Despite a solid effort by Czech Republic goaltender Petr Mrazek, Europe was able to topple the Czech Republic 3-2 in overtime at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
The 2016 World Cup of Hockey is only three days in and hockey fans have already witnessed some heart-pounding hockey. Two teams have one in the win column and two have marks in the less popular column, and you know what happens when a team gets two of the latter.
Unfortunately for the players on the ice, this is not like the National Hockey League’s postseason. In the postseason, you can lose two and come back to win the whole series. In an international tournament like the World Cup of Hockey, you lose two games and you find yourself in a position you don’t want to be in.
In the early game today, we watched as Team Europe, who unceremoniously shut out Team USA on opening day, faced off against Team Czech Republic, who are looking for some redemption after being embarrassed 6-0 by Team Canada.
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As you can imagine, Team Czech Republic is a hungry team desperately looking for a win. These are the teams you don’t want to underestimate. Being backed against the wall only makes a team work that much harder.
It wouldn’t take long after the first puck drop for someone to end up on the Power Play. Czech Republic forward Jakub Voracek would head to the box for Hooking Europe forward Matt Zuccarello. Unfortunately for the Europeans, they wouldn’t be able to capitalize on their opportunity.
Speaking of unable to capitalize on their opportunities, the Czechs would soon have not one, but two opportunities with the man advantage. The first would come at 7:01 as Mark Streit headed to the box for Holding the Stick of Milan Michalek. The next would come at 11:22 as Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara would be sent to the sin bin for Delay of Game after sending the puck flying over the glass.
As you can probably guess, the Czechs found themselves unable to capitalize as well.
One thing we did notice during the first period is the way Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Andrej Sustr was “stepping up to the plate” in today’s game. Sustr was more aggressive with the puck and made a real effort towards putting the puck in the back of the net.
We’ve always said that if Andrej Sustr could find a way to use his size to his advantage, he’d be a dangerous defenseman. It seems as if this is slowly coming into play over the course of the World Cup of Hockey.
With just 15 seconds left in the first period, Team Europe would find themselves with yet another Power Play opportunity as Michal Kempny was sent to the Box for two minutes for Hooking Jannik Hansen. This penalty would, of course, carry over to the second period.
Judging by the way the play continued in the second period, it would seem as if the Czech team is pretty comfortable in the penalty box. Just as the carryover penalty from the first period came to an end, the Czech Republic team would be headed back to the sin bin after Milan Michalek crosschecked Mats Zuccarello.
Can you guess what happened before the end of the Michalek penalty would come to an end? Don’t worry…we didn’t see it coming either. As things got pretty hairy in front of the Czech net, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Michal Kempny would blatantly put his hand over the top of the puck and send it sailing out of the crease.
Unfortunately for Kempny, the referee happened to be front and center for his little display and cause Team Europe to be handed a penalty shot. The good news for the Czech team is that goaltender Petr Mrazek has been on point throughout the course of the contest and was able to turn the penalty shot away.
Despite the forging onslaught of the European team, the Czechs were finally able to get on the board late in the second period with a goal from Philadelphia Flyers forward Jakub Voracek to tie things up.
Much like the end of the first period, the Czech Republic would end the second period of play on yet another penalty kill. This time, it would be Calgary Flames defenseman Jakub Nakladal who would head off for Tripping Mats Zuccarello.
Many would think things couldn’t possibly get much worse for the Czech team, but when the whistle blew to start the third period, that’s exactly what happened. Just six seconds into the period, Michal Jordan would be headed to the sin bin for Delay of Game for sending the puck over the glass. This gave the Europeans a two-man advantage to start the period.
Early in the third period, Detroit Red Wings goaltender Petr Mrazek made an absolutely incredible save, all glove no stick, to maintain the tie for the Czech Republic. Unfortunately, Mrazek wouldn’t be quite as successful on the next siege.
Mats Zuccarello, with the assist of Jaroslav Halak, would beat Mrazek with the exact same kind of shot he just shut down without his stick.
Finally, the Czech team would get another chance with the man advantage as Red Wings forward Thomas Vanek was sent off for two minutes for Tripping Jakub Voracek. Finally, the Czech Republic would make their move. Arizona Coyotes forward Martin Hanzal would find Halak on his back and allow Team Czech Republic to tie things up once again.
Totally unsurprisingly, the Czechs would find themselves back in the penalty box after one of the usual suspects, Jakub Voracek, is caught crosschecking Mats Zuccarello. Given the amount of shots Team Europe has put up over the course of this encounter, the Czech Republic would want to limit the European’s opportunities, but hey…who are we?
With just seven seconds left in the penalty against the Czech Republic, Team Europe would find themselves headed that direction. Mats Zuccarello was sent to the sin bin for Tripping Zbynek Michalek. This would give Team Czech Republic their fourth Power Play of the night.
Despite being viciously outshot by Team Europe and serving up six power play opportunities for their opponents, the Czech Republic was able to hold on and take the game to overtime.
Unfortunately for the Czech Republic, and for those of us pulling for Team USA, Team Europe’s Leon Draisaitl was able to beat Petr Mrazek at 2:06 in the overtime period to give the win to Team Europe.
Here are a few of our observations from today. First of all, despite dropping the game in overtime, Petr Mrazek had a pretty amazing day. Mrazek was able to stop 38 of 41 shots brought against him by Team Europe, giving him a Save Percentage of .927.
On the other side of the ice, Team Europe’s Jaroslav Halak could’ve taken a nap, having faced only 30 shots. Stopping 28 of the 30 shots brought against him, Halak finished off the day with a Save Percentage of .933.
Another name that comes to mind when thinking about this game is Lightning defenseman Andrej Sustr. Sustr’s name was mentioned more than once during the broadcast and always for good things. As we mentioned before, Sustr was much more concise with the puck and always seemed to be right in the middle of the play, no matter where said play was.
If Sustr can keep his game elevated coming into the 2016-17 season, the Tampa Bay Lightning may be looking at an invigorated defensive unit.
One of our final observations, which should be pretty obvious to just about anyone who watched the game, was the all-around lack of aggressiveness from Team Czech Republic. At one point in the game, the announcers even noted they felt like Mrazek was the only player who showed up to play today.
While there were some flashes in the pan, they wouldn’t be entirely wrong. The Czech team has a lot of talented players on it, including Ondrej Palat and Andrej Sustr from the Tampa Bay Lightning. Unfortunately, none of the sparks we’re accustomed to seeing from these players have come into fruition thus far.
Team Czech Republic has now lost two games in a row, which puts them into a really insurmountable position. Next up for the Czech Republic, they are scheduled to go head-to-head with Team USA on Thursday night. It will be rather interesting to see what position Team USA will find themselves in at this point, having taken on Team Canada on Tuesday night.
On the other side of the ice, Team Europe is set to take on Team Canada on Wednesday night. What kind of position will Team Canada be in after their matchup with Team USA the night before? We guess we’ll have to wait and see for ourselves.
As we’ve mentioned plenty of times before, there is a little something for everyone at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. The Tampa Bay Lightning have 12 players spread out over seven teams in the competition, so there is almost always someone to cheer for. The question now remains, which team are you rooting for?