The NHL playoffs are underway, as 16 teams set out this week in pursuit of the Stanley Cup. The Vegas Golden Knights are seeking to win the first Cup in franchise history, while the Toronto Maple Leafs are chasing their first Cup since 1967.
The Colorado Avalanche (2001), Carolina Hurricanes (2006), and New York Islanders (1983) are other teams looking to end long Cup droughts. There’s one streak, though, that appears to be poised to keep ongoing. The chances of a Czech player having his name inscribed on the bowl of Lord Stanley’s mug when the NHL postseason concludes are again quite strong.
All of the top contenders for the Stanley Cup in the Las Vegas sports betting odds list at least one Czech player in their lineup. That includes the favored Avalanche (Martin Kaut) at +350, the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning (Ondrej Palat, Jan Rutta) at +550, the Leafs (David Rittich) at +650, and the Carolina Hurricanes (Martin Necas, Petr Mrazek) at +850.
Beyond them, Vegas (+900 – Tomas Nosek), the Washington Capitals (+1100 – Vitek Vanecek, Michal Kempny), and the Boston Bruins (+1200 – David Krejci, David Pastrnak, Ondrej Kase, Daniel Vladar, Jakub Zboril) are all checking in with Czech players situated in prominent roles.
Krejci (Boston, 2010-11), Kempny (Washington, 2017-18), and Palat (Tampa Bay, 2019-20) are the Czech players active in this spring’s playoffs who’ve already won a Stanley Cup ring. Nosek played in the 2018 Stanley Cup final with the Golden Knights. Pastrnak lost in 2019 final with the Bruins.
The first Czech to win a Stanley Cup was Jaroslav Pouzar with the 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers. Pouzar played in all five games of the 1984 Stanley Cup final as Edmonton upended the reigning champion New York Islanders. This season, the Oilers are suiting up Dominik Kahun.
In total, 12 of the 16 NHL playoff teams are relying on the Czechs to help with their Stanley Cup run.
Each of the past six Stanley Cup champions has utilized at least one player from the Czech Republic. In fact, since 1999, just three teams have won the Stanley Cup without the assistance of a Czech performer. And each of those teams shares a similar trait. They’re the only clubs to win the Cup from the state of California.
The Los Angeles Kings didn’t use a Czech player in their Cup triumphs of 2011-12 and 2013-14. Likewise, the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks were also bereft of Czech talent as they won the Stanley Cup.
Let’s look back on some of the more memorable Czech Stanley Cup moments.
Kaberle’s Make It A Family Affair
In 2005-06, the first season following the lockout that wiped out the entire 2004-05 NHL campaign, the Hurricanes won their first and so far only Stanley Cup. They took a seven-game verdict over the Edmonton Oilers, winning Game 7 by a final score of 3-1.
In the second period, Carolina defenseman Frantisek Kaberle blasted a slapshot past Oilers goalie Jusse Markkanen. That tally stood up as the Stanley Cup-winning goal.
Five years later, Boston took a seven-game final verdict from the Vancouver Canucks. Tomas Kaberle was on the Bruins defense, making the Kaberle’s the first Czech brothers to win the Stanley Cup.
Jagr Turns Two
As the Pittsburgh Penguins won their first Stanley Cup in 1990-91 rookie forward Jaromir Jagr played a significant role. He was also dynamic in 1991-92 as the Penguins successfully defended their title.
That gave Jagr back-to-back Cup titles in his first two NHL seasons.
The Dominator Is Dominating
Dominik Hasek won a pair of Hart Trophies with the Buffalo Sabres and backstopped them to the 1999 Stanley Cup final. But it was a 2001 trade to the Detroit Red Wings that finally earned The Dominator his Stanley Cup inscription.
Hasek posted a record six shutouts in the 2002 playoffs. In the Western Conference final, with Detroit down 3-2 to Colorado and facing elimination, Hasek posted consecutive shutouts in Games 6 and 7.
Klima’s OT Winner
When the Oilers and Bruins clashed in Game 1 of the 1990 Cup final series, the contest headed to overtime deadlocked at 2-2. They were closing in on a fourth OT period when Oilers coach John Muckler sent seldom-used forward Petr Klima over the boards. He scored at 15:13 of the third OT to end what remains the longest Stanley Cup final game ever played.
During the 1988 playoffs with Detroit, Klima netted 10 goals in 12 games, including a pair of hat tricks. He’s the only Czech player to register multiple three-goal games in Stanley Cup play.