Olympic Hockey Preview: Czech Republic vs Latvia


With both teams coming off losses in their first round robin game in Group C, the Czechs and the Latvians will be playing for a possible 2nd place finish in the group stage, with the loser likely ticketed for 4th.


3:00 AM EST


The Czech Republic celebrate a goal during their 4-2 loss to Sweden. PHOTO CREDIT USA Today Sports Images

Here is how the teams match up:

GOALTENDING:  Edgars Masalskis was stellar for Latvia against the Swiss in the opener, playing 59 minutes and 53 seconds of shutout hockey before allowing the game’s only goal.  He was shaken up in the process of allowing that goal, although Latvia hopes he can continue his strong play.  The Czech strategy of allowing Ondrej Pavelec some time to adjust to the time change backfired, as Jakub Kovar was not the answer against the Swedes.  Expect Pavelec to be in the net for this one.

EDGE:  PROBABLY THE CZECHS, assuming Pavelec plays

DEFENSE:  The Latvians allowed 39 shots to the Swiss, and it was Masalskis who bailed them out.  So it wasn’t a gem defensively for them, but they almost got the job done.  The Czech Republic got on their heels early but played pretty evenly after falling behind 2-0. Marek Zidlicky had a goal from the blue line against Sweden.


Edgars Masalskis reaches to cover a puck in Latvia’s 1-0 loss to the Swiss PHOTO CREDIT: USA Today Sports Images

FORWARDS:  Experience is on the side of the Czech’s with veterans like Jaromir Jagr, Patrick Elias and Petr Nedved.  They woke up as the game went on and should start off better in a much easier game than against the Gold Medal threat Swedes.  Latvia will be hard pressed to score much in this tournament, with young Zemgus Girgensons the lone NHL player on the roster.

Latvia has Ted Nolan behind the bench, and if any coach in this tournament has experience coaching underdogs and overmatched teams this season it is the coach of the Buffalo Sabres.  However, the experienced Czechs have more firepower than the Swiss and I am not sure Masalskis can or will have a repeat performance.

PREDICTION:  Latvia will hang around, but the Czechs will prevail.  Czech Republic 5-2.