Latvia defeated the Switzerland earlier today by a score of 3-1. It was the first win for Latvia at Sochi. Their losses, however, have been decided by narrow margins. Their losses have came from games against Switzerland (1-0), Czech Republic (4-2), and Sweden (5-3); Sweden clinched the top seed out of the preliminary round. Latvian goaltenders, Edgars Masalskis and Kristers Gudlevskis, have seen 30+ shots each game.
Masalskis will be the expected goalie to start against Team Canada after facing 111 shots thus far and stopping 105 of those, hoisting a 0.946 save percentage and a 2.00 goals against average.
The last time that Canada and Latvia played each other in the Olympics was during the 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen Olympics in Germany. Team Canada defeated Latvia 11-0 during that contest.
Team Canada will be a favorite in tomorrow’s game as well, but probably not by a score that extreme this time as Latvia has improved quite some since then.
What Canada needs to do to secure a win:
1. Latvia had issues in their defensive zone where they scrambled to clear the puck. Canada will need to pressure Latvia in Latvia’s zone in order to cause mental areas. Along with that, the more Canada’s defense pinch in the offensive zone, the more opportunities there will be for Latvia to run around on defense and for Canada’s forwards to create scoring chances.
2. Latvia plays a pretty physical game and Canada will need to match their physicality to avoid being pushed around. Most importantly they will need to play strong on Lauris Darzins, Latvia’s leading scorer who has 3 goals and 1 assist during the tournament.
3. Team Canada needs to start off strong and set the pace of the game early on. Canada has the deepest roster in the Olympics, and they will need to dominate the game from the puck drop and continue at a high-paced speed.
Latvia may be able to stick around with Canada for the early part of the game, but I can’t see Latvia sticking around too long due to the roster that Canada has. Along with that, Latvia will be playing with one day of rest. Team Canada, on the other hand, has had a few days of rest and to solidify the chemistry of their roster. Canada desperately needed a couple days of practice to prepare for their push for back-to-back gold medals, and they will come out flying against Latvia.
Projected final score: 5-1 Canada.
**Game starts at 10:00AM MT**
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