The Men’s Olympics hockey tournament has been full of surprises both for better and for worse but for these two teams who both had medal aspirations you can file them under the disappointment category thus far.
The Czech Republic head into Tuesday’s contest finishing in third place in their pool behind both Sweden and Switzerland as both teams had their way with the Czechs who as a result must play a qualification game just to reach the knock off stage of the competition. The Czechs do have a handful of NHL players on their roster but they are certainly ages away from their glory days of 1998 when they claimed gold in Nagano and face another stiff test here against their archrivals from Slovakia. The Czechs were criticized for their age heading into the tournament as they have a number of older skaters including Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias, and the ageless Petr Nedved and so far it looks as though the skeptics were right as this team hasn’t been on the same page all tournament long. Their loss to the Swedes was expected but they fell to a Swiss team who has the worst offense in the Olympics and their pipe dream coming to an end seems inevitable at this point.
Slovakia has had an even more disappointing tournament than their counterparts from the Czech Republic if that is somehow possible as they went winless in the round robin stage and salvaged a second to last place in the standings thanks to a forced shootout against Russia. Slovakia finished fourth in Vancouver and it was expected they would use that as a stepping stone to joining the upper echelon of hockey nations but if anything they have regressed over the last two weeks and will surely go back to the drawing board as the tournament draws to a close. Zdeno Chara is the face of the Slovakian Olympics movement and was the country’s flag bearer but his team’s effort on the ice has been forgettable and was low lighted by a 3-1 loss to the underdogs from Slovenia. However, in a do or die situation against their arch rivals and a spot in the quarterfinals on the line I think we see the best effort from the Slovaks so far in this tournament and unlike the Czechs, Slovakia is coming off a game of improvement and I think it carries over. I think at worst Slovakia keeps this close and we get a one goal game here.