Jonathan Quick

U.S. Hockey Team goaltenders gear up for Olympics

Nov 13 • Hockey, Sports • 1066

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When addressing the what-were-then boys of the 1980 Olympic hockey team, just after he cut the first batch of players, but before finalizing his roster, Herb Brooks said, “If you give me 99 percent, you will make my job very easy.”

This may be something Ray Shero, the United States Hockey general manager, and supporting staff want to say to not only everyone on the team, but especially the goalies.

Historically, the U.S. has had a few offensive all-stars and a good enough supporting cast to keep the team in medal talks. That proves to be true with the group invited to the Olympic camp.

With guys like Patrick Kane, Ryan Kesler, Phil Kessel, T.J. Oshie, Zach Parise, Bobby Ryan and James van Riemsdyk, it is hard to imagine that Team USA isn’t an offensive force in the tournament. When you think that team Canada is about to put Sidney Crosby, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews all on a line, you begin to understand.

Noting the above, it is pretty obvious that Team USA, along with many of the other teams realize that against offensive powerhouses like Team Canada and Russia, defense has to be top priority. Team USA has no shortage of that. With seasoned veterans and a few players who recently won the World Junior Championships sprinkled in, Team USA is destined to have one of — if not the best — defensive teams in the Olympics.

But everyone knows, especially in the game of hockey, you need to build your defense from the net out, and Team USA has its hands full when picking who to keep and who to play during the Olympics. Team USA has the best crop of goalies to choose from hands down. Getting the invite to camp is only half the battle for goalies Craig Anderson, John Gibson, Jimmy Howard, Ryan Miller, Jonathan Quick and Cory Schneider.

All of these goalies have been on top of their game in recent years. Yes, even Miller, who is struggling right now, has a chance to make the team, especially with his performance in the previous Olympics. The following is my argument for every goalie invited to camp.

It is no surprise that Illinois native Anderson was invited to camp. Anderson was slow to get to his prime and settle in, but has shown he is a force between the pipes.

With stints with the Chicago Blackhawks, Florida Panthers and the Colorado Avalanche before settling in Ottawa, where his career took off, Anderson enters camp with a career .915 save percentage and 2.72 goals against average.

But those stats speak very little to the amount of heart this guy plays with. Anderson has given the struggling Ottawa Senators a chance to win every night he is between the iron.

The downside to Anderson is that he has no Olympic and very little national experience. He has only played seven games donning the USA jersey.

Also a few nights ago, Anderson left the game on a stretcher after being run over by a Dallas Stars player. He is currently day-to-day with a stiff neck and some headaches, both signs of a concussion.

Only time will tell if Anderson will be well enough to compete in the long run. I see Anderson making the roster and maybe starting a game in the round robin-action, but I don’t see him as the go-to man in the blue paint.

Howard is going to be very competitive for a spot on the USA Team. Coming up through the United States Development program in the USHL, he was practically trained from the time he was 16 years old to be on this team. Coming into camp with a .918 save percentage and 2.37 goals against average, Howard is one of the more consistent goalies.

He came to be Detroit’s starter just after the back-to-back cup appearances against the Pittsburgh Penguins. This being said, since then, he hasn’t had as much playoff experience as some of the other goalies had coming into camp.

However according to some, he is going to be a definite yes to be on the roster for Team USA.

The downside to Howard is that for a majority of his career, he played on a team that doesn’t give up many shots, and that could be a concern, even with the defensive team USA should field.

Canada, simply put, is the team to beat, and it has the strongest offense in the world.

Every goalie Team Canada plays will see a significant amount of shots, and the tricky part for coaches is going to be picking the goalie who can weather that storm most effectively.

Schneider, for many, is kind of a sneaky pick by the USA Hockey Olympic staff. But in all honestly, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise. However, the lack of time being a starting goalie in the NHL is going to be a concern for Team USA. Having only played 105 games in the NHL (second least among invites), Schneider comes into camp with a .926 save percentage and 2.12 goals against average. Schneider has never been a clear-cut starter in his career in the NHL, and we all know about the trade that sent him to the New Jersey Devils, where he hopes to become the starter and learn from great Canadian Martian Brodeur. Schneider did have a stint with the USA Development program, where he played 12 games on the under-18 team.

However, when he is playing, he keeps everyone quiet. One of the most underrated goalies in the league, Schneider could come into camp with a little chip on his shoulder and prove many wrong by making the team and potentially getting a start somewhere within the round robins play.

Quick was the 72nd-overall pick in the 2005 entry draft, and is definitely in talks to be named the starter for Team USA – and rightfully so. There is very little doubt that Quick will make the team. The real question is how many games is this guy going to play? Coming into camp after winning the Stanley Cup and having a deep playoff run the year after, he also carries with him a .914 save percentage and 2.33 goals against average.

But that isn’t all he carries with him. Quick always rises to the occasion as he showed the world in the Stanley Cup playoffs these past two years.

His unique style of play is also something coaches are interested in. He is one of the most competitive goalies in the NHL. Watch his reaction after a goal is scored against him; he takes it personally. You will never see Quick give up on a play and you can pretty much guarantee that he will be flying around the net making highlight reel saves every game.

Another upside to Quick is that he is very good at staying consistent. You know exactly what you are going to get from Quick after the first 10 minutes of a game. This is key in a short-format tournament like the Olympics, where you only have a few games to make a stand to stay competitive in the medal rounds. Look for Quick to pull the USA sweater on for the first time, and raise the question as to why the team hasn’t used him in the past.

Gibson is coming off proving that he is going to be one of the best goalies in the world in years to come. As of right now though, the 20-year-old goalie is a long shot to make the team. Yes, he did just win the World Junior Championships, where he was named all tournament MVP, but he is 20 years old. He has minimal experience playing in the NHL, which is evident because his stats are not currently on its website. He has had a very successful junior career with the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL, where he earned many awards for Player of The Week, Goalie of The Year, etc. But simply put, he is just not ready. Inviting him to camp was simply a way to give him a taste of what he is going to be seeing in the years to come.

Miller, Mr. America himself, isn’t doing himself any favors right now to help himself make Team USA. He started this season off going 1-10 and having an apparent attitude problem, as he put his house in Buffalo up for sale last year and doesn’t even know where he is going to end up.

However, what does help him, is that he is in fact Ryan Miller — the goalie who carried Team USA to the gold medal game last Olympics.

Coming into camp with a .915 save percentage and 2.60 goals against average, Miller’s play has gone down since the last Olympics. He was coming off his best years entering the 2010 Winter games. The four years prior to those Olympics, he posted a 151-79-0 record. In the last four years leading to these Olympics, he is only 83-70-0. Now you have to note that there was a shortened season last year, but he is nowhere near as consistent as he used to be.

All in all, the Team USA coaching staff has the hardest choice to make right away. They are going to build this team around the guy they want in net. All of the goalies invited to camp are worthy of consideration, but if I had to choose my top three, I would go with Quick, Howard, and Anderson. It is hard to leave Miller, Schneider and Gibson on the outside looking in, but my logic is simple.

Miller is struggling and has too many things to deal with personally right now and he hasn’t shown any sign of returning to old form any time soon. Schneider, simply put, doesn’t have the games played in the NHL to prove he is solid enough to be a starter at the national level. Although he is going to be a go-to goalie in a few years, I do not feel he is ready for the national spotlight. Lastly, Gibson is just too young and has little experience at the professional level. Team USA has a good chance at winning a medal, and it is all going to start with the man between the pipes.

 

CONRAD THIBAULT

thibault001@knights.gannon.edu

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Adam111
Adam111

It's hard for any goaltender to put up consistent gaa and save percentage when they carry their team through every single game with no help from the defense and the second worst goals pergame in the entire league. hockey is a team sport and out of all of those goalies listed who has faced the more pressure and not just this season but those most recent? need to look past the boxcar stats. speaking of miller, what do you think his stats would be if he was the netminder for LA? Or Detroit? Because when the olympics come around it won't be buffalo's defense but the best us blue line possible.

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