Olympic Hockey Picks: Switzerland vs. Czech Republic

Ross Benjamin

Friday, February 14, 2014 7:02 PM GMT

Friday, Feb. 14, 2014 7:02 PM GMT

Switzerland and the Czech Republic collide on the final day of Group C round robin play. The winner of this contest will in all likelihood finish 2nd in the group, and has a chance to earn a first round bye in the qualification round.

Switzerland vs. Czech Republic 12:00 PM ET

According to hockey betting odds the Czech Republic is an early -260 money line favorite, and is -1.0 (-115) on the puck-line. The posted total is currently 5.5 with an odd betting twist that we almost never see in NHL betting odds. An over wager can be made at +145 while an under bet at -175.

Goal Differential May be Important

One of the tiebreakers in Olympic hockey round robin format is goal differential. The winner of all 3 groups, and the best 2nd place finisher, will automatically advance to the quarterfinals of the tournament. The remaining 8 teams will all be seeded and have to play in a qualification round. Both the Czech Republic and Switzerland enter their final game in the round robin format with identical 1-1 records. In addition both are exactly even in the goal differential department. Unless we see an absolute blowout in the game between the United States (+6 goal differential) and Russia (+3 differential), or a blowout in this Group C contest, it will be highly unlikely that either of these teams will receive a bye in the qualification round and advance directly to the quarterfinals.

Swiss Stifling Defense

The Swiss team has played a pair of 1-0 games thus far in the tournament. In their opening game they averted disaster as a heavy favorite by scoring with just 0:07 to play in the 3rd period, and escaping with a 1-0 win over Latvia. Then on Friday they gave one of the gold medal favorites all they can handle as a +600 money line underdog in a 1-0 loss to Sweden. The Swiss have really established a reputation as a stingy defensive team over the last few Olympics, and in various international tournaments. They’re also viewed as a very tough out and a dangerous opponent. In the 2010 tournament in Vancouver they lost to the eventual gold medal winner Canada in an overtime shootout. They advanced to the quarterfinals of that tournament where they lost a narrow 2-0 decision to the United States, in a game that was tied 0-0 entering the 3rd period.

Time to Shed Underachieving Status

The Czech Republic was a 4-2 loser to Sweden in their opening game in a contest that quite frankly they were never a serious threat. They did bounce back on Friday with a 4-2 win over Latvia putting them in prime position to finish 2nd in Group C, if they can earn a win over the Swiss. As I’ve indicated on several occasions leading up to the Olympics and during, their biggest weaknesses are on defense and in goal. It’s hard enough to advance deep into the tournament with one of those areas being a shortcoming, let alone both. Getting an early lead in this game will be imperative for the Czechs. Their opponent is a master of being able to protect a lead by going into a defensive shell, and using an occasional offensive counter attack taking advantage of an opposition mistake. The Czechs discipline and patience will be severely tested in this contest. Since the gold medal winning team led by Dominik Hasek, the Czechs have been a huge disappointment in recent Olympic tournaments.

Final Analysis

The Swiss continue to fly under the radar even though they’ve repeatedly proven themselves to be worthy on the world stage. They’ve displayed extreme discipline, are very well organized, and possess above average team speed. In a nutshell they’re a real pain to play against, and are experts at how to frustrate a more talented opponent. The Czechs have a plethora of offensively skilled players at the forward positions. However, they can be exposed on the back end, and they’re goaltending is shoddy at best. The favorite is way overvalued in this spot, and for that reason alone my nod goes to the underdog for our sports pick in this matchup.

Free Pick: Switzerland +205 over the Czech Republic

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