Winter Olympics 2014: Czech Republic vs. United States preview and discussion thread

Team USA draws the Czechs in the quarterfinal round, with a trip to the final four of the tournament on the line.

Despite taking Group A by storm and looking like the most dominant club of the preliminary round, Team USA has the misfortune of drawing the toughest quarterfinal opponent of any group champion. While Sweden takes on the upstart but outgunned Slovenes and Canada unexpectedly faces off against the inferior Latvians following their upset of Switzerland, the Americans will need to defeat a Czech Republic squad that features 23 current or former NHLers, including legitimate star forwards like Jaromir Jagr, David Krejci, Jakub Voracek and Tomas Plekanec.

Granted, the Czechs' shaky defense and weak goaltending still makes Team USA the clear favorite here but, to state the obvious, the U.S. can't get caught looking ahead to what will almost certainly be a chance to avenge their 2010 gold medal game loss to Canada in the semifinals of this year's tournament. For all their struggles keeping pucks out of their own net (and that was nearly their downfall in the qualification round, as Team Slovakia cut a four-goal Czech lead to a one-goal advantage in the third period), the Czechs ice four forward lines stocked with capable scorers. Perhaps it's a positive the U.S., should they win, will have been tested twice heading into the semifinals whereas the toughest opponent Canada will have played is an injury-ravaged Finnish squad. The Americans will know what to expect coming in whereas Team Canada won't have faced this level of competition at any point in the tournament.

But first things first: beating the Czech Republic. And, at least according to Tomas Hertl, that won't be a cakewalk for Team USA:

Team Czech Republic


Team USA
1-0-0-2, 3 points
2-1-0-0, 8 points
3rd in Group C
1st in Group A

9AM PST | Shayba Arena | Sochi, Russia | TV: USA

Projected Team USA Lineup

Dustin Brown - Ryan Kesler - Patrick Kane
James van Riemsdyk - Joe Pavelski - Phil Kessel
Zach Parise - David Backes - Ryan Callahan
Max Pacioretty - Paul Stastny - T.J. Oshie
Ex.: Blake Wheeler

Ryan Suter - Ryan McDonagh
Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin
Cam Fowler - Kevin Shattenkirk
Ex.: John Carlson

Jonathan Quick
Ryan Miller

Projected Team Czech Republic Lineup

Roman Cervenka - Tomas Plekanec - Jaromir Jagr
Milan Michalek - David Krejci - Ales Hemsky
Michael Frolik - Martin Hanzal - Jakub Voracek
Ondrej Palat - Petr Nedved - Martin Erat

Marek Zidlicky - Zbynek Michalek
Tomas Kaberle - Michal Rozsival
Ladislav Smid - Radko Gudas
Ex.: Michal Barinka - Lukas Krajicek

Ondrej Pavelec
Jakub Kovar