Tomas Plekanec and Team Czech Republic were upset by a surprisingly stingy Switzerland team this afternoon, and finish their Preliminary Round of the Olympic Games with three points and a record of 1-2-0.
The Czech’s had plenty of chances throughout the game but just could not solve Swiss netminder Jonas Hiller, and ultimately lost the game 1-0. It was the third straight game that Switzerland played to a 1-0 final, beating Latvia and the Czech Republic and falling to Sweden by the same score.
Switzerland lacks firepower up front where they have just Nino Niederreiter and Damien Brunner as NHL forwards, so they rely on a stifling defensive system to shut their opponents down. Pair that with a fantastic goaltender in Hiller of the Anaheim Ducks, and Switzerland finishes off their preliminary schedule with two goals against in three games.
The lone goal was scored by Simon Bodenmann with 5:50 left in the first period. He received a pass by Denis Hollenstein from behind the net and one timed it over Ondrej Pavelec’s glove hand and into the top corner.
Plekanec had several great chances himself to tie the game in the third period, but just could not get one by Hiller. Twice in the last ten minutes of the game Plekanec got the puck in the slot and both times Hiller made a fabulous glove save to preserve his shutout.
Plekanec led all forwards in the game with 22:04 of ice time and only trailed Marek Zidlicky for most deployment on the Czech squad. He also led the team with four shots on goal, and his line with future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr and not future Hall of Famer Roman Cervenka created havoc on almost every shift. The trio combined for eight shots but could not solve Hiller.
The loss leaves the Czech Republic with just three points in the standings, and they now await their fate in the Qualification Round. They could finish anywhere from 7th to 10th in the final standings, depending on the results of tomorrow’s games. If there are no upsets tomorrow, the Czech’s will finish 7th, but each underdog who wins will pass them and knock Plekanec’s country down a rung.
If the Czech’s receive some good fortune tomorrow and finish as the seventh seed, their next game will be Tuesday against the tenth ranked team. If this were to happen, you are looking at the Czech’s facing a team that did not get a point in the standings, such as Austria, Norway, Slovakia or even the Latvians who they already defeated 4-2.
However, if there are a few upsets and the Czech’s are knocked down to 10th, they would be looking at a date with Russia or the United States. The chances of this happening are extremely slim, as Russia would have to lose to the winless Slovaks, the USA would have to collapse against Slovenia and Norway would have to beat Austria by seven.
What I am trying to say is, the Czech Republic are going to finish seventh in the final standings, will face a mediocre opponent in the Qualification Round, but will be in tough in the Quarterfinals. As the seventh seed, and assuming they make the Quarters, they are looking at facing the second seed which will likely be Sweden.
The Czech Republic made several head scratching decisions over the first three games of the Olympics. Leaving solid NHL players Jiri Hudler, Radim Vrbata, Jan Hejda and Roman Polak at home in favour of aging KHLers Petr Nedved and Tomas Kaberle was not a great start. Not starting their best goaltender Ondrej Pavelec against Sweden in the opener was perhaps their most regrettable decision, and they will now have to pay for it with a tough road to the medal round.