Germany seeks first goal, win against Belarus
Saturday, 02.20.2010 / 8:55 PM
Shawn P. Roarke - NHL.com Senior Managing EditorGermany (0-0-0-2, 0 points) vs. Belarus (0-0-0-2, 0 points)
NOTE: records are presented as three-point wins (regulation time), two-point wins (OT or shootout), one-point losses (OT or shootout), zero-point losses (regulation time).
What to watch --
Virtually everyone expected these two teams to battle to avoid fourth place in Group C and here they are. But neither has disgraced itself in this tournament. While the tournament opening result against the Finns was nothing to write home about, The Belarusians did throw a scare into the Swedes on Friday afternoon before losing, 4-2. The Germans also put the Swedes on a hot seat earlier this week, hanging with the defending gold medalist throughout 60 minutes in a 2-0 loss that certainly qualifies as a moral victory. After those performances, both sides feel -- and rightfully so -- that it would be an injustice to go home without any points from preliminary-pool play. Plus, each knows a third-place finish will likely provide for a more favorable matchup in Tuesday's win-or-go-home qualification round.
Last game --
Belarus lost 4-2 to Sweden on Friday; Germany lost 5-0 to Finland Friday
The Germans have leaned heavily on their NHL contingent. Nobody has carried the load more than San Jose backup goalie Thomas Greiss, who was brilliant against the Swedes in the tournament's first game. He was replaced by former NHLer Dmitri Patzold in the game against the Finns, though. NHL veterans Christian Ehrhoff, from the hometown Vancouver Canucks, and Dennis Seidenberg of Florida form the team's No. 1 pairing and are on the ice in all important situations. The Germans will not blow anybody away with their offensive prowess, but they have developed into a nice two-way team, as the Swedes can attest to.
"We try to take away the space on the ice for the other team," coach Uwe Krupp, a former NHL defenseman, said. "If we get into an open game where it goes end to end, that's not our type of game."
Now, the Germans just need to figure out a way to score. They have no goals in this tournament, the only team without one after two games.
The Belarusians did not win Friday against Sweden, but they did walk away with a newfound confidence in their game.
"We showed ourselves that we can compete with the best out there," said Ruslan Salei, who plays for the Colorado Avalanche. "I think the Swedes are one of the best teams in the tournament and we showed that we can compete with them."
Forward Konstantin Zakharov says they will show their class in the game against Germany: "I think the game we played today, we have a lot of confidence and when we go and play Germany we're going to prove it."
Perhaps the most interesting decision will be who the Belarusians start in goal. Andrei Mezin was very good Friday night, but is supposed to be the backup. Do they go back with Vitali Koval, who was good in a 5-1 loss to Finland.
Total NHL players on rosters --
Germany 7; Belarus 2.
Puck Drop --
The Germans' inability to generate offense is starting to prey on their psyche. The played a brilliant game against the Swedes, but lost 2-0 because of an inability to truly test Swede goalie Henrik Lundqvist. Friday, they fell behind early and started taking penalties when their efforts to move forward were constantly thwarted.
"We couldn't generate much," Ehrhoff said. "They were playing in our end most of the time. It's always more difficult when you get great chances and their goalie is making the stops. It would be nice if one bounces in for us."
NHL.com Prediction --
This could be one of the more compelling games of the tournament. Neither team is loaded with NHL caliber talent, but each is a proud hockey country with a belief that their men's senior national team program is moving in the right direction. So this is the opportunity for a statement game for each team. In the end, though, the Germans make the louder statement, walking away with the three points and their first goals of the tournament.