BostonBruins.com - By the time the East Coast was waking up on Friday, David Krejci had already helped the Czech Republic to their first win of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
The Bruins' alternate captain got the Czechs started, assisting on their initial goal in the eventual 4-2 win over Latvia.
At 10:10 into the first period, Krejci cut into the zone and crisscrossed with Martin Erat just inside the offensive blueline, backhanding a quick drop pass to him, which he got through Latvia's defense from the high slot.
Krejci finished with 15:18 in ice time off of 19 shifts, and went 71-percent on the faceoff dot, winning five of seven draws.
With 17 NHL players on the Czech roster, including Jaromir Jagr, Krejci doesn't see much time on the power play and isn't a go-to for the penalty kill. For five-on-five, he's been playing on their second line.
In the Czech Republic's first game, a 4-2 loss to Sweden on February 12, Krejci at first centered Ondrej Palat and Jakub Voracek, before Hemsky moved to his wing towards the end.
Friday's game saw Krejci mostly centering Milan Michalek and Ales Hemsky.
He and his teammates were ready right from the start, showcasing the different speeds and layers to their offense and team which boasts 17 NHL players, in contrast to a Latvian team with just one active NHLer (Martins Karsums).
Much like Krejci, the Czechs play a patient style that's difficult to defend, with a lot of East-West play, backwards passing, crisscrossing and drop passes.
They were up 2-1 after the first period, but Latvia's squad (led by Buffalo Sabres Head Coach Ted Nolan) never quit, playing a tough, physical style to try and slow down the waves of Czech talent. Latvia's goaltender was at the front of that cause.
Then, with the game knotted at 2-2, Krejci dropped a pass for Michalek that nearly made it a 3-2 game.
I didn't have the Krejci drop pass counter going, but that aspect of his game was on display, along with his checking, though besides the assist, he had a fairly quiet game offensively.
However, his two-way game is always in effect. In the second period, with the Czechs up by a goal, Krejci raced on the backcheck to get in front of goalie Ondrej Pavalec and get his stick on the puck in close, deflecting a prime Latvian scoring opportunity to the boards.
With the victory, Krejci and the Czech Republic put themselves in a position to make it out of the preliminary round and right to the quarterfinals. Sweden, with two wins, is on par to finish at the top of Group C.
For the bye to happen, the Czechs would need to finish as the best second-place team among Groups A, B and C.
They finish off preliminary play against Switzerland on Saturday, February 15, at noon ET (live on NBC Sports Network).