Team USA head coach Dan Bylsma has not yet committed to a starting goalie for the Sochi 2014 men’s Olympics hockey tournament, but the choice is down to either Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings and Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres.
Where the Americans end up finishing will determine whether or not Bylsma made the correct choice, but right now the U.S. would be best served to roll with Quick.
“I think one of the strengths of our team is the goaltending,” Bylsma told reporters Tuesday in Sochi following Team USA’s practice. “We are dealing from a point of strength…A lot of things go into the decision from past success to current play to injury to where they are at right now.”
Overall both netminders are playing quality if slightly inconsistent hockey this season and you can’t say definitely one has been better than the other.
Quick has more wins than Miller in fewer starts this season and a better goals-against average (2.18 compared to Miller’s 2.74), but the Kings are a much better team than the Sabres; Miller (.923) has the edge over Quick (.911) in save percentage.
Statistically speaking, though, Ben Bishop and Cory Schneider are the best American goalies in the NHL right now and they didn’t even make the team, so numbers can’t be the deciding factor in Bylsma’s decision.
If the decision was made based on tweets from Quick’s and Miller’s respective NHL clubs, it would be a draw.
Miller has Olympic experience on his side—he stood on his head in 2010, earning tournament MVP with a 1.35 GAA—but Quick is a Stanley Cup champ and Conn Smythe Trophy winner.
Both men have come up big when it counts. Miller is excellent positionally and might be a steadier presence in the crease, but Quick, with his unreal reflexes and flexibility, is more likely to steal a game for the United States.
Perhaps the best litmus test for Bylsma should be what each goalie has done in recent high-pressure situations and in that case it’s got to be Quick.
For the last two seasons we’ve seen Quick take his game to a new level during lengthy playoff runs. Last year he had a .934 save percentage and 1.86 GAA in 18 post-season games and the year prior he was transcendent in the Kings’ run to Stanley Cup glory.
Meanwhile, Miller hasn’t been in high-pressure situations since the 2010-11 season, the last time the Sabres made the playoffs.
The forgotten man in all this is Jimmy Howard of the Red Wings, who, like Mike Smith on Team Canada, is very talented but won’t see any playing time.
Team USA is in a favourable position regardless of which goalie they go with, like Bylsma said, but at the moment Quick is the better choice.