International Ice Hockey Federation

Plekanec keeps the faith

Plekanec keeps the faith

Loyal Czech soldier aims for fourth Worlds medal

Published 05.05.2017 16:32 GMT+2 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Plekanec keeps the faith
Drafted by Montreal in the third round in 2001, Czech veteran Tomas Plekanec is playing in his tenth Worlds. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
After the Czech Republic practiced in Paris on Thursday, Tomas Plekanec laughed when he opened a sports drink that let out a loud bang.

“You scared me, man!” quipped the reporter interviewing Plekanec in the AccorHotels Arena mixed zone. “I scared myself!” replied the veteran Montreal Canadiens centre.

Plekanec, 34, has had to keep his sense of humor this season. His offense simply hasn’t had as much bang as it normally does. He finished with just 28 points in 78 games, his lowest total in his 13-season NHL career, even though the Habs had 226 goals, their most since 2008-09 (249). Montreal had high hopes after topping the Atlantic Division with 103 points, but lost to the New York Rangers in a tight six-game first-round series.

“We wanted to go deeper and we thought we could have done better,” said Plekanec, who's got one year left on his two-year, $12-million deal with the Canadiens. “But we didn’t. I think the Rangers played just a little bit better than us and deserved to move on.”

Internationally, few players have said yes to their country as often as Plekanec. In fact, this is his tenth IIHF World Championship. But growing up, could the Kladno native ever have envisioned himself competing in a World Championship in the French capital?

“Probably not, but it’s a nice city, obviously one of the nicest cities in Europe,” Plekanec said. “I’m happy to be here. We came here to play hockey, but if there’s time, we’ll walk around and see the sights.”

Over the years, the two-time Olympian has been quite an attraction himself at the Worlds. Dating back to 2006, he has 41 points in 57 career games. And he owns three medals, a silver from 2006 and consecutive bronzes in 2011 and 2012.

“It’s been a while since we’ve won a medal,” Plekanec said. “We’d like to get back and remind the hockey world that we’re still a good country, a good hockey nation. It’s all about the quarter-finals. If you can go out there and win that game, then we have a chance to get back in a medal position.”

At this tournament, he’s slated to centre the top line between Roman Cervenka and David Pastrnak. In 2016-17, the 20-year-old Pastrnak led all Czech NHLers with 70 points for the Boston Bruins. That put him nine points ahead of Paris teammate Jakub Voracek of the Philadelphia Flyers. Pastrnak’s powerful, creative game has caught Plekanec’s eye. It’s not surprising as they play in the same division.

“He’s a good player,” Plekanec said. “Pastrnak has a lot of talent, and he had a great season this year. It’s great to have him on the team, a good offensive guy who can score some big goals for us.”

What should we expect from the Czech Republic’s Friday opener against defending champion Canada? “They’re obviously one of the best teams in the tournament. They have a great team again. It’s a tough way to start, but sometimes it’s better to play those teams in the beginning and see where we are and move on from there.”

Looking ahead to February 2018, Plekanec still hasn’t ruled out the possibility of capturing his first Olympic medal in PyeongChang, South Korea.

“I was disappointed,” Plekanec said of the NHL’s April announcement that it does not plan to release players for the next Winter Games. “We are all disappointed. The players want to be part of it. I’m still hoping that the situation is going to change and at the end of the day, we’re going to go.”

It would be his last Olympics, and there’s nothing like going out with a bang.


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