The do-or-die games for Team Canada start against an unexpected challenger in this afternoon’s quarterfinal, Team Latvia.
Team Latvia shut down a Switzerland roster with eight NHL regulars in yesterday’s qualification round, leaning heavily on Edgars Masalskis, who made 32 saves in the 3-1 win. The Latvians doubled Swizterland in shots in the first and took a 2-0 lead, which proved too much to overcome for Team Switzerland. Many Canadian fans were apprehensive about their expected meeting with the Swiss due to their ability to hang in with the big guys (lost to Sweden 1-0 and beat the Czechs 1-0), but the Swiss never, at any point in the Olympic tournament, scored more than a goal.
The Latvians under Ted Nolan haven’t been shy to forecheck and play physical, and will look to marry that with bend-but-don’t-break defensive play. The Latvians have scored eight goals in their last three games. Said Nolan: “Latvian players, they’re a working bunch, so you’ve got to let them work. You can’t sit back and try to play a defensive style.” We’ll see if it plays out that way, but Canada would prefer this to the 100% trapping style of the Swiss, Nords or Finns.
Obviously, the only way this game ends up close is if the Latvians come in like they’re happy to be here and just play their game while the Canadians play tight under the weight of expectation. The Latvians have just one current NHLer in Buffalo rookie Zemgus Girgensons, although several others do have NHL experience: Sandis Ozolinsh, Kaspars Daugavins, Martins Karsums, Arturs Kulda, Oskars Bartulis, Janis Sprukts, and Herbert Vasiljevs.
Nolan on Canada: “How do you beat them? Cross your fingers and hope for the best. Puck off the boards.”
Canada will look to see a break out from, in the general sense, a relatively-quiet group of forwards offensively, as Canada’s forwards collectively have just five goals over three games against Norway, Austria and Finland. Six of Canada’s 11 goals have come from the blue line; Doughty has four, Weber has two.
Carey Price will start in net, his third start of the tournament. Price stopped 19 of 20 shots in Canada’s win against Norway and 14 of 15 shots in the team’s win against Finland.
Matt Duchene is expected to join PK Subban in the stands for this one, while Martin St. Louis returns to the lineup.
Today’s lineup of games:
- Slovenia vs Sweden – 3:00 AM, TSN
- Russia vs Finland – 7:30 AM, CBC
- Czech Republic vs USA – 12:00 PM, TSN
- Latvia vs Canada – 12:00 PM, CBC