Should we be surprised by the run Canucks goalie Arturs Silovs is on at the 2023 IIHF World Championship? Probably not. He’s shown flashes of brilliance in the past and up until now in the tournament he’s had the extra motivation of performing in front of his native fans.
The Latvian hockey show in the capital city of Riga starring Arturs Silovs moves to nearby Tampere, Finland for Saturday’s semi-final against Canada. The 27-time champion Canadians, runners up last year and winners in 2021, will do their best to spoil the European party.
Latvia upset Sweden in the quarterfinals 3-1 while Canada disposed of the co-hosts and defending champion Finns 4-1.
Shocker: Canada will be a strong favourite in the semi and it wouldn’t matter who filled their roster.
The Canadians beat the Latvians in the preliminary round 6-0 back on May 12th, the tourney’s opening night. Silovs didn’t start that one, but he took over just 4:56 into the 1st period after his partner Ivars Punnenovs gave up two goals on five shots. Silovs started the next night, lost 2-1 to Slovakia, and has started every game since.
At the moment, Canada’s leading scorer is defenceman MacKenzie Weegar of the Calgary Flames, an Ottawa native tied for third in tournament scoring with ten points. Next would be forwards Lawson Crouse and Michael Carcone each with six.
The Latvians have a bit more balance up front with three players tallying seven points thus far, including Rudolf Balcers, the 26-year-old winger with 170 games of NHL experience.
Playing At Home
But the focus has no doubt been on Abbotsford Canucks goalie Silovs, a 22-year-old, 6th-round draft pick of the organization in 2019. As has been the trend in netminding over recent years, he’s a big boy, 6-foot-4 and about 205 pounds. That’s before he sheds ten or fifteen on any given night while making dozens of saves. The sweat was flying on Thursday when he made 40 stops against the Swedes.
Remarkably Silovs only has the 7th best save percentage in the tournament at 92.6%, but none of the goalies above him have played in eight games, nor have they been shelled by as many shots. He’s made 200 saves, the next closest of those ranked above him is Karel Vejmelka of Czechia who’s made 117.
No other goalie in the tournament has played in all eight games and only one other, Mathias Niederberger of Germany, has played in seven.
Silovs goals against average: exactly 2.00, while playing eight games in 14 nights including two back-to-back sets.
Silovs saw plenty of vulcanized rubber in his five starts for the Vancouver Canucks during the second half of the NHL season, the first five of his NHL career. His confidence grew as he finished with a record of 3-and-2 and respectable basic numbers; a save percentage of .908 and a goals against average of 2.75.
After getting shelled in his first start, a loss against the New York Rangers on February 15th, Silovs bounced back three nights later to get a 37-save win against the Philadelphia Flyers. He also beat the St. Louis Blues on February 23rd and the Nashville Predators on March 6th.
While not spectacular, it was a pretty nice debut for a non-playoff Canucks team trying to figure out where it was headed in general.
Silovs went 26-12-and-5 this past season with the AHL Abbotsford Canucks with a similar save percentage and a 2.44 GAA. He went 1-and-1 in the postseason.
Silovs would have split time or been the back-up with Abby had it not been for Spencer Martin being summoned to play 29 games with the big Canucks and becoming a regular in net or on the bench with the long-term injury to number-one Thatcher Demko.
Keeping in mind Silovs just turned age-22 two months ago, it wasn’t a bad run, while fans in Europe are hoping he’s saved his recent best for Saturday night.
Win or lose against the Canadians, the Latvians will play for a World Championship medal for the first time in their history on Sunday.
Canucks colors for finals competition, positive sign.