Team Sweden opens the 2014 Olympic Hockey tournament with what should be their toughest game of the preliminary round, as they square off against the veteran Czech Republic. This game will be of greatest interest to Senators fans, because the only 2 Senators representatives in Sochi, Milan Michalek and Erik Karlsson, will be facing off against each other. We will be posting previews and predictions for many games, mostly involving true medal contenders.
SWEDEN VS. CZECH REPUBLIC
12 noon EST
Here’s how the two teams match up:
GOALTENDING: While Henrik Lundqvist is one of two goalies in the tournament to have an Olympic gold medal, he has had an uneven season for the Rangers. He is playing his best hockey in the last month, so he looks to be peaking at the right time for Sweden. In the Czech net, Swedish shooters will be facing Jakub Kovar in the net, not Ondrej Pavelec as many would have expected.
DEFENSE: Sweden is among the top blue lines in the tournament, led by the offense of Erik Karlsson, and the all around play of Niklas Kronwall. It is a good balance of speed, skill, youthful exuberance and veteran presence. The only thing missing is Nicklas Lidstrom. The Czechs blueline will be led by Marek Zidlicky, Zybenk Michalek and also features former NHLer Tomas Kaberle.
FORWARDS: Even without Henrik Sedin and Johan Franzen, the Swedes are icing a solid unit up front. Youngsters like Gabriel Landeskog and Jakob Silfverberg are balanced off by the veteran presence of Daniel Alfredsson, Daniel Sedin and Henrik Zetterberg. Youth is not necessarily on the side of the Czechs, as their youngest forward is Jakub Voracek. They don’t have any forward who was born in the 1990′s. Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias and Tomas Plekanec will lead the team, that also features former NHLer Petr Nedved.
On the whole, it appears that by resting their only NHL goalie Pavelec (he won’t even dress as the backup) the Czech are essentially ceding the Group to Sweden, and will focus on getting the maximum result out of their games with the Swiss and Latvians to get their best seeding for the next round.
PREDICTION: Sweden will be in the medal hunt for sure, the Czechs will need a miraculous performance from Kovar to be close. Sweden is just too talented and too deep. Sweden 5-2.