Nobody saw this coming.
With this afternoon’s triumph over Italy, Teodors Bļugers (Teddy Blueger) and the Latvian national team have rattled off three-straight wins to start the 2017 IIHF World Championship. Latvia’s perfect record has it atop Group A’s standings, just ahead of perennial hockey powerhouse Russia.
Former Calgary Flames bench boss Bob Hartley has the Latvians rolling and their crazy fans rollicking through their first three games, boasting the tournament’s second-best power play (50.0%) and second-best penalty kill (88.9%). Latvia has surrendered just two goals in the tournament, fewest of all 16 participating teams.
In their first contest, the Latvians edged Denmark, 3-0, on a 27-save shutout pitched by Columbus Blue Jackets draft pick Elvis Merzļikins. Latvia’s second game saw multi-point performances from the Springfield Thunderbirds’ Rihards Bukarts (0G-2A) and Buffalo Sabres star Zemgus Girgensons (1G-1A) in a 3-1 defeat of Slovakia.