Ondrej Pavelec watched the Czech Republic’s first preliminary game against Sweden from the stands, but after goaltending cost them the match, he’ll be in net against Latvia on Friday. The move to keep the only NHL goalie on the squad out for the first contest of round robin play was a mildly surprising one, and it’s unclear at this juncture why Pavelec wasn’t at least on the bench against Sweden.
— gary lawless (@garylawless) February 11, 2014
Jakub Kovar started against the Swedes, and while he’s an exceptional KHL netminder, he wilted under Sweden’s swift attack and seemed to have trouble following their puck movement. He yielded three goals on the first 10 shots he faced before getting the hook, all but crushing the Czech’s chances of winning game one.
The assumption will be that the Czech Republic will have an easier time against Latvia, but that team is coming off of a game where they held the Swiss scoreless up until the final seconds of the third period. They allowed a goal with less than 10 seconds to play, but gave a strong Switzerland team everything it could handle.
Look for the Latvians to be in full-on attack mode while trying to beat a top-eight team for the first time in their Olympic history. The Czechs will likely be fired up as well though as they try to get into the win column while chipping away at their current goal differential—something that can affect the standings in a tournament like this.
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