I confess. I never noticed Martin Marincin had been named to Team Slovakia for the IIHF World Championships. I could lie and say he was a late addition, but he was named to the team on May 5, the day before the tournament opened.
This isn't the first time I've missed him; he is a quiet player. If Patrik Laine is flash personified, at least among players not retired, then Marincin is placidity; a calm, seemingly effortless presence. Sometimes that's what you want in a defenceman, but it's hard on the highlight reels and the career building.
If I'd read Habs Eyes on the Prize preview of the team, I'd have known, they were on top of it.
But I didn't, and I missed a chance to watch him play top pairing minutes for his country, something Morgan Rielly is getting to do in St. Petersburg too.
Slovakia is one of those teams who aren't in danger of relegation, but would need an upset win or a strangely aligned tournament to make the medal rounds by sneaking into the top four in their pool. They are in Pool B with Canada and Finland--the two teams competing to go undefeated until the final day when they play each other--and the USA. They currently sit fifth behind those three and Germany, who has pulled off some surprising play and also imported goalie Thomas Greiss to help them keep it up. The Germans lost top forward Tobias Rieder to injury however.
Slovakia have their work cut out for them. They play Leo Komarov and Finland on today, which is not going to be an easy game, and on Tuesday, they finish the round robin against Auston Matthews and Team USA. That is their only real chance to stage an upset. The underpowered US team doesn't always score much and their goaltending is weak. The Slovaks will need to pour all they have into that game to upset the Germans who have games left against the USA and Hungary.
So far in the tournament, Marincin has two assists and leads his team with 14 shots on goal. He is obviously shooting the puck a lot more here than he does in the NHL. Morgan Rielly and Nikita Zaitsev each have one goal and two assists, so all the Leafs defencemen are doing well.
On tap in today's games at 9:15 AM, Toronto time:
Germany vs USA, where Auston Matthews can test himself against top NHL goaltender Thomas Greiss.
Czech Republic vs Denmark, the top team in Pool A vs the team trying to sneak into fourth spot ahead of Switzerland.
At 1:15 PM, Toronto time:
Slovakia vs Finland, where the Finnish lines will be rearranged to make room for Mikko Rantanen to play his first game.
Switzerland vs Sweden, where Reto Berra is proving occasionally brilliant in net, but the underpowered Swiss offence is not providing enough goals, and the weakest Swedish team in years has been augmented by the arrival of Andre Burakowsky.