Jakub Vrana came to the IIHF World Championships expecting to be one of the Czech Republic’s top scorers. In the first game on May 10 against Sweden, Vrána scored two goals. But since then has added only two goals in the next six games, and the Czech media has begun to question Vrana. Here is a translated interview with Vrana who hopes to be playing in Thursday’s quarterfinal elimination game against Germany.
Question: You have experienced the quarterfinals only when competing at the junior levels [IIHC World Junior]. How do you feel before the first senior [IIHF World Championship]?
JV: You try not to think about it. You need to concentrate on performance and not to look around. When I played in the Stanley Cup final, I also experienced a lot of pressure. We are all professional hockey players and we can deal with it. It’s so important to go to such a match with a clear mind.
Question: Germany is still not one of the biggest hockey superpowers. Is it the hard for a player to get up for the game?
JV: Whether it is Germany or Canada … It’s getting to the quarterfinals and playing a good team. If we want to win the tournament, we have to beat everyone. We have to believe, but we must not underestimate the Germans.
Question: Don’t you think of a time you might think of advancing beyond the quarterfinals?
JV: It’s never a good thing to watch too much and enjoy medals. I would like our team to go all the way. First, we have to defeat the Germans, before we can talk about what will happen next.
Question: The most distinctive personality for the Germans this year is Leon Draisaitl, who scored fifty goals for Edmonton. You have played against him in the NHL, can he be a player who can carry the Germans by himself?
JV: He is a dangerous player and a great shooter, so we have to be careful with him. I don’t want to reveal our plan, but quick access is important for such players. We try to make it uncomfortable for him so that he shoots wide. We all know he’s a very dangerous player, so we’ll prepare for him.
Question: You also know Philippe Grubauer, who worked in Washington. What’s the goalkeeper like?
JV: Excellent, fast and mentally excellent. He has his weaknesses, but so does everybody. We scored a lot of goals in the tournament and we are doing well offensively, so it shouldn’t be a problem.
Question: In recent years, the national team in the quarterfinals has missed having a shooter in a critical spot . Do you want to have the role of the player who takes it?
JV: Of course. So ,I feel like I’m a shooter. I’m a player who wants to score goals and make decisions. On the other hand, it doesn’t matter who gets hit, especially when we advance.
Question: But coach Miloš Říha said that he is not yet clear about what his lineup will be in the second quarterfinal. How do you perceive your position in the lineup?
JV: These are the things I didn’t like about my game. All I have to do is improve myself and focus on playing as well as possible. This is the coach’s decision. I’m just a player.
Question: Did you read the criticism of you from former coach and expert Marek Sýkora in an recent interview with Sport?
JV: I do not read Czech newspapers at all and I do not read anything on the Czech Internet at all. If you’re so nice and a little closer.
Question: He said you didn’t work well, you became a star and you missed practice, waiting for a record to set.
JV: And who said that?
Question: Marek Sýkora.
JV: Who is that? (Spokesman of the representation, Zdeněk Zikmund, told Vrána) Ah. I don’t know that guy, I never talked to him. I don’t want to judge him like him, maybe he sees it that way. I am an experienced player and I do not let that get into my head. I want to concentrate and get the best performance. He’s probably waiting for me to get ticked off, but I’m not like that. I am a positive person and I do not want to invoke anything negative.
Question: So are you at least more motivated to show that you have it?
JV: Of course. When I get a chance, I’ll go to the ice and try to play as well as possible. If I have three shifts, or seventeen minutes, I don’t know. But the tournament is short and now it’s important to win. I’m focusing on it the most.
Question: How do you clear your head before a key tournament duel?
JV: I’ll have something good to eat, sleep, listen to some songs. Definitely not reading the newspaper. Maybe I’ll play some good movie. Let’s see what’s on TV.