Olympic Hockey Picks: Czech Republic vs. Slovakia

David Lawrence

Monday, February 17, 2014 3:01 PM GMT

Monday, Feb. 17, 2014 3:01 PM GMT

The Czech Republic and Slovakia have been two of the bigger disappointments so far in the men’s hockey tournament. While both were deemed to have dark horse medal potential, it turns out that neither looks close to worth as they’ve combined for just one win between them.

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Czech Republic Can Win Because…

Slovakia has been horrible. Sure, they have some NHL stars like Zdeno Chara and Marian Hossa, but they’ve performed worse than teams like Switzerland, Latvia and Austria. Slovakia has scored just two goals in three games while giving up 11 themselves. That number should probably be higher as the Russians were half asleep on Sunday when they needed a shootout to get by Slovakia following their emotional game against the USA. That means Slovakia’s other two opponents have combined for 10 goals. Slovakia even lost to Slovenia, handing them their first-ever Olympic hockey win.

The Czech Republic has been disappointing but they haven’t been that bad. They lost to Sweden and then were stymied 1-0 by a Swiss team that’s only allowed one goal in three tournament games so far. The Czechs are the better team and should take care of business here.

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Slovakia Can Win Because….

They’re coming off an encouraging performance. The 7-1 loss to the United States was bad and then the 3-1 loss to Slovenia really stung, but on Sunday they played with Russia for 65 minutes, forcing them into a shootout to determine a result. No, they didn’t get the win but just the fact that they played that well will encourage them.

This is still a team that’s more talented than the way they’ve performed. They’ve underachieved but maybe the confidence they gathered from that performance against Russia can carry over.

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Outlook & Pick

This game is a tossup as the Czech Republic is a so-so team that’s past their prime while Slovakia is a less-talented group that’s not doing themselves any favors by underachieving. At this point, you’d have to bet against Slovakia because they’ve been one of the worst teams in the tournament so far.

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