We kickoff our Olympic break with a look at some of the teams competing in men's hockey in Sochi. Throughout the NHL's hiatus for the international sport competition, we'll be providing you with regular content like we usually do, albeit at different times than normal. (Just don't expect there to be much news on the Dallas Stars, outside of those playing for their countries. With roster freezes in effect, it's like spring break for the team. With more workout time.)
We start today with a look at the Czech Republic men's team roster. The most recognizable member of this team for most North Americans is Jaromir Jagr. The winger, who will turn 42 during the Olympic tournament, has fit in well with New Jersey's slower paced style this season. He's posted 49 points in 59 games, and will be part of Czech's top line.
The forwards for the Czech Republic features enough NHLers for them to be able to roll out three solid scoring lines. While it doesn't have the pizzazz of the favorite teams, they feature plenty of reliable two-way play, especially down the middle.
In a tournament where speed seems to be key styles for the USA and Canada, the Czech team will most likely be playing a style similar to New Jersey. That is probably dictated more out of necessity given their blueline. They aren't heavy in puck movers on the back end, having a defense that is comprised mainly of more "stay at home" types. A potential area of weakness for the team, the blueline doesn't boast one of those NHLers that eats up a ton of defensive minutes.
The biggest question mark for the Czechs is their goaltending. Ondrej Pavelec is their most likely starter, and Pavelec has had a shaky season so far with Winnipeg. He's lost the most games in the NHL (22) and has allowed the second most goals in the league as well (130). His .901 save percentage is the worst he's had since 2008 when he was with the Thrashers.
The Czechs are part of Group C, which features big favorite Sweden as well as Latvia and Switzerland. They won't have to wait long to face the favorites, as the Czech Republic will open their play on Wednesday, February 12th vs the Swedes. They finished seventh in the last Olympics, and haven't medaled since the 2006 games.