One team with an outside hope at a medal will go a long way to securing a top half qualifying mathcup while an upstart team in its debut Olympic tournament will look to make some waves after an impressive debut against a powerhouse.
SLOVAKIA VS SLOVENIA
3:00 AM EST
TV: Rogers Sportsnet
Here is how the teams match up:
GOALTENDING: Jaroslav Halak didn’t provide the kind of support that the Slovaks required in goal against the Americans, and they don’t have the depth to overcome suspect goaltending agaisnt good teams. That being said, Peter Budaj came in to relieve Halak and he wasn’t much better. Halak will be in for a must-win game for Slovakia to avoid a really tough qualification game. Robert Kristan made 30 saves against Russia and kept his team in the game for more than 40 minutes.
DEFENSE: Slovenia held Russia to 35 shots, an accomplishment in itself given their firepower and how much the players on that team like to shoot the puck. Like so many of the underdog teams in the tournament, Slovenia needs to play almost a 5 man shell in their own end to protect their goalie. Led by Zdeno Chara and Andrej Meszaros, the Slovakian blue line isn’t as talented as the elite teams, but are at a different level than Slovenia.
FORWARDS: Slovenia has one NHL player on its roster in Anze Kopitar, and he will be a lot of the focus and will get a steady dose of Chara. Ziga Jeglic scored both goals against Russia for Slovenia. Slovakia boasts some high level NHL and KHL talent, most notably Marian Hossa. Tomas Tatar scored a nice goal for the only marker in the Slovak opener.
The simple fact that Slovenia is in the Olympics for the first time is kind of a victory. They put a scare into Russia and Slovakia has to be aware of that. Surely Halak will not have a back to back performance like he did against the US.
PREDICTION: Despite their impressive performance against Russia, Slovenia won’t have enough to take down Slovakia, who are just a notch better in every area. Slovakia 3-2.