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The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Olympic report card: Canadian forwards frustrated by Latvia's Gudlevskis

Posted: 02/19/2014 4:29 PM | Comments: 0

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SOCHI, Russia - Team Canada beat Latvia 2-1 in the quarter-finals of the men's hockey tournament at the Sochi Olympics and advance to play the United States for a spot in the gold medal game. Here's a graded look at players' performances against Latvia:

FORWARDS - B

Sidney Crosby almost beat Kristers Gudlevskis early and Chris Kunitz hit the post. Patrick Sharp actually managed to make sure the red light behind the Latvian goaltender worked when he scored in the first period. But for the rest of the night, Canada's forwards couldn't beat the 21-year-old who was doing his best Dominik Hasek impersonation. Actually, Gudlevskis looked like Andrei Mezin, Belarus' goalie in the historic upset of Sweden at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. This wasn't that, thanks to defenceman Shea Weber's goal, but throughout the night the forwards couldn't help but get a little frustrated. In total, 38 of Canada's 57 shots came from the forwards, and just one of those went in the net. Coach Mike Babcock, if he were a gambling man, would bet if that kind of shot production continues, the goals will follow. Until that happens, it's all about playing the percentages.

DEFENCEMEN - B+

Against Finland it was Drew Doughty to the rescue in overtime, and against Lativa it was Weber on the power play late in the third. An earlier shot by Weber stung former NHL defenceman Oskars Bartulis badly, though he played on, but the game-winning goal was more about traffic and precision than blistering speed. However, it's hard to give the blue-line a perfect grade after what happened on Latvia's goal in the first. When defenceman Sandis Ozolinsh jumped off the ice on a change, forward Lauris Darzins came on and got behind St. Louis Blues teammates Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo. There was not much Price could do as Darzins lifted a backhander over his right pad. That miscommunication didn't wind up haunting the Canadians, but in a tight tournament like this a similar one could soon.

GOALIE - B

Again, Carey Price wasn't tested, and again he gave up a goal. A puck-handling mistake almost cost him again as it did in the opener against Norway. But Darzins' breakaway was more like a shootout that Canada's starting goaltender had no time to think about. If Price stops that shot, it's likely his teammates don't play with the same sort of intense pressure they did, but it's impossible to know how the game would have changed. Had Price given up a soft goal at any point, it could've spelled doom given the way Gudlevskis was playing. Fortunately for Canada, he did his job while the 21-year-old at the other end had what Price called one of the best performances he has seen in a long time.

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