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For all the Canadians who thought they were getting Switzerland, here’s a quick primer on Latvia

Feb 18, 2014, 3:12 PM EDT

Latvia pulled the biggest upset of the opening playoff round with a 3-1 win over Switzerland at Bolshoy Ice Dome on Tuesday to advance to the quarterfinals.

While it wasn’t exactly a David vs. Goliath situation — the Swiss were favored, though not overwhelmingly — there is a sense of surprise among Canadians, many of whom penciled the Swiss in as a quarterfinalist (assuming they were filling out brackets… and doing it in pencil.)

So, here’s what you need to know.

— The Latvians only have one current NHLer, Buffalo rookie Zemgus Girgensons. That said, there are several players with NHL experience: Sandis Ozolinsh, Kaspars Daugavins, Martins Karsums, Arturs Kulda, Oskars Bartulis, Janis Sprukts and Herbert Vasiljevs.

— Their goalie is Edgars Masalskis, a 33-year-old European league journeyman who didn’t even have a team at the start of this season. He’s a pretty good story, and an even better quote.

“I wouldn’t say that we invented some space rocket,” he said after beating the Swiss, per the Olympic News Service. “They have a good team and they were the favorites, that was obvious. But we just knew that we could beat them and get into the top eight at the Olympics.

“I think that, for such a country like Latvia, it’s a big achievement already.”

— They’re coached by current Sabres bench boss Ted Nolan. He’s been in charge of the national team since 2011, and his guys love him.

“We never had a coach that actually believes in the players,” said Daugavins, per TSN 1050. “He actually makes us believe that we’re actually a good team.”

— They’ve never finished higher than ninth at the Olympics.

— Tuesday’s win was their first of the tournament, guaranteeing them a top-eight finish.

— Latvia has played Canada 11 times internationally, losing 10. Their best result came at the 1997 World Championships, when they tied the Canadians 3-3 during the preliminary stage (a result made even more impressive by the fact Canada went on to win the tournament.)

— Their worst result came at the 1935 Worlds, when Canada beat ’em 14-0.

— The last time the two nations met was at the 2010 Worlds, where Canada won 6-1.

— Their plan of attack to beat Canada this time around?

“We’re just going to tell our goalie to stop every shot,” Daugavins said. “We can’t lose right?”

  1. kaptaanamerica - Feb 18, 2014 at 3:44 PM

    I hate the lines Babcock is putting together. Tavares should be the 1st line center or even Getzlaf/ Perry line… keeping Crosby as the top center when he isn’t earning his ice is irritating. Not finding a role for Subban when the team can’t score is ridiculous. The guy is a gamebreaker.

    Nolan has the Latvians believing and that is a dangerous thing for Canada. If he comes up with a plan to keep the anemic offence of the Canucks under control then this could be one of the biggest upsets ever.

    If that happens Babcock/ Yzerman better not show their faces in Canada. its a recipe for disaster and if the Canucks lose then Babock/ Yzerman and their hockey Canada friends should be banned from ever coming near the national team again…

    • 11111111111a22 - Feb 18, 2014 at 4:04 PM

      Yeah you’re right. What kind of idiot puts the best player in the world out centering their top line?

      Get real.

      • kaptaanamerica - Feb 18, 2014 at 8:26 PM

        So what you and some of the others commenting are saying is that if Tavares/ Getzlaf are centering lines that are scoring/ creating chances they shouldn’t get more icetime, and a line with Crosby should get the most icetime and offensive zone starts even if he isn’t producing/ creating quality chances…?

        I’d rather give more time and offensive zone starts to lines that are actually producing/ creating chances…

        Instead of name calling maybe think about how a coach manages the bench and icetime, including zone starts.

      • jpelle82 - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:53 PM

        dude, they’re getting the chances because they are not facing the same matchups. they are getting 2nd and 3rd pair defensemen and capitalizing on it. pick your poison if you will for the opposition… if babcock can wear down the best defensive pair with big minutes against crosby and friends then it just increases the chances for the rest of his allstars and will wear the opponents down the longer the game goes on. babcock doesnt care who scores and everyone on the team can score

    • jpelle82 - Feb 18, 2014 at 4:10 PM

      have you actually watched the games? you really think a line with tavares will draw the same matchups as a line featuring crosby? teams will still put their best against crosby whether he’s the 1st or the 3rd center on paper, they would be quickly reminded of why if they didnt. crosby is filling a role right now and he’s eating up minutes against the world’s best players effectively. he’s got 2 pts. tavares has 0 and he’s played with just about everybody so far. who would you bump to put subban in for? maybe vlassic but if you havent noticed, they dont need help on the powerplay and they dont need goals from defensemen which is all subban is really good for. you act like they are in the midst of a 2 game losing streak in the prelims – they are 3-0 with the 2nd seed…trust in the man who is the best canadian coach in the past decade, i think he knows what he is doing.

      • dueman - Feb 18, 2014 at 4:36 PM

        Well said jpelle.

      • avscup - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:34 PM

        Well said. Canada is the 3rd seed right behind the USA though.

    • tdrusher225 - Feb 18, 2014 at 5:12 PM

      Dude half of Canada’s goals have been coming from defensemen and their power play. Subban certainly is a game breaker, but his skills aren’t needed at the moment. Also, Crosby is going to draw attention no matter what line he is on. With an All-Star team like this the 4th line is practically a 1st line as far as the quality of players. Hell, the “1st line” tomorrow is going have Crosby centering Kunitz and Bergeron

      • elrock7 - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:44 PM

        Still don’t get why Kunitz is playing.

  2. evermench - Feb 18, 2014 at 4:19 PM

    First the notion that Canada has any chance of losing this game is laughable. Secondly the backend has been outstanding thus far for Canada so playing Subban is no “gamebreaker” unless Babcock loses his mind and puts him in as a forward since up front has been their weakness so far. And lastly Crosby draws the top matchup every shift. Doesn’t matter where you put Tavares the point is the opposition schemes to stop Sid. Its pretty straight forward.

    • jpelle82 - Feb 18, 2014 at 4:27 PM

      glad i’m not the only one who sees it clearly.

    • dueman - Feb 18, 2014 at 4:43 PM

      Just remember that, nobody thought the Swiss would lose against Latvia either, but as long the players don’t take this game for granted, I’m sure they’ll be fine.

  3. dumbassgreg - Feb 18, 2014 at 6:27 PM

    why was ted Nolan not hired for coaching jobs for years. oh yeah now I remember aboriginal guy not willing to kiss john muckler ass. like aboriginals were taught in the catholic residential school in Canada.

  4. agentdw - Feb 18, 2014 at 7:52 PM

    for the record, the US is the 2 seed; Canada is the 3rd. sorry for nit-picking, but i just thought i’d point that out.

    • kaptaanamerica - Feb 18, 2014 at 8:30 PM

      Canadians don’t like to give US hockey credit… in general.

      • elrock7 - Feb 18, 2014 at 10:47 PM

        stop being so anal kaptaan, teams will earn their credit.

      • 11111111111a22 - Feb 19, 2014 at 1:36 PM

        (To your comment above)

        I didn’t name call, relax you gentle soul. I get the idea of playing the “hot hand” but it ain’t like we’re talking about a Radulov or a Kesler not scoring…this is Crosby. I don’t exactly like him but every time I watch him play he convinces me further that he’s the best in the world. He’s the pivot man on line one 7 days a week and twice on Sunday. End. Of. Discussion.

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