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What’s going on with Pavelec and the Czech Olympic team?

Feb 12, 2014, 3:59 PM EDT

Something odd is happening between Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec and Czech head coach Alois Hadamczik.

On Wednesday, Pavelec was a healthy scratch for the Czechs’ tournament-opening loss to Sweden, despite the fact he’s the lone NHL netminder on the roster. The start was instead given to KHL netminder Jakub Kovar, which seemed to backfire — he was hooked after allowing three goals on 10 shots, admitting he should’ve stopped the second.

Another KHL goalie, Alexander Salak, played very well in relief by stopping 14 of 15 shots faced. Yet after the game, Hadamczik said Pavelec was the Czechs’ No. 1 goalie.

Insert confused face here.

“Because of the time zones [Sochi from North America], we decided to give Pavelec some time to rest,” was the exact explanation, per the Olympic News Service. Hadamczik added he was “confident that we lost not because of the goalkeeping,” and that the Czechs were in “pretty good shape right now and can even expect to enter the quarterfinals right now.”

So, back to Pavelec.

The Jets goalie learned of his fate on Tuesday, when Hadamczik explained he’d be held out of the Sweden game but would start against Latvia on Friday. Pavelec tried to take the decision in stride, according to the Winnipeg Free Press.

“It’s the Olympics. Everyone wants to play. That’s why we’re here,” he said. “I don’t know. I’ll work hard in practice. The coaches have their reasons. Hopefully this works for us and we win.”

It’s worth noting Pavelec prepped himself for potentially, um, unconventional coaching prior to Sochi:

As for trying to figure out exactly what’s going on, guesses are welcome.

The notion that Hadamczik “saved” Pavelec so he could adjust to the time zone is suspect, because many other Czech NHLers dealt with the adjustment and still managed to play against Sweden (including New Jersey’s Marek Zidlicky, who played nearly 27 minutes).

It’s possible the Czechs were trying to hide an injury of some sort. Kovar said after the game that “some of the players are a bit ill, maybe have a flu,” and defenseman Radko Gudas was scratched due to an illness. That said, Pavelec was shouldering a healthy workload in Winnipeg prior to the Olympics and is going to play Friday anyway.

There might be a political or disciplinary issue at hand, but no evidence to suggest it.

In the end, this could just be another in a long line of questionable decisions from the Czech brass, which began with the original Olympic roster announcement (defenseman Michal Barinka, selected over NHLers Roman Polak and Jan Hedja, is Hadamczik’s son-in-law) and has carried through to today.

Update: Here’s a good tidbit from CBC’s Elliotte Friedman

Hadamczik has some Mike Keenan in him when it comes to goalies. At the 2011 Worlds, where the Czechs won bronze, he rode Pavelec – who didn’t lose until the semifinals – all the way. At the 2006 Olympics, Dominik Hasek got hurt in the first game. Hadamczik moved to Tomas Vokoun, who was pulled against Canada. In came Milan Hnilicka, who beat Slovakia in quarters, but was clobbered by Sweden in the semis. Vokoun came back to win the bronze-medal game.

At the 2012 Worlds (another bronze), Hadamczik alternated Kovar and Jakub Stepanek in the round-robin. Kovar beat Sweden in the quarters, but was pulled in the semis. Stepanek won the bronze-medal game.

Lesson: be ready, Ondrej.

Related: PHT’s Pressing Olympic Questions: Will the Czechs regret their snubs?

  1. jpelle82 - Feb 12, 2014 at 4:24 PM

    my guess they just figured since there was no way they were going to beat sweden they just saved him for latvia and switzerland…they go 2-1 and get into the quarterfinals. not like that even matters though considering this is really a just 6 team tournament (sweden, finland, russia, us, canada, slovakia) and everyone else is filling time as cannon fodder anyway.

  2. scrouch - Feb 12, 2014 at 5:44 PM

    I tend to agree that he didn’t want Pavelec to get rattled by losing his first game of the tournament and didn’t expect to beat Sweden with or without him in net. By not even dressing him in this game he has a shot to get on bit of a roll by winning out through the rest of the group stage. The Czech’s are going for 2nd in the group so they may as well try and get some momentum going over their next 2 games to lead into the knockout stages. I think the decision would have been different if they would have played Latvia or the Swiss first. Then you want to get your starting goalie a win to build off of, even if they’ll lose to Sweden later on.

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