PRAGUE – In a matchup against the home favorite and the actual favorite, there wouldn’t be much reason to cheer for the crowd inside the O2 Arena, as Team Canada defeated the Czech Republic by a score of 2-0.
No Goal Controversy
However, there was plenty of reason to jeer. The Stanly Cup playoffs are not alone in having debatable calls. Late in the second period, the Czechs appeared to have pulled within one, only to have the potential goal disallowed because of a crease violation. Take a look for yourself.
Instead of going into the second intermission with momentum, the Czechs remained two goals down. Canadian goaltender Mike Smith would be sure not to allow another close call on his way to his third shutout of the tournament.
In fact, although Canada has been making headlines for its superior offense, it was their defense that was the story of the afternoon. After a shaky start where the Czechs knocked on the door several times, the Canadians played a very sound defensive game.
“It wasn’t a free flowing type of game that we played, it was probably more like an NHL game in many ways,” said Team Canada Head Coach Todd McLellan. “It was a good sign for us, we’ve been able to win games scoring goals and today we won a game checking and with great goaltending.”
Because of this, the sell out crowd of 17,383 was neutralized and the Czech team was never able to carry much momentum.
“They came out with a strong push early. Then we settled in and got back to our game,” said Canada defenseman Jake Muzzin. “We knew that they have a lot of skill and guys that like to handle the puck down low. We tried to eliminate that the best we could, stay calm on defense and not panic.”
Speaking of defense, Czech goaltender Ondrej Pavelec was stellar between the pipes. In spite of facing a bevy of shots (41 in total), he kept his team in the game, including a number of big saves in the second and third periods.
One Game Away From Cash & Gold
With the win, Canada has its sights set on chasing history and some extra cash to boot. If the Canadians can win their gold-medal game in regulation, they will take home with them a 1 million Swiss Franc prize in addition to their medals.
When asked about it, Muzzin simply replied, “what’s the conversion on that?”
The award is given to any team that can go the entire tournament with a clean sheet of all regulation wins; there will be no playing for overtime tomorrow.
By capturing its first gold since 2007, Canada will re-establish its international dominance by possessing the Olympic gold medal, World Junior gold and World Championship gold simultaneously.
There is also individual history up for grabs as Sidney Crosby tries to capture triple gold. A win tomorrow will give Crosby a World Championship title in addition to his two Olympic gold medals and World Juniors title.
One last barrier remains between Canada and its treasure. They’ll play the winner of the Russia-USA semifinal tomorrow evening.
Keep it locked here and follow me on Twitter as we continue our coverage of the World Championships from Prague.
As an American based in Amsterdam, Joe provides a unique hockey insight, bringing a global perspective to the game. Joe has several years of experience covering the game on both a domestic and international level, including being credentialed for multiple World and World Junior Championships.