Canucks in Sochi: Ronalds Kenins eliminates Raphael Diaz and Yannick Weber

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.”

Latvia 3 – 1 Switzerland

Switzerland won two out of their three preliminary games, good enough for second in their group behind the powerhouse Swedes. It also gave them second seed in the qualification round behind Russia. For their efforts, they got matched up against Latvia, who they struggled to beat in group play, barely squeaking out a victory with a last-second goal in regulation.

Instead of an easier qualification game against Austria or Norway, Switzerland had to face the hard-hitting Latvians who also boasted, surprisingly, one of the most dangerous power plays of the tournament, converting on three of their ten opportunities heading into the game.

It was the same story as the rest of their tournament: the Swiss dominated possession, but couldn’t put the puck in the net. Their tournament ends with just three goals scored, one each in their two victories and one in their elimination.

The only difference for Switzerland is that they couldn’t keep the puck out of their own net with the same proficiency as in the preliminary round. They allowed just one goal against in group play, in their one loss to Sweden. They allowed three to Latvia: one at even-strength, one on the power play, and one into the empty net. Jonas Hiller, who hadn’t given up a single goal in the tournament, posting shutouts previously against Latvia and the Czech Republic, couldn’t shut Latvia out for a second time.

Latvia’s first goal came well against the flow of play, but it was created honestly, a well-placed shot by Oscars Bartulis with a screen in front. Their second came from some good puck movement on the power play that left Lauris Darzins with all the time in the world to pick an opening with his shot.

Latvia, for their part, relied heavily on Edgars Masalskis, who was outstanding in net. Glove saves don’t get much better than the one Masalskis made on Andres Ambuhl in the second period, keeping the lead at 2-0. The Swiss managed to get one past him in the second period, but they weren’t going to get two. When Darzins finally sealed the game with an empty net goal, Masalskis, appropriately, got the second assist.

Now, for their efforts, they have to face Team Canada in the quarterfinals, with Masalskis likely starting on back-to-back nights. It could get ugly, but Latvia should be proud for getting their highest ever finish in the Olympics.

Canucks notes:

  • Ronalds Kenins seems to be earning more and more trust from Ted Nolan, playing just short of 17 minutes in this game after playing just over 10 minutes in Latvia’s first game of the tournament. His speed, particularly through the neutral zone, is very noticeable, as was his physical play. He had one particularly massive hit, I believe on Matthias Bieber, that sent the Swiss player spinning to the ice and his stick flying.
  • Kenins had a team-high four shots on goal, including a golden scoring chance off a rebound after he made a smart zone entry and fed a teammate going wide. Hiller made a massive save, with Jim Hughson identifying the save as one to keep in mind if the Swiss managed to get back into the game.
  • Raphael Diaz was fine for the Swiss, but he needed to be more than fine. He played 24:55 in this game, bettered only by his defence partner, Mark Streit, who played 24:56. Despite all that ice time, he had no shots on goal. The Swiss depend on their defence to contribute because of their lack of star power up front and, while Diaz played a solid game defensively, he couldn’t provide anything offensively.
  • He had a better game than Yannick Weber, however, who was on the ice for both of Latvia’s first period goals and didn’t look great on either of them. On the first, Weber was the one tasked with clearing out the front of the net and instead placed himself directly in Hiller’s line of sight. On the second, he got tangled up with Janis Sprukts in front and was unable to come across to check Darzins. It wasn’t a great finish to what was a fairly strong tournament for Weber.
  • What do we learn from this? Weber isn’t very good at clearing out the front of the net. Not sure that comes as a surprise to anyone.
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