TEAM EUROPE vs. TEAM CZECH REPUBLIC
Air Canada Centre, Toronto
Monday, 3 p.m. ET (ESPN2, Sportsnet, TVA Sports)
What's at stake:
The two sides had dramatically different starts to the World Cup of Hockey 2016, with Team Europe earning a surprisingly easy shutout of Team USA and Team Czech Republic falling in a blowout to Team Canada on Saturday. With a win, Team Europe could take control of Group A, becoming the first in the group to get two wins, and could get the inside track on a spot in the semifinals. With a win, Team Czech Republic could avert disaster and a near-certain first-round exit.
It would be easy for Team Europe to be satisfied with the performance it gave in its win against Team USA on Saturday. But Team Europe will not be sitting back, and Team Europe will not be underestimating Team Czech Republic. As coach Ralph Krueger said, "We have so much respect for them and the rivalries that all our countries have had with the Czechs over the years. You can wash those games away from yesterday, on both sides, whether the Czechs will have an edge. They'll be hungry. They'll see their last opportunity. We need to stay focused and keep the picture really small right now so we can continue to build in the tournament." It will be, as he said, "a very aggressive and very determined Czech team." That means that Team Europe will need to rely on its improving defense to keep the same patience and control it showed against Team USA. A few more goals from the line of Marian Gaborik, Frans Nielsen and Mats Zuccarello, which found its rhythm on Saturday and scored the first goal of the game (and the tournament), wouldn't hurt.
Team Czech Republic:
Game 1 of the tournament went about as badly as it could have gone Saturday, with Team Czech Republic losing 6-0 to Team Canada. So it appears that Team Czech Republic will make some changes, including swapping Petr Mrazek for Michal Neuvirth in goal and potentially switching up the line combinations, especially if Radek Faksa is unable to play. Faksa did not play the final two periods on Saturday and did not participate in practice on Sunday because of an upper-body injury, according to the team doctor. He was being examined further on Sunday, but the team believed he had a chance to play. Even with Faksa back in the lineup, Team Czech Republic will need to correct the mistakes that they were making against Team Canada. "We make lots of mistakes," Team Czech Republic assistant coach Jaroslav Spacek said. "We probably gave them four goals. That's how they've got to change, play more probably simple game. … We've got to stay away from those mistakes. It's a sunny day, so we've got to stay alive."
Keep your eye on:
Jaroslav Halak, goaltender for Team Europe. Halak, who finished last season injured for the New York Islanders, put in a very good performance against Team USA on Saturday. Halak was not necessarily a shoo-in as Team Europe's starter entering the tournament, but he solidified his hold on the spot when Frederik Andersen pulled out because of an injury. On Saturday, he earned the shutout of Team USA with 35 saves, including 17 in the third period.
They said it:
"I think good teams learn from the mistakes and come out with good effort, kind of move on and get better. So I think that's going to be a big test for us tomorrow, show what we are made of, if we are a real team and we have a chance to compete in this tournament or not. We can already move on from [Saturday] night's game and look forward. It is a new game [Monday] and we'll have to play much better game if we want to have a success." - Zbynek Michalek, Team Czech Republic defenseman