The good news is that Libor Hajek and his Regina Pats will get to play in the 2018 Memorial Cup final on Sunday. The Pats earned the trip to the final after defeating the Hamilton Bulldogs 4-2 in Friday’s semifinal. The Pats will face the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, the winners of the round robin portion.
The bad news is the more I watch Libor Hajek play defense the more I understand why Tampa Bay was willing to trade him. Offensively there is no question that Hajek has talent. His skating skills are first-rate, his shot from the point lethal and accurate. His attacking skills will make him a power-play specialist for sure. But on defense his play can be so weak, he makes one think of Tom Poti. The first thought was it was the entire Pats team that was weak defensively.
But on Friday when the Pats did play well defensively, Hajek was still struggling with his efforts. His slow reaction time cost his team a goal in the third period. The Bulldogs Will Bitten jumping off his bench skated right past Hajek into the defensive zone scoring the Bulldogs second goal. Letting a guy beat you from his bench in the third to the defensive zone is inexcusable.
That has been Hajek’s problems on defense during this tournament. It has been overlooked because Hajek has answered back with an offensive play. Kind of explains why Hajek was back in the WHL instead of playing in the AHL this season.
It also means the Rangers have two defensemen (Sean Day being the other) who are defensive liabilities. And it also means the Rangers don’t have guys strong enough defensively to partner with either.
As for the game, Hajek was scoreless on four shots with a +1. The Pats win to earn a shot at winning Canada’s national championship on Sunday. Watch for yourself on Sunday starting at 7 PM EDT/ 4 PM PDT on the NHL Network US.