Columbus Blue Jackets Goaltender Elvis Merzlikins fails to impress during IIHF World Championships

Elvis Merzlikins had an IIHF World Championship tournament to forget in Prague.
Latvia v France - 2024 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Czechia
Latvia v France - 2024 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Czechia / PressFocus/MB Media/GettyImages

Team Latvia has been eliminated from the IIHF World Championship following their 6 to 3 loss to Team USA on Tuesday. The team was frustrated with their performance in the tournament, mentioning that they were only a year removed from their miraculous run to the Bronze medal in 2023.

That was the nation's first medal in their history at the yearly event. Latvian forward Raivis Ansons shared some thoughts after the tournament:

""Maybe we had a little too much pressure coming here after last year, but we still have to play our game every day. "The first couple of games weren't our best, and we could have had three points from those games...""

Raivis Ansons

Latvia finished with a record of 1 win, 3 overtime wins, and 2 losses, both being in regulation. This ended them with 9 points, 3 points back of Team Slovakia for the final quarterfinal spot following the round-robin portion of the tournament

Despite his nation fighting against elimination in their final two games, Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins watched from the bench during games against Slovakia and the United States.

Statistically speaking, Elvis finished the round-robin near the bottom of the list of the 19 goaltenders who played in the tournament. During 200 minutes played over 4 games, Elvis managed a .826 save percentage while averaging 4.80 goals against, which ranked 19 of 19 and 18 of 19, respectively.

In the game against Sweden, Merzlikins was pulled towards the end of the 2nd period after allowing 6 goals on just 20 shots. He did not see the ice again during the tournament.

Analyzing some of the highlights from Latvia's games in the round-robin, it's easy to see that the Latvians were simply overmatched defensively when paired up against Big Six nations in Sweden and the USA.

But, Latvian goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis finished with a much more respectable 37 saves on 42 shots against Team USA, and Eriks Vitols was excellent in the final 25 minutes against Team Sweden, allowing only 1 goal on 14 shots on net.

Watching the game film, I couldn't help but notice that Elvis seemed to be struggling with some of his fundamentals. For instance, in Sweden's first goal of the night, Victor Olofsson passed across the zone to Rasmus Dahlin, who took an open lane to fire a quick shot that sailed past Elvis for the score.

Even the commentators mentioned that it seemed like Merzlkins was distracted by all of the movement in front of him in the crease, and he looked confused and slow to react to the puck movement around the zone.

In Sweden's sixth goal of the night, Marcus Pettersson was able to expose a shooting lane in a hole in Latvia's defense and took a quick wrist shot from the high slot. Elvis was too slow to react with his glove hand, and the puck sailed over his left shoulder and into the back of the net. These were just two examples of some of the struggles Elvis faced during the tournament.

It seems both Team Latvia and the Blue Jackets will be faced with a decision going forward: whether or not Merzlikins should continue to main the goaltender's crease for them moving forward.