Canada vs. Latvia hockey final score: Canada makes it difficult on themselves, but win

Streeter Lecka

As is the custom with Canadian hockey, Team Canada had to beat themselves before they scraped out a slim margin of victory over Latvia.

SB Nation 2014 Winter Olympic Coverage

Is it possible to outshoot an opponent 57-16 and have your goaltender be your best player? It's an honest question, because after seeing very little action, it's hard to shake can't shake the feeling that Carey Price is who won this game for Canada.

Team Canada applied relentless pressure throughout the entire game, but between Kristers Gudlevskis playing outstanding hockey for the Latvians and Canada somehow managing to misfire on nearly every opportunity, Latvia was able to hang on to a 1-1 tie for nearly the entire game.

As has become tradition in seemingly every hockey tournament that Canada takes part in, before they're able to defeat even the weakest of opponents, they have to first defeat themselves. Canada is consistently too complacent to play safe hockey, and it's bitten them from a scoring perspective in Sochi.

Part of that conservatism is the continuing failed chemistry experiments of Chris Kunitz with Sidney Crosby, and Alex Pietrangelo with Jay Bouwmeester.

Kunitz has shown in every single game he's played that he is not nearly skilled enough to play hockey at this level, and all he does is drag his line down. Against Finland it seemed like head coach Mike Babcock was figuring that out, with Kunitz edging into the 13th forward slot as the game wore on, but against Latvia he was back with Crosby, and continued to kill good plays.

Bouwmeester can keep up with the play, unlike Kunitz, but when the puck is on his stick, the play will die. This has been the case since the first game, but again, the coaching staff can't adjust. It seems obvious to anyone with eyeballs that putting superstar defenseman and Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban back in the lineup would help to generate offense, especially with most of Canada's offense coming from their defensemen so far in the tournament, but it hasn't happened.

Instead Canada is stuck eking out slim wins over countries that are just happy to be there, which is no disrespect to the Latvians, who have had an incredible tournament.

Canada opened the scoring with a goal from Patrick Sharp in the first period, but the lead was extremely short lived with the Latvians running a clever play built around a line change. A defenseman would jump over the boards and onto the bench close to the Latvian zone, while Lauris Darzins would jump off at the other end of the bench, and receive a breakout pass.

This play caught Jay Bouwmeester completely off guard (because he wasn't engaged in the play), and led to a breakaway goal that Carey Price couldn't stop.

The collective exhale of 35 million people followed, but there was no lack of nerves in the final minutes

38 minutes of despair in Canada followed, as the score remained tied no matter what Canada threw at the net. Finally, with under seven minutes remaining in the third period, Shea Weber converted a pass by Drew Doughty and gave Canada a lead.

The collective exhale of 35 million people followed, but there was no lack of nerves in the final minutes, as Babcocks' team sat on their heels and played prevent defense instead of continuing to press the attack.

The bad puck luck Canada experienced wasn't the only thing that went against them in the game, as superstar center John Tavares left the game with an apparent left knee injury early in the second period and did not return.

Price made several key stops in those last few minutes, setting up a rematch of last Olympics' gold medal game with the United States in the semifinals, to be played on Friday, February 21st at 12:00pm Eastern Standard time.

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