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World Cup of Hockey Preview: Czech Republic

World Cup of Hockey Preview: Czech Republic

As the hockey world prepares for the return of the World Cup of Hockey, the staff at InGoal Magazine will take a closer look at the goaltending situation for all eight teams, including likely starters and style of play leading into the pre-tournament exhibition games. We start with the Czech Republic:

The Czech Republic certainly doesn’t look like the favored team at the upcoming World Cup.

Team Canada, as always, is a bit of a dominant powerhouse. Team USA has an underrated blue line corps with players like John Carlson (although nowhere close to the stacked defensive lineup being offered by Team Sweden) and Team North America is absolutely stacked with young talent.

The Czechs have two goaltenders with the ability to steal them games, though. So while they’re not necessarily favorites, they’ve certainly got two dynamic options in net that could influence the way their tournament goes.

Petr Mrazek

 Games PlayedSV%5 vs 5 SV%HD SV%Record
2015-16 Pro Season54.921.931.81927-16-3

Much like it is with the Detroit Red Wings, the starting job appears to be Petr Mrazek’s to lose.

The 24-year-old Ostrava native has all but usurped Jimmy Howard for the number one spot in Detroit’s depth chart, and his strong performance early on in the 2015-16 season make it hard to consider him anything but the best option for the national roster this September.

Comfortable with an active game, Mrazek plays a bit farther out (likely in part due to his average-at-best size) no matter what. Where he runs into trouble, of course, is when he pushes too far out of his crease; he’s an effective mobile goaltender who knows how to maintain good positioning from an aggressive standpoint, but can find himself caught too far out if the opposition draws him out mid-play.

Check out Mrazek’s WCoH mask here

Michal Neuvirth

 Games PlayedSV%5 vs 5 SV%HD SV%Record
2015-16 Pro Season32.924.930.80018-8-2

It’s unlikely Mrazek will need to concede starts but a poor showing or injury could leave the Czech Republic turning to their backup, which will almost certainly be the spectacularly underrated Michael Neuvirth.

During last season with the Philadelphia Flyers, Neuvirth was good for three shutouts and 18 wins splitting tandem with Steve Mason en route to a playoff appearance. He then put up stellar numbers during the three postseason games he appeared in for the Metropolitan Division club, producing a .981 save percentage and just .67 goals against average through a tough series against the Washington Capitals.

The former Czech Olympian plays a more controlled, contained positional game than Mrazek, prioritizing angle over depth in his crease. Neuvirth’s style doesn’t look as flashy but lends itself to consistency, and if last year’s playoff performance against the Capitals is any indication, can also provide spectacular puck stopping against superior opponents, something the Czech Republic will likely need at the World Cup.

See Neuvirth’s WCoH mask here

Ondrej Pavelec

 Games PlayedSV%5 vs 5 SV%HD SV%Record
2015-16 Pro Season33.904.918.80013-13-3

It’s not likely Pavelec will see much time on the ice for the Czechs during the tournament. If he does, it should be during the pretournament games, but with two higher-performing netminders a part of the team’s tandem as well, things don’t seem promising for his chances to take the ice.

If he does, though, look for the Jets starter to try and prove his worth in what’s likely a make-or-break year for him. With both Connor Hellebuyck and Eric Comrie looking good in the depth chart, Michael Hutchinson poised to continue playing backup for years to come, and Jamie Phillips newly signed, the Jets don’t necessarily need Pavelec to return next year; if he wants to make a good impression, World Cup play is certainly the time to do it.

About The Author

Cat Silverman

Catherine is the first American in a long line of Canadians, making her the black sheep before she even decided she wasn't going to be a Leafs fan. Writer for Today's Slapshot, InGoal Magazine, and, coach in the Arizona Coyotes Department of Hockey Development. Goalies are not voodoo.

1 Comment

  1. james

    Sick article!

    Do you think any of these goalies have Hasek ‘steal the tournament’ potential? Or are the Czech’s doomed?