Photo credit: Jean Levac/Postmedia Olympic Team
After their upset loss to them in 2006 at Turin and their near-defeat to them in 2010 at Vancouver, Team Canada must be thankful they don't have to play Switzerland, who were eliminated by Latvia in Tuesday's qualifying round. But Latvia aren't exactly pushovers either and the Canadians know not to overlook them, especially with how they've been playing thus far.
Heading into the Olympics, Canada was supposed to be the team to beat with their all-star roster. If everything had gone as planned, repeating as gold-medalists would have been routine. But that is not how things have shapen up so far. Instead, while they are undefeated, they have yet to put on the offensive clinic they were supposed to. Their 3-1 opening win against Norway was too close for comfort and while they blanked Austria by a 6-0 score, had to go to overtime with Finland before knocking them off 2-1.
Next, it's a Latvian team looking to make some noise.
While they only have one NHLer on their roster, Latvia is chock full of young, eager combatants ready to do battle knowing full well that they have very little to lose. Plus, they have a word-class head coach in Ted Nolan who is the current bench boss of the NHL's Buffalo Sabres. He also has a son. You may know him as Jordan, teammates of Canadians Drew Doughty and Jeff Carter of the Los Angeles Kings.
Like Robert Kristan with Slovenia, Edgar Masalskis has been a stalwart for Latvia in goal. Despite going winless in the preliminaries, the Latvians were competitive in each of one of their games, losing close battles to Switzerland, Czech Republic and Sweden. This is something Canada needs to watch out for. A fast start may just be what the Canadians need - but we'll see if they can do it.
It's a bit of a mismatch on paper but if two of their games thus far have been any indication, Team Canada may have a harder time than most expect. We'll see.
Enjoy the game!