The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/16/14 at 03:10 PM ET
Update: Sorry about posting "Tatar's Czechs." Was probably thinking about the Saturday Night Live Czechoslovakian Brothers sketch or Vaclav Havel and the Velvet Divorce (better writer than politician).
Gustav Nyquist scored the game's first goal and should've had an assist on Sweden's third marker as the Swedes defeated Tomas Tatar's Slovaks 3-1 (Tatar had an assist on the Slovaks' goal, too).
Sweden dominated the first half of the game, and then the Slovaks built upon successive power play opportunities to give the Swedes a run for their money. Anders Nilsson was strong in goal, however, and was one of the main reasons Sweden prevailed...
Though Jaroslav Janus was far, far better than Jan Laco in the Slovak crease, giving coach Vladimir Vujtek's team sound netminding for the first time in the tournament.
Just as I went with some "good news and bad news" regarding Team USA's 3-2 OT win over Kazakhstan, here's good news and bad news regarding Nyquist and Tatar, as well as their teams as a whole:
The good news for Nyquist and Sweden: coach Par Marts swapped out Jimmie Ericsson for Linus Klasen on the Calle Jarnkrok-Nyquist line, and Klasen's addition worked wonders, with a younger and faster player generating turnovers for the sniper (Nyquist) and playmaker (Jarnkrok, who was good but still skated right past the puck, chasing play, and as such, was a strange pick for the game's "Best Player" from Sweden).
Just as importantly, Nyquist looked "like himself" for the first time in the tournament: he skated hard, he was strong on the puck along the boards, in traffic and in one-on-one battles, he skated very well, he played his give-and-go game perfectly and he snuck into sniper's spots to score the 1-0 goal, looking dangerous all game long.
Nyquist had 3 shots, finished at +1 and played 15:13.
The bad news for Nyquist, and Sweden, is that both the player and the team's defensive games could use some work. The Swedes had the Slovaks on the ropes for the first half of the game, but a lack of attention to defensive detail allowed the Slovaks to generate oodles of scoring chances during the game's second half, and Nyquist was sometimes very lackadaisical in terms of backchecking.
In any case, Sweden is slowly but surely finding its form on individual and team-wide bases, and that's a good sign going into Sunday's game against the powerhouse Canadians.
The good news for Slovakia and Tatar: Jaroslav Janus was excellent in the crease, and while coach Vujtek has his team playing a Jacques Lemaire-style trap game, the Slovaks spent the second half proving that they've more than got the wheels to make stuff happen if the coach lets the team play as its natural instincts suggest it should.
The good news for Tatar is that he earned oodles of ice time on the power play and penalty-kill, he was superb defensively, and he took a shot, finished at +1 in 15:54 of ice time and did the best to both go to the opponent's net and stay there, to grind out pucks down low and on the cycle, and to make sure that he was taking his checks and guarding them, especially on the PK, where he skated back hard and would stay with his man even if that meant skating all the way back into Janus' crease.
The bad news for Tatar? He's not a great big-ice player per se: his skating is better than Jiri Hudler's, but Tatar's looked a step-and-a-half slower than he usually does on 85-foot-wide ice. That may or may not have something to do with his linemates, Michel Miklik and Juraj Mikus--Tatar plays alongside Miroslav Satan on the power play, but he's rarely, if ever, on the ice with his childhood pal Richard Panik--and it may or may not have something to do with the fact that Tatar's status as an offensive player on a trap team doesn't afford him the opportunity to turn and burn, but he doesn't look like himself.
He's working hard, but there's an element of grit that's missing, and his intensity and "jam" have dropped off significantly as Tatar has slowly but surely realized that his team, like the Americans, will probably be eliminated in their first quarterfinal game because the team's simply not very good.
Hell, they may miss the quarterfinals altogether given their 1-and-4 record, though something tells me that games against Italy tomorrow and Denmark on Monday should allow the Slovaks to avoid having to deal with possible relegation play down the line.
I know that the Slovaks, who usually lean upon Marian Hossa, Michal Handzus, Zdeno Chara and players like Tatar and Tomas Jurco are severely undermanned and have a coach whose style-of-play demands actually harm the team's ability to win games...
But the emotional Tatar's obviously and evidently frustrated with having dropped 4 of 5 games, and he's not giving 100% as a result.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.