The Czech Republic look to slay the giant in their first round robin game of the tournament as they take on Canada on Saturday.
The Czech Republic head into this tournament looking to keep pace with hockey’s international powers but they will be hard pressed to do so and don’t have the easiest draw to start as they take on Team Canada in Toronto in what should be a very electric, and obviously pro-Canadian crowd. The Czechs still have a pretty decent roster but they have certainly fallen off from their glory days in 1998 and while they remain in the upper echelon of hockey nations they are far from the top of the pecking order and will be in tough to crack the podium. The Czechs are led up front by the likes of Michael Frolik, Milan Michalek, Tomas Plekanec, and Jaukb Voracek but that’s where the talent stops as their blue line is a mess and won’t give much pressure alleviation to the guys in goal which will likely start off with Petr Mrazek.
Canada meanwhile remain at the top of the international hockey world coming off their 2014 gold medal in Sochi and while they are without some pivotal members of that squad they are still the odds on favourite to win gold in this tournament. All three units are a who’s who of NHL talent and they could probably field two or three competitive teams in this tournament as the likes of Sidney Crosby, John Tavares, Claude Giroux, Jonathan Toews, and Joe Thornton anchor a forward group that is complemented by a blue line anchored by Shea Weber, Alex Pietrangelo, and Drew Doughty. Carey Price will likely get the start here but Braden Holtby and Corey Crawford are waiting in the wings should he falter but against the Czechs I just don’t see it. This might be the biggest mismatch of the entire tournament as I have these teams at opposite ends of the pre-tournament power rankings and with this being the opener I fully expect to the Canadians to get the bugs out and win this one handily.