2010 Olympics: Russia – Latvia preview (Photo © Shaun Best, Reuters)
The Olympic Hockey Tournament is about to start today. Team’s Russia first game will be the clash against Latvia in the Group B. Group’s other match between Slovakia and Czech Republic will be played tomorrow.
Team Russia’s roster seems to be one of the best of the tournament. No one else can match its offensive potential and the goalies are, at least on paper, just as good as others. If the defense might be cause of concern, the presence of veterans like Sergei Gonchar shall indicate that Bykov’s team’s defense shouldn’t be overlooked. On top of that, Team Russia is going to feature in their line up an explosive first line made up of Ovechkin, Datsyuk and Semin.
Evgeny Nabokov will start the game for Team Russia.
Team Latvia’s roster appears, not surprisingly, not as good as the other top nations. While they have some interesting players, like Kaspar Daugavins and Martins Karsums, the line-up’s depth is not on par with elite nations. With 18 players, team Latvia is the team with most recruits from the KHL.
Latvia’s strongest contingent is the forwards department. Center Janis Sprukts and right wing Herbert Vasiljevs might be known name for NHL followers. They feature in their line-up a lot of Dinamo Riga players, and this might lead to some chemistry advantage. But this might mean little when you’re going to battle the reigning world championships.
The team’s defense don’t look top notch either. With only two NHL blue liners, Oskars Bartulis and Karlis Skrastins, once again the core will be mostly made of Dinamo Riga players. The starting goalkeeper is expected to be Edgars Masalskis, with veteran Sergejs Naumovs serving as back-up.
It’s very hard to predict a win for team Latvia in this game and thus team Russia should take this one pretty easily, but probably not as easy as in the last Olympics, where Kovalchuk’s four goals led the Krikunov-trained team to a 9-2 triumph.
The puck is going to be dropped at the local 9 PM.