The Boston effect boosts the Czechs
by Andy Potts|14 MAY 2018
Dmitrij Jaskin (centre) celebrates a Czech goal with linemates David Pastrnak and David Krejci during the team's overtime victory against Russia.
photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
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In recent years, Czech hockey fans have been feeding off scraps at World Championship time. Despite winning the title on five occasions after separating from Czechoslovakia, five tournaments have come and gone since the last medal, a bronze in 2013. Two Olympic appearances in that spell also yielded no hardware.
 
In 2018, though, that medal famine might be coming to an end. An undistinguished start to the tournament is already forgotten: the arrival of David Pastrnak and David Krejci has electrified the team. The before-and-after image as a stark as an old-school soap powder commercial. Without the Davids, the Czechs were seconds away from losing to Slovakia, went down to Sweden and struggled past the Swiss in a shoot-out. With the Bruins’ pair on the team, there was a thrilling overtime victory over Russia and comprehensive shut-out successes against Belarus and France. Krejci has produced 7 (1+6) points, Pastrnak 5 (4+1).

Asked whether the newcomers had transformed the Czechs from a solid quarter-final bet into a serious medal contender, defenceman Filip Hronek was unambiguous. “Yes!” he said. “I don’t know what else I can say to that. Of course we believe we can win it all.”

The youngster from the Saginaw Spirit has also been impressed with the pair off the ice. For all the hype around their arrival, and all the goals they’ve brought to the party so far, there’s been no disruption to the team’s spirit. “They are fun guys to be around,” he added. “It’s great to be here with them.”

The most direct beneficiary has, undoubtedly, been forward Dmitrij Jaskin. The Russian-born forward looked lively in his first games in Copenhagen but has gone to a whole new level on a line with Pastrnak and Krejci. He’s another fully paid-up member of the fan club.

“With skilled guys like that on the team, it’s hard to lose games,” he said after the win over Russia. Expanding on that theme, he told Czech journalists: “The Davids are different class. It’s easy to play with them. On the ice, they are always talking, telling us where and how to make the plays. They know what they want to do and they make it easy for the rest of the team. I’m really enjoying it.

“Against Russia, they lifted the team to its best performance of the championship. There’s no need to even comment on how great they are. They know what they can do and they bring that to the team. We’re all delighted that they are here.”

Team captain Roman Cervenka sounded a note of caution amid the euphoria. “They are big players, among the best from the NHL and it’s clear that they make us stronger,” he said. “But it’s not fair to say that suddenly we’re a different team. We were good, now were can be better. Sure, we have a powerful first line, but we still have to play as a team.”

So, is there anything to complain about for the Czech Republic right now? Goalie David Rittich did his best to find a downside after his team steam-rollered France 6-0 with Pastrnak, Krejci and Jaskin contributing two points apiece.

“I haven’t faced so few shots since I was in seventh grade,” he told blesk.cz. “What was I supposed to do with myself in the net?

“In the end I was thinking about how I might have my steak that evening, I was getting tired just standing there for a couple of hours.”

From a medal famine to dreams of dining at the top table once again, it could be something of a metaphor for the upgrade in Czech hopes here in Denmark.
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