998. The Czechs are looking for perhaps one last big shot with a veteran and experienced group that has the experience of players like Martin Havlat, Jaromir Jagr who now plays in Russia with Avangard Omsk and Tomas Kaberle.
However experience comes age and with some of these players past their prime, will the age of the Czechs help them in their quest to bring Olympic Gold back to the Czech Republic, or will the age cost them as they will have to face younger and faster roster teams like Canada, the USA and Sweden later in the tournament.
One of the major problems that Czech Hockey has going into the future is the lack of strong youngsters that have been coming up recently. With results like a 7th place finish at the recent World Junior's, will the next generation of Czech Players be able to contuine their golden generation success in the NHL and in international tournaments or will they begin a long downhill slide with the lack of success and getting players to the NHL.
That's a question for another day, but for now, the Czechs are looking to at least match what they did in Italy in 2006, or possibly get back to the Gold Medal Game to possibly face somebody like Canada, Russia or the defending Gold Medalist Sweden this year.
In goal, it's expect it to be Florida Panthers starter Tomas Vokoun is expected to be the starter and did well when Dominik Hasek announced his international retirement prior to the 2006 Olympics in Italy. Vokoun went 3-4 with a solid 2.46 GAA in the 7 games to help the Czechs reach the Bronze Medal Game before beating Russia.
His Backups should be Ondrej Pavelec who the last 2 seasons has split his time between the AHL's Chicago Wolves and the Atlanta Thrashers who's looking to become a solid NHL Backup at just age 23, but still has a 3.45 GAA in 34 games played this season, then the 3rd goalie could be used sparely is Jakub Stepanek of the HV Vitkovice of the Czech Extraliga.
If the Czechs are going to go far, a solid d core with the likes of Pavel Kubina who at 6'4" 250, will be one of the biggest players at this event and will be a hitting force. As for players that can put it from the point, look for Tomas Kaberle and Roman Polak are looking to be the top D man unit to make their mark. Finally to make.
The player that may be the most untested and will need to get up to speed pretty fast is Michalek who has experience in both the WJC and the IHWC, but this is his first experience at the Olympics and that may reek havoic for him and the team if he can't get the hang of the defesne quickly enough.
Forwards like Martin Havlat who plays for the Minnesota Wild who's been a bit of journeyman in recent years which have include stops with teams Dynamo Moscow (KHL) and Sparta Prague (Czech Extraliga) is back in the NHL where he had 29 goals last year will be looked upon to to score huge goals for the Czech Side.
Also perhaps the best player ever to come out of the Czech Republic Jaromir Jagr has made it known that he will be making his final international tournament apperance of his career is with Avangard Omsk in the KHL will want to end his international career with a bang by winning a 2nd Olympic Gold Medal of his career.
In all the Czechs will have 16 NHLers to play in the Olympics as well as 5 from the KHL in Russia. Finally 2 from the Czech Extraliga which is the top Czech Professional league.
As for their group, they have been placed in what a lot of people are saying is going to be the most competitive and exiciting group of the 1st round with matchups against Slovakia, Russia and Latvia. With basically every team being a major rival here, they will be no easy games and the one that could turn the tide for the Czechs is Russia where that could be for a 2nd round bye.
Czech Republic Group Stage Schedule
2/17: VS. Slovakia 10:55 PM
2/19: VS. Latvia 6:30 PM
2/21: VS. Russia 2:00 PM
Czech Republic Olympic Roster
Ondrej Pavelec, 6'2" 200, Klando Cze, Atlanta Thrashers (NHL)
Jakub Stepanek, 6'1" 156, Vsetin Cze, Vitkovice Ostrava (Extraliga, CZE)
Tomas Vokoun, 6'0" 194, Karlovy Vary Cze, Florida Panthers (NHL)
Miroslav Blatak, 6'0" 174, Zlin Cze, Salavat Yulayev Ufa (KHL, RUS)
Jan Hejda, 6'3" 209, Prague CZE, Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL)
Tomas Kaberle, 6'0" 198, Rakovnik CZE, Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL)
Filip Kubla, 6'5" 227, Ostrava CZE, Ottawa Senators (NHL)
Pavel Kubina, 6'3" 244, Celadna CZE, Atlanta Thrashers (NHL)
Zbynek Michalek, 6'0" 200, Jindrichuv Hradec CZE, Phoenix Coyotes (NHL)
Roman Polak, 6'0" 227, Ostrava CZE, St. Louis Blues (NHL)
Marek Zidlicky, 5'10" 189, Most CZE, Minnesota Wild (NHL)
Petr Cajanek, 5'10" 176, Zlin CZE, SKA St. Petersburgh (KHL, RUS)
Roman Cervenka, 5'11" 187, Prague CZE, Slavia Prague (Extraliga, CZE)
Patrik Elias, 5'11" 194, Trebic CZE, New Jersey Devils (NHL)
Martin Erat, 6'0" 200, Trebic CZE, Nashville Predators (NHL)
Tomas Fleischmann, 6'0" 191, Koprivnice CZE, Washington Capitals (NHL)
Martin Havlat, 6'2" 216, Mlada Boleslav CZE, Minnesota Wild (NHL)
Jaromir Jagr, 6'3" 242, Kladno CZE, Avangard Omsk (KHL, RUS)
David Krejci, 6'0" 176, Sternberk CZE, Boston Bruins (NHL)
Milan Michalek, 6'2" 224, Jindrichuv Hradec CZE, Ottawa Senators (NHL)
Tomas Plekanec, 5'10" 198, Klando CZE, Montreal Canadians (NHL)
Tomas Rolinek, 5'8" 171, Zdar Nad Sazavou CZE, Metallurg Magnitogorsk (RUS, KHL)
Josef Vasicek, 6'3" 229, Havlicku Brod CZE, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (RUS, KHL)
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