Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Růžička sets new record in Třinec's game 1 win

In the first two rounds of the 2011 Extraliga playoffs, Třinec's Martin Růžička was nearly unstoppable. His 14 goals and 12 assists in 13 games tied a record for most points in a single playoff year, 26, with still another full round to play.

Some credited his production to the fact that, as opponents, Třinec drew eighth-ranked Litvínov and seventh-ranked Slavia, and that the team's opponent in the final, Vítkovice Steel, is much stronger defensively and wouldn't give him nearly as much room to operate. Still, needing only one more point, it seemed inevitable that Žigmund Pálffy's record was destined to fall.

Martin Růžička's first-period goal was his 27th point of the 2011
playoffs, setting a new record. Photo: Marian Ježowicz,
Růžička quickly took care of business in the first period, beating Roman Málek with a wrist shot on a power play in the 12th minute to open the scoring. Třinec then put two more goals in the second by Lukáš Zíb and Martin Adamský to make it 3-0 before Petr Vrána got Vítkovice on the board late in the middle frame.

With the score 4-2 with 13 minutes remaining, Růžička got his second point of the game when he relayed a pass from Václav Varaďa across the front of the net to Radek Bonk, who fired it home to close out the scoring.

From now on, every point Růžička gets will add to his record. "This is not about records, but the most important thing is to win. We did it on Monday and that's very important. It's not important who scores the goals, as long as somebody does," he said with a smile after the game. 

To score at a pace of two points per game over an entire playoff year is an incredible feat, to say the least. Růžička's accomplishment this year mirrors that of Pálffy's back in 1992. That year, the Slovak recorded 18 goals and 8 assists for 26 points in 13 games for Dukla Trenčín in the second-to-last season for the Czechoslovak Extraliga. Pálffy later went on to play 12 seasons in the NHL, where he averaged more than a point per game.  

For Vítkovice, the question now becomes how they will stop Růžička and the rest of the Třinec juggernaut. Considering the strength of the Třinec power play, the consensus seems to be that they need to play more disciplined. "We made a lot of mistakes that we can't make again. Several times we took bad penalties and Třinec has a strong power-play,  and we had to spend a lot of time on the penatly-kill," said Vrána.

As well, they figured the layoff didn't do them any favours. "We feel the long layoff, it wasn't ideal," said Viktor Ujčík, the league's all-time playoff goal-scoring leader, who assisted on Vítkovice's second goal on Monday. "The first game with Pardubice was similar."

Vítkovice managed to recover and dispose of Pardubice in five games, and they don't have a long layoff to worry about before they return to action this time. Game 2 of the final goes Tuesday at 17:10 on ČT4.

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