The USA Men’s Hockey team will meet the Czech Republic in the quarterfinal today, Wednesday Feb 19@12:00 pm ET, as the 2014 Sochi Games enter the big stages of the Olympics. It’s lose, and go home time. Team USA are the favorites. They would have been favored entering the tournament, and they’ve been better than expected, while the Czech Republic has been a bit of a disappointment. Still, they’re talented. Winner plays Canada/Latvia.
The U.S. has proven they have the speed to skate with anyone in the tournament. They can defend as well as any team as well. Then there’s Jonathan Quick in net, who has looked every bit the No. 1 Team USA needs him to be. He will start for the third time against the Czechs.
One thing the U.S. did very well in the Russia game in particular was manage the puck and that’s what they’ll have to do again. The Czechs can be just as opportunistic as the Russians and they’ll be hoping to make a living off of U.S. mistakes. They jump passing lanes well and they’re an experienced group that knows how to use the big ice to their advantage.
Team USA has that great scoring line of James van Riemsdyk, Joe Pavelski and Phil Kessel, but they need more from the depth. The big change is the likelihood of moving Zach Parise to a line with Patrick Kane and Ryan Kesler. Having two true scoring lines, plus a really solid third scoring unit balances out the U.S. lineup.
Some of the keys for the U.S. include getting off to a fast start. The U.S. wants to put the Czechs in an uncomfortable position and there’s no better way to do that than getting an early lead.
In watching the Czechs against Slovakia, they played a far more open style than even the Russians did, which they may have to alter slightly considering the speed factor for the U.S. However, it is unlikely to see the Czechs employ a true trap-style defense. That means more time and space for the American forwards and a better opportunity to get pucks into the offensive zone and create some sustained pressure.
This team has struggled to score consistently, but as they showed against Slovakia, they’ll take advantage of any kind of space they’re given. David Krejci and Tomas Plekanec have enough skill and speed to keep defenses on their heels, while Roman Cervenka showed he can be an offensive threat as well. Then there’s the wily veteran Jaromir Jagr, who has been consistently one of the Czech Republic’s best players. They have weapons to be aware of.
The Czech defense has been adequate in this tournament. They don’t put a lot of fear into teams, but there’s a lot of big ice experience back there and they’re not afraid to get physical. Marek Zidlicky has been the top D on the team, playing an average of 26-plus minutes through the first four games and posting four points. Zbynek Michalek has also been a force from the blue line. Still, the U.S. should be able to find ways through this group without a lot of problems.
Men’s Olympic Hockey USA vs Czech Republic
When: Wednesday Feb 19@12:00 PMET
Pick: USA -350
The Bottom Line: If the U.S. plays the way it did in the preliminary round, there’s not a lot of ways they can lose this game. Taking the Czechs seriously and committing to playing the way they were built, with speed and puck possession among the priorities, should lead to a positive result. We recommend you sign up with Bovada to receive a 10% sign up bonus heading into the Mens hockey Quater-final.