Feb 16, 2014; Sochi, RUSSIA; Canada defenseman Drew Doughty (8) celebrates with teammates after scoring the game-winning goal in overtime against Finland in a men's preliminary round hockey game during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Bolshoy Ice Dome. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Sochi 2014: Team Canada Inches Past Team Latvia Advancing to the Semifinals

I know this terms is sometimes thrown around a little more than it should be; however, I say with almost complete certainty that if you missed Team Canada facing off with Team Latvia in the Quarterfinal Round today, then you quite possibly missed the game of the day. It was a well-fought battle, but Team Canada was able to squeeze past Team Latvia by the score of 2-1. As a result, Team Canada will move on to the Semifinal Round.

The game started out at a fairly slow pace. It wouldn’t be until after the halfway point in the first period that someone would get on the board. This person would eventually be Chicago Blackhawks left wing Patrick Sharp for Team Canada. The lone assist on Sharp’s goal would be attributed to New York Rangers left wing Rick Nash.

However, it wouldn’t take much time for the Latvians to strike back. Just over one minute and four seconds, to be exact. It would be LW Lauris Darzins who would get Latvia on the board, with the assists from Arturs Kulda and Janis Sprukts.

There was a ton of back and forth between these two teams, but no one would be able to pull the trigger. That is, until the last 7 minutes of the game. With just 6:54 left on the clock, Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber would find his way to the back of the net with the assists from Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty and Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews.

It may not seem like a lot on paper, but it was all that was needed for the Canadian team to come out on top.

While they may not have advanced to the Semifinal Round, I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t give a special shout out to Tampa Bay Lightning and Syracuse Crunch goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis. He may not have gotten the win today, but in the process, he made an amazing 55 saves on a total of 57 shots on goal. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen…55 saves. That is more than some NHL goaltenders see in two games; all of this against the odds on favorite to win the competition. If his .964 Save Percentage today doesn’t say something about the future of goaltending for the Tampa Bay Lightning, then I don’t know what will.

In the last few months, Gudlevskis has played for the Lightning’s ECHL affiliate, the Florida Everblades, the Bolts’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, and has dressed for the Tampa Bay Lightning as backup to goaltender Ben Bishop. Gudlevskis has really turned into one of the best draft decisions the Lightning could have ever made.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not to say that Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price did not have a good day in net. Price made 15 stops on 16 shots giving him a Save Percentage of .937; however, you must admit that a 41 shot differential is a lot to overcome, to say the least.

If anything, it can be said that Latvia really gave Canada a run for their money. The Canadians have been struggling in the last few games; however, they continue to find a way to overcome.

Next up will be a very difficult task for this Canadian team. On Friday, Tampa Bay Lightning captain Martin St. Louis and Team Canada will march into Bolshoy Ice Dome to face off with Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane and Team USA. The winner of this game will move on to the Gold Medal game on Sunday, February 23rd.

At this point, it is still anyone’s game; however, I can assure you that both teams will have to bring their “A” game if they plan on achieving their potential to call themselves an Olympic Gold Medalist.

Who do you think is going to come out on top on Friday? Do the Canadians have what it takes to go all the way, or will Team USA send them down to the Bronze Medal Game? Sound off in the comments below and let us know what you think.


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Tags: 2014 Winter Olympic Games Kristers Gudlevskis Martin St Louis NHL Sochi Tampa Bay Lightning Team Canada Team Latvia

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