Article written by Aaron Goldstein - Community Contributor
Goalie Analysis: Edgars Masalskis
On Tuesday, the Latvians stunned the Swiss by defeating them 3-1 in a thriller that came down to the wire. Latvian goaltender Edgars Masalskis once again proved why great goaltending makes all the difference in a short-lived tournament like the Olympics.
Earlier in the tournament, Masalskis successfully intercepted a pass versus the very same Swiss team. The puck took an unfortunate bounce off his own Latvian teammate with just eight seconds left in the game to give Switzerland the win. Although Masalskis made 38 out of a possible 39 saves that night, that loss couldn’t have sat right with any goaltender.
Tuesday was Masalskis’ chance at redemption. The gritty, 5-foot-8 Latvian-born goaltender had most recently played a stint in Slovakia with HK SKP Poprad. Masalskis was already accustom to the Swiss’ attack from their previous meeting, and he was once again ready this time.
After the Latvians had taken a commanding 2-0 lead in the first period, Masalskis did a very good job of keeping the Swiss at bay, and did not give them an opportunity to make a quick comeback. Rebound control was key for Masalskis.
In my opinion, the second period showed some examples of Masalskis’ strengths and weaknesses. While Masalskis showed how well he could find and control his rebounds, he also showed how composed and economical he could be in the Latvian goal. But Masalskis also showed instances of poor body control that resulted in some extra movement, and more energy expended in those second-effort plays during the second period. Although it can be very fun to watch (especially at the Olympics) this was something I wanted to see him watch out for in the third. He just needed to gather himself during the intermission, and settle his game down a little.
The third period was a great test of Masalskis’ mental toughness, as Masalskis and the Latvians were holding a one-goal lead against the heavily favored Switzerland team. Masalskis continued to fight pucks off and keep their Olympic dreams alive.
One thing I really liked about Masalskis’ game was his ability to hang onto pucks, and not give the Swiss any second chance opportunity to tie this game. This is when his compact stance can really help his ability to absorb pucks around his midsection, and really served as a benefit on those midrange opportunities.
Overall, I really liked Masalskis’ game against Switzerland. He was patient, but aggressive when he had to be. He controlled his rebounds well, fought for sightlines and tracked the puck very well. All great things to see in a smaller goaltender like Masalskis. Masalskis finished this game with an impressive 32-save performance, and Latvia will move on to the Olympic quarterfinals for the first time in their history. Latvia will be facing Canada for the first time at the Olympics since 1936.
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