At the time of writing, both semi finals are at the Game 5 stage, with Kometa Brno showing that their win over Sparta Praha was no fluke, as they have continued their rich vein of form by taking a 3-1 series lead over Plzeň. After getting off to a rocky start against Sparta, losing two of the first three games, Kometa won Games 4, 5 and 6 to punch their ticket to the Extraliga semi-finals. Sparta, who impressed for so long during the regular season seemed to struggle to find any sort of form against the eighth seed, and the top line of Petr Ton, Petr Tenkrát and Mario Bližňák failed to find any sort of rhythm during the series. Another area in which Sparta paled in regards to their regular season play was in their defence. Usually ever reliable, numerous defensive lapses resulted in Kometa goals, as well as the dip in the form of Tomáš Pöpperle, who was pulled in one game and omitted from the line-up in Game 5.
|Jiri Trvaj has rolled back the years|
in the playoffs so far
Photo: Ivo Dostál
|Radek Duda has struggled in the playoffs|
Photo: Ivo Dostál
|Daniel Rákos celebrating his series winning goal|
Photo: Jan Jedlička
The White Tigers of Liberec were arguably the most impressive team not named Kometa in the first round of the playoffs. They managed to chase Jakub Kovář out of Game 1, and aside from a blip in Game 2, they dispatched of České Budějovice in five games. Liberec are always a difficult team to overlook simply because of the Petr Nedvěd factor, and his 12 points in 9 games have gone a long way to Liberec's strong showing in the playoffs so far, but it would be unfair to overlook Marek Pinc, who has put in some solid performances as well. Michal Bulíř has also made a name for himself as one of the Extraliga's brightest young stars following his hatrick in Game 1 of the quarter finals, but he hasn't been able to keep up that scoring form during the semi final series. Jaroslav Kudrna has pitched in with five goals, but it does seem that everything that Liberec needs to do to win revolves around their veteran captain Nedvěd. Liberec need to win once more in Pardubice if they are to advance to the finals, and Nedvěd won't be able to do it all on his own.
I guess it makes sense to look back to my quarter final predictions that I made just before the quarter-finals and see how wrong I was.
(1) HC Sparta Praha vs (8) Kometa Brno
My prediction: Sparta win 4-1
Actual series: Kometa win 4-2
So this was a comprehensive cross on my tick sheet, although I don't think many people would have picked Kometa to win. Considering their relative experience and fervent fanbase, Kometa are the sort of team which should never be overlooked in a playoff setting, but after how well Sparta had played during the tail end of the series, even I saw Sparta rolling over them with relative ease. Instead, Kometa now sit one win away from the final, whilst Sparta are off golfing.
(2) HC Plzeň vs (7) PSG Zlín
My prediction: Plzeň win 4-2
Actual series: Plzeň win 4-3
I managed to get the right team this time, but Zlín got one more win than I thought they would. I was rather surprised that Zlin were able to score as many goals as they did, which may be due to the resurgent form of Petr Čajánek, who scored the same amount of goals in 12 playoff games as he did during the whole regular season.
(3) HC Pardubice vs (6) HC Vitkovice
My prediction: Vitkovice win 4-3
Actual series: Pardubice win 4-3
This time I got the right amount of games but the wrong team. I thought that Pardubice would score enough goals to see them through, but wouldn't have the goaltending required to advance to the semis, but as I mentioned, Martin Růžička has played brilliantly throughout the playoffs so far, and has gone a long way to getting his team to the semi finals. Once again for Vitkovice it was a case of the old guard putting in another good shift, as Burger and Ujčík were outstanding, whilst the younger players couldn't rise to the challenge. It was also a strange series for Roman Málek, as he only played three games due to injury, and looked distinctly average in all of them. The curse that Málek held over Pardubice seems to be over.
(4) Bili Tygri Liberec vs (5) HC Mountfield
My prediction: Liberec win 4-2
Actual series: Liberec win 4-1
Again, right team, wrong number of games. I was rather disappointed with the performances of České Budějovice, as they simply did not turn up. They struggled to deal with Nedvěd, and made life very easy for Marek Pinc. Every year it seems that Budějovice go into the playoffs as possible dark horses, but year after year they fail to get anywhere in the playoffs. Something needs to change for that team.