Monday, May 2, 2011

Czechs start 2-0, now real tournament begins

With their 6-0 victory over Denmark on Monday, the Czech Republic improved its record to 2-0 at the World Championships. With no disrespect to the Latvian or Danish teams, the real tournament starts now.

The early match-ups at the World Championships are always full of upsets, as the Russians and Swedes can attest to this year. By winning their first two games, the Czechs have done well to avoid that trap, although such early losses to lesser teams rarely have an impact on the tournament's final standings.

On Saturday, they were tied with Latvia 2-2 into the third period, when Martin Havlát scored by ripping a shot from the top of the slot inside the post early in the final frame. Roman Červenka took an advantage of a neutral-zone turnover in the late-going and scored on a breakaway to make it a 4-2 final.

Milan Michálek's 2 quick goals put Monday's game
against Denmark away. Photo: Francois Larrede,
On Monday, they held a slim 1-0 lead against Denmark until the midway point of the second, and then broke the game wide open with four goals in a span of 3:04. First Milan Michálek scored twice, once on a breakaway and then another on a tap-in on a power-play 1:43 later. Michael Frolík added his second of the game on a flutterball from the point that eluded Danish goalkeeper Patrick Galbraith. Tomáš Plekanec scored in his first game of the tournament to make it 4-0, and finally Petr Průcha added one more in a third period that completely lacked any drama or emotion, with the game clearly decided already.

Ondřej Pavelec, in his first major tournament as the Czech starting netminder, made 24 saves for the shutout. "I am very happy that our young goalie got the shutout," Czech coach Alois Hadamczik told's Henrik Lundqvist after the game. "It is very important for our number-one goalie."

With both Latvia and Denmark now 0-2, they face each other on Wednesday, with the loser headed to the Relegation Round. Also on Wednesday, the Czechs face Finland in their first real test of the tournament. Underscoring the importance of the game, it will be aired on ČT1 in the Czech Republic instead of the usual ČT4 Sport, live at 20:15 CET. "Finland is a great team, and it's not going to be an easy game," said Havlát.

Wednesday is when the jockeying for position will begin. Looking ahead to the next round, they will likely face Russia, Slovakia, and the surprisingly 2-0 Germans. Together with the winner of the Latvia-Denmark game, only four of those six will advance to the quarterfinals.

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