Team Europe’s Draisaitl Pots OT Against Czechs
Ralph Krueger’s team has made lot of fans in Europe happy the past 72 hours — and maybe a few people in Las Vegas nervous.
His team from eight non-traditional hockey nations is driving toward the World Cup semifinals after beating the Czech Republic 3-2, in what started as a Monday afternoon siesta and ended as an overtime thriller.
Monday’s victory on a Leon Draisaitl goal, coming off a Jaroslav Halak save and Mats Zuccarello pass, followed a 3-0 shutout of the Americans, who now face a must-win situation in group play against Canada on Tuesday.
“It’s quite a historic three days for this crew, coming in here 33-to-1 long shots with the Vegas bookies,” coach Krueger said. “It’s a lot of fun. The guys never saw (those odds) as a hurdle, they always thought we’d have a shot at where we are today. I’ve never believed those numbers. We’ve never used any negative motivators in our process.
“I’m just so proud of the way the guys have come together, how they are representing the (flags) on their shoulders. Their complete buy-in is the first I’ve seen in 25 years of coaching that’s happened this quickly. We’re not done with these two games. It’s truly a very honest group of guys, trying to do something special.”
STRANGE BUT TRUE
The win was anything but conventional, as Europe went 0-for-6 on the power play, Anze Kopitar missed a penalty shot and Czech goalie Petr Mrazek made an amazing glove save on Roman Josi from his belly, sans stick, but gave up a 2-1 Zuccarello floater. The Czechs went with Mrazek, who made 38 saves, after Michal Neuvirth was overwhelmed by Canada. The overtime point, helped by Martin Hanzal’s third-period power play rebound off the dasher, kept the Czechs alive — barely.
“Petr was the reason we went to overtime,” said teammate Jakub Voracek, who rubbed his eyes several times on the podium as if in disbelief his team is 0-1-1. “We’ll find out (about team character). It’s a World Cup, not a pre-season game, so now we have to make sure we leave everything out there (Thursday against the U.S.).
HANDS ACROSS THE WATER
After beating the Americans, Krueger heard from a number of well-wishers across the ocean, through text and social media.
“It’s really nice that the federations of all the countries are behind us, even countries we didn’t players select from such as Belarus. There are other delegations here, so we’re representing more than eight countries. We’re all kind of blood brothers from the 20 years of fighting against the top six hockey powers) in the world.
“There have been a load of messages directed to (GM) Miroslav Satan, (president) Franz Reidl and myself, very encouraging and very pleased with that first result. They’re all giving us a push to go on.”
TAKE YOUR PICK
Roman Josi likes Toronto, though he never gave a thought to playing here.
That possibility did cross the minds of Maple Leafs scouts looking back on the 2008 draft. The talented Nashville Predator, who set their team record for points by a defenceman last year with 61, was chosen with a second round pick that once belonged to the Leafs.
Near the 2007 trade deadline, the Leafs sought help on face-offs to improve their shot at playoffs. They re-acquired centre Yanic Perreault from Phoenix for defenceman Brendan Bell and the pick that turned out to be Josi. The Leafs could have had Perreault on waivers earlier that season, while the pick they gave up eventually moved to Nashville.
“I didn’t know that when I was drafted, but I read about Toronto somewhere,” Josi said. “It’s kind of funny to see how it worked out and how many times that pick got traded.
“I love Toronto, They had the scouting combine here (his draft year). It’s fun to have this event in a hockey city.”
The Europeans know one area they have to work on — an 0-for-10 power play through two games.
“Nineteen shots (Monday) is a strong power play,” Krueger noted. “There were some amazing saves (by Mrazek). We haven’t needed the power play yet, but we will against Canada for sure. There’s no big panic. We’re going to move some pieces around. We have one right-handed stick out of 10 guys on the power play and we have to find ways with the left-handers to create second chances.”
Team Europe defenceman Mark Streit said he was “90% sure” Draisaitl would score on his game-clinching breakaway, giving him goals in two straight games on top of a strong pre-tournament. “The way he’s going now, not a lot of people can stop him.” … Before Kopitar’s second period penalty shot, called when Michal Kempny closed his hand on the puck in the crease, only two had been awarded in World Cup history. Czech Robert Reichel beat Finland’s Kari Takko in 1996, while American Jason Blake was stopped by Ilya Bryzgalov of Russia in 2004 … Marian Gaborik went 0-for-7 on shots for Europe … Attendance Monday was 8,574.