International Ice Hockey Federation

Can Canada keep going?

Can Canada keep going?

Czechs must stop powerful offence

Published 16.05.2015 14:06 GMT+2 | Author Andrew Podnieks
Can Canada keep going?
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - MAY 4: Canada's Taylor Hall #4 gives his team a 2-0 lead with a first period goal against the Czech Republic's Ondrej Pavalac #31 while Vladimir Sobotka #17, Matt Duchene #9, Jan Hejda #8 and Ondrej Nemec #23 look on during preliminary round action at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
One stat towers above all others at this year’s World Championship: Canada has scored 58 goals in eight games.

And this afternoon, it will be up to Ondrej Pavelec and his Czech teammates to try to find a way to stop the Canadians from filling the net again. They have been held to fewer than six goals only once, and that by France. Twice they have hit double digits, and in their last two games they have scored 19 times.

The hockey world was thrilled when it learned Sidney Crosby would be coming to the tournament, yet number 87 is tied for seventh in team scoring, and he has eight points. Incredible.

Jason Spezza leads all scorers in the tournament with 13 points and Tyler Seguin is tied with Filip Forsberg for the goals lead with eight. Five of Seguin’s have come on the power play, and Canada has scored eleven times with the man advantage, good for a 37 per cent clip.

Canada has also allowed only one power play goal against all tournament and has done a magnificent job of staying out of the penalty box, incurring just 48 penalty minutes in total (all minors). Only Slovenia has committed fewer fouls.

“They've dominated the tournament, but it's a new day on Saturday,” Pavelec said after his team’s narrow quarter-finals victory. “Tomorrow is an important rest day for us. Canada is a great team. Everyone knows that. We'll do our best to beat them.”

The first game between these teams saw Canada jump into a 2-0 lead, only to have the home side rally to tie the game in the second period. But Canada’s offence proved unstoppable, and it vaulted the team into a 5-2 lead by the third. Final score, Canada 6, Czech Republic 3.

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Of course, that game was a great test for Canada playing against a Czech team that has one tremendous boost—fan support. The 17,000 fans who will jam the O2 Arena today will be almost entirely cheering for the home team, but although it is an advantage, it’s something Canada dealt with impressively in the preliminary round. In other words, it might not be an advantage after all.

While the Canadians have both a potent and balanced attack, the Czechs are led by three players. Captain Jakub Voracek leads the team with ten points, and Jaromir Jagr, at 43 still the best player on the team, has six goals and nine points. Jan Kovar also has nine.

The Czechs have an impressive nine goals on the power play but have surrendered six, and their 32 goals scored in eight games indicated a much less potent offence.

“From playing the Czechs earlier in this tournament, playing in their own barn and country, they’re tough to beat, that’s for sure. It was not an easy game. It was competitive.” So said Canadian forward Ryan O’Reilly after Canada humbled Belarus to the tune of 9-0 in its quarter-finals game two days ago.

So the stage is set. If ever a good Czech team playing at home was the underdog, it would be today. Canada is 8-0 with 58 goals to its credit. Stopping this team will take an early goal, some great saves by Pavelec, and generating motivation from the home crowd. It should make for a great atmosphere and sensational game.




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