During the Olympics, Pass it to Bulis has transitioned to Pass it to Zamuner and will be going full bore with Team Canada coverage, including full I Watch This Game posts for each Team Canada game.
There are, however, other countries participating in the Olympics — I know, I’m surprised too — and several other countries feature Vancouver Canucks players and prospects. It’s only fitting, then, that we keep an eye on these players and how they’re performing in a feature we like to call “Canucks in Sochi.”
It took me a while to catch up with all the games from Valentine’s Day, so this is going up a little late. Okay, a lot late. Saturday’s games have already happened and I’m just catching up on Friday. There’s too much hockey! Stop it with all the hockey, Sochi.
The Czech’s performance against Sweden raised some serious questions about the team’s personnel and decision-making. Their performance against Latvia did little to answer those questions. The Czech Republic certainly outplayed Latvia, outshooting them 39-20 over the course of the game, but Latvia hung around in their typical scrappy fashion.
After the Czech Republic opened the scoring, Latvia tied it up on a goal that was somehow missed by the refs and had to be reviewed at the next stoppage, 45 seconds later. When Jaromir Jagr scored a big goal in the final minute of the first period, it looked like it might ease the tension, but Latvia responded just a couple minutes into the second period.
Even as the Czech Republic took a two-goal lead, the outcome seemed in doubt, partly due to Ondrej Pavelec’s shaky goaltending. Speaking of, Edgars Masalskis couldn’t match his incredible performance against Switzerland, but still made 35 saves, some of them spectacular. He should have had the fourth Czech goal, however, which was the one that put this game firmly out of reach.
There’s no getting around it: Sweden was awfully lucky to beat Switzerland. That’s a shocking result, even with the upsets that Switzerland has been able to manage in the past. For long stretches of this game, Switzerland simply outplayed Sweden.
What was most surprising was that Switzerland was not sitting back. They attacked with a strong forecheck and swarmed the net when they had offensive opportunities, out-shooting Sweden in the first period 13-5, but were just unable to capitalize on their many chances. The momentum only turned in Sweden’s favour thanks to a series of Swiss penalties. Switzerland honestly seemed like the better team in this game at 5-on-5.
Meanwhile, Calgary Flames goaltender Reto Berra was outstanding until he suddenly wasn’t. Berra has been one of the worst goaltenders in the NHL this season, with an .896 save percentage, but for most of the game he held Sweden at bay, ensuring that Switzerland had a chance. Then, with 7-and-a-half minutes remaining, a weak wrist shot from Erik Karlsson that Berra should have easily swallowed up instead squirted free into the crease for Daniel Alfredsson to chip in.
I wrote the IWTG for this game, but here’s the gist: Austria isn’t particularly good, while Canada is particularly good. Their particulars are respectively bad and good.