2014 Sochi Olympics: Jaromir Jagr Continues to be Heartbeat of the Czech Republic
Jaromir Jagr may not be the wild haired, electric player that he was back in the early and mid-1990s, but the Sochi Olympics have shown the international hockey world that the 42-year-old is still a well above average player. In fact, at the current Olympics he has not only been above average, but he has been one of the top-five forwards in the entire tournament. He is a major reason why the Czech Republic is still alive to fight against the U.S. in the quarterfinals.
During the Quarterfinal Qualification match against Slovakia there was little doubting that Jagr was one of the top three players for the Czech Republic even if he only had one assist to show for it. For a large part of the first two periods the 42-year-old was a menace all over the ice, winning battles in the corners, finding open teammates streaking down the ice and even creating chances on his own. Not even putting Zdeno Chara on Jagr could stop him, and this played a large part in the Czech forwards having a large amount of open ice and the team jumping out to a 4-0 lead within two periods.
Ultimately the Czech Republic would nearly blow this lead by giving up three goals during the final part of the second and the opening portion of the third periods which just happened to coincide with Jagr being off the ice for large periods of time. To say that he was the Czech’s most important player would be an understatement, and this sentiment continues on through the entirety of the Sochi Olympics hockey tournament.
Over the group stage portion of the tournament, Jagr posted two goals with one apiece coming during the first two games against Sweden and Latvia. And while these two goals are valuable, they do not define all that the 42-year-old has done on the ice thus far.
Jagr has constantly been in the right position to get open in all three portions of the ice to receive passes. While not a speed demon by any stretch of the word, he is still a much better skater than anyone wants to give him credit for. The ability that he has to guard the puck along the boards and in front of the net looks like a center down low in the paint which all comes down to the fact that the forward is strong enough to fend off hits to his back and keep control of the puck at the same time. When you combine this with a man who simply has the type of hands that will never go bad, you have a player who is a force offensively and doesn’t need to blow by you to prove it.
Moving forward the Czech Republic has an extremely tough quarterfinal matchup against the U.S., and they will need Jagr to be on top form in order to get by them. After looking at the success that the forward has had thus far at the Sochi Olympics, there is no reason to believe he will fade in the spotlight of the quarterfinals. He should ultimately end up on the tournament All-Star team.