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Latvia Bows Out In Style – And My Czechs Advance…

Posted By Dan Rakusan On Feb 24 2010 @ 6:13 am In Czech Republic | 1 Comment

Look, I'm a Czech guy (literally, not just as a fan), that much I'll put out there just to get things straight.  But rather than write a diagnostic article of how each team hit the scoresheet, mixed with a variety of statistics, I'm going to simply “blog” about the game between Latvia and the Czech Republic, which a very fortunate Czech team won 3-2 in overtime, despite their best efforts to lose….

It started out pretty much as anyone would have expected.  Two teams with a lot to gain by advancing to the quarterfinals, and one team had high expectations after a fairly solid (if not somewhat misleading) showing in the preliminary round-robin.  The other team had a solid fan base and high hopes.

The Czechs completely ran amok in the first period, outshooting the underdogs something like a million to three, and went up by what seemed like a build-able 2-0 lead.  Everything was going really, really well.  But the Latvians came out of the intermission with a burr in their collective saddle and took the game over.  Usually I find it hard for a team to overcome an overall skill/experience/size combination, but I had a chill up my spine when the second period ended at the same paragon score I saw at the end of the first…  2-0.

Aghast, I immediately spoke aloud to my wife, who I think may have fallen asleep on the couch and not even heard me, but I said:  “The Latvians will win this…”.

While fortunately I proved to be a terrible prognosticator on short-term things, I also proved right about saying the Czech team is a completely impossible team to figure out.  For example – why did we really start to suck when Jaromir Jagr left the game at some 50 seconds into the second period with what was called an upper-body injury?  Is this related to the Ovechkin hit from the Russia game??  Will he play against Finland in a game that is played TOMORROW?  He is older, and that hit was absolutely ridiculous (if I remember, I'll edit tomorrow and post it)….

The Latvians deserve all the credit in the world, as do their real and adopted fans.  There was little doubt as to who had the majority of support in tonight's tilt that Latvia pushed to overtime based on two absolutely lovely goals in the third period.  The Latvians just seemed to want it more, while the Czechs looked like a team completely focussed on tomorrow's game, which, in fairness, they don't really deserve to be playing in. 

If everything were fair, Latvia would have won today, based on an absolutely tremendous effort from Edgars Masalskis, who while adventurous at times with his puck-play, was an incredibly solid pillar of strength for the Latvians.  Tomas Vokoun was no slouch either, especially later on in the game where the momentum seemed leading completely in Latvia's favour.  He made the big saves where needed, and the small saves as well.  There was one scary moment, very early in overtime, where a Latvian shot bounced off the backboards, and back out in front, where Vokoun luckily got the exact perfect angle on the puck with his left pad to steer it away, thus avoiding a potentially career-defining moment (see also – Salo, Tommy).

The Czechs will now face Finland in the quarterfinals tomorrow.  The big question right now is whether or not Jaromir Jagr will play.  The Czechs looked very beatable today, and against a pesky Finnish team, who remind me of the New Jersey Devils in the way they are always underestimated, they need to be going full-bore from the get go.

I should be adding some video and stuff tomorrow, but wanted to post something right away.

Congrats to Latvia for a well-fought game.  Truly we (Czechs) got lucky.  You deserved the win.

Na Zdravi,

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