• Will Czech drought end?

    From IIHF News@1:266/404 to All on Sat May 5 17:17:05 2018
    The Czechs could be champs this year in Denmark, and a new Kafka manuscript could be discovered during the tournament. Both are possible, but neither is likely.

    Only one player on the 2018 roster also suited up for the last Czech gold medal
    team in 2010: forward Roman Cervenka. This nation, which peaked from 1998 to 2001 with Olympic gold and three

    straight World titles, is far removed from its glory years. There have been no medals of any shade at the senior level since the back-to-back Worlds bronzes of 2011 and 2012.

    Admittedly, the Czechs had a respectable showing at the PyeongChang Olympics, finishing fourth with 3-2 shootout victories over Canada in the group stage and
    the U.S. in the quarter-final. However,

    coach Josef Jandac's men are facing a different caliber of opponents here in Copenhagen.


    Pavel Francouz will need to be a savior of Dominik Hasek-like proportions to take this team to the promised land.

    Appearing on his fifth World Championship roster, the 27-year-old, who starred in the KHL in his third season with Traktor Chelyabinsk, has just inked a contract with the Colorado Avalanche.

    Athletic and focused, Francouz posted a 2.27 GAA and 90.5 save percentage as the top Czech goalie in PyeongChang. He's backed up by David Rittich, a 25-year-old who played 25 games for the Calgary

    Flames behind Mike Smith this season.


    Team defence is a Czech specialty, and has enabled them to carry off medals even when they lack blueliners comparable to Erik Karlsson or Drew Doughty (let
    alone Tomas Kaberle or Marek Zidlicky).

    This blueline corps looks quite different from PyeongChang, with more youth and

    Can Filip Hronek, 20, carry forward the momentum from a promising AHL rookie season with the Grand Rapid Griffins (11-28-39 in 67 games with a +24 plus-minus rating) into his World Championship

    debut? If so, that'll be a major asset. Stay-at-home KHL types, like Worlds veteran Michal Jordan (Amur Khabarovsk) and first-timer Adam Polasek (HK Sochi), must be at their stifling best to keep

    things tight against the slick Russians and Swedes. And you can never predict what will happen with the gung-ho physicality of Radko Gudas (Philadelphia Flyers), back for his second consecutive



    Where will the offense come from? Once, the obvious answer would have been Tomas Plekanec (Toronto Maple Leafs). However, the 35-year-old centre's career is winding down. Plekanec went pointless at

    both the Worlds and the World Cup of Hockey last year, although he can still be
    an effective two-way presence at times, as he showed in Toronto's first-round series against the Boston Bruins.

    It will be interesting to see what Radek Faksa (Dallas Stars) can produce in a top-line role alongside the still-shifty but waning Cervenka (Gotteron). Faksa,
    a three-time World Junior participant

    who went pointless in his 2016 Worlds debut, has scored 33 points two seasons in a row with Dallas. Hopes are high for the cunning 19-year-old centre Martin Necas, who played one game with the

    Carolina Hurricanes this season, led the World Juniors in points (11), and also
    captured a Czech Extraliga title with HC Kometa Brno. And don't forget Michal Repik (Sparta Prague), as the 28-year-

    old journeyman had a strong Olympics (3-2-5).

    There is enough talent up front for teams who underestimate the Czech counterattack to get badly burned.


    Assisted by former longtime NHLers Vaclav Prospal and Jaroslav Spacek, Josef Jandac is still questing for his first IIHF gold medal as a head coach. (The 49-year-old won gold as an assistant to

    Vladimir Ruzicka's 2010 Worlds team in Germany.) Continuing to preach the traditional "come to us in the neutral zone" Czech style, Jandac is realistic about the lack of depth his nation possesses.

    But he would still love to go out on a high in his final World Championship. In
    April, Jandac signed a two-year deal to coach the KHL's Metallurg Magnitogorsk.

    Projected Results

    In the group stage, the Czechs will face a good challenge against their Slovak "little brothers" in Saturday's opener, and a win would set the right tone for this tournament. However, they must

    outsmart the Russians and outwait the Swedes if they want to get the most favorable quarter-final seeding.

    The Czechs have bowed out in the quarter-finals two years in a row (2-1 to the U.S. on Auston Matthew's shootout goal in 2016, 3-0 to Russia in 2017). Landing
    a definitely beatable opponent might

    put an end to that Kafkaesque nightmare. Medalling still seems like a long shot.

    Lucas Aykroyd

    --- SBBSecho 3.04-Win32
    * Origin: TequilaMockingbird Online - Toms River, NJ (1:266/404)