The dark horse from Switzerland kicks off their Olympic tournament as they take on the Latvians in what should be a pretty competitive matchup.
The Latvians head into the Olympic tournament as pretty significant underdogs but as a nation that has found itself on the international stage with some consistency over the last decade they are given an edge over the likes of Slovenia, Austria, and Norway who are virtual international newcomers. The Latvians will have a couple of NHL familiar roster spots as former Stanley Cup winner Sandis Ozolinsh is anchoring the blue line and former Ottawa Senators forward Kaspers Daugivins will be suiting up but other than that the rest of the team is unknown by most in North American circles. Latvia always produces a scrappy team that find themselves in competitive contests and with this being the tournament opener it could take both teams some time to get acclimated to the tournament stage. Nonetheless, the Latvians head into their opening contest as pretty heft underdogs against a Swiss team that continues to garner international attention.
Switzerland heads into the tournament as a nation on the rise when it comes to the international hockey stage and after their surprise performance in Vancouver the Swiss will look to shock the world once again and take down one of the world powers in the process. Switzerland is led in goal by Anaheim Ducks standout Jonas Hiller who single handily carried the Swiss in 2010 but this time around he has a stronger supporting cast which should help them get a sniff at the podium. The Swiss have their top four blue liners in the NHL as Roman Josi, Yannick Weber, Raphael Diaz, and captain Mark Streit will be in charge of keeping Hiller happy while Damien Brunner and Nino Neiderreiter will be called upon to handle the offense. The Swiss also have two Canadian born players who will be on their roster that have experience playing in a high intensity atmosphere giving the Swiss come pretty dynamic play makers. This should be a good first test for the Swiss as Latvia as mentioned can pull off an upset here and there but at the end of the day I think Hiller makes the difference and the Swiss get the victory to kick things off.