While the puck first dropped at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Team USA and Team Canada got in a final day of practice. There, both head coaches revealed their decisions on who will start in net for their respective openers.
Dan Bylsma will go with the Kings' Jonathan Quick when the Americans drop the puck at 6:30 Thursday morning (Chicago time) against Slovakia, featuring the Blackhawks' Marian Hossa and Michal Handzus. Mike Babcock will go with Canadiens netminder Carey Price as Team Canada faces Norway, but also announced 2010 goal medal-winning goalie Roberto Luongo gets the nod in their second of back-to-backs on Friday against Austria.
Bylsma clarified that his decision to start Quick applies only to Thursday's game. He'll face a similar back-to-back call when the Group A preliminary round play wraps up over the weekend against Russia on Saturday and Slovenia on Sunday.
Four years ago, Martin Brodeur opened in net for the eventual champions, but struggled and was eventually replaced by Luongo, who persevered through some Luongo "moments" to get the host country atop the medal stand. Ryan Miller was the American workhorse and was named the tournament's MVP, and will serve as Quick's backup at the outset.
Team USA doesn't truly have a starting netminder among their three on a roll, but Quick's the only one that's had a deep playoff run among their trio since 2010, and is the only Stanley Cup winner. Of the six on the two squads, Price is the only one ranked in the top 15 in the NHL in both goals-against average and save percentage, as noted in the chart below, and is on pace for his best season under new goaltending coach Stephane Waite, formerly with the Blackhawks. But Phoenix's Mike Smith was heating up before the break, including last Friday's shutout against the Blackhawks.
|Team USA||GAA (rank)||SV% (rank)||Note over last five games|
|Quick (LA)||2.18 (9th)||.911 (31st)||1 game with save pct. above .900|
|Miller (BUF)||2.74 (31st)||.923 (12th)||
10 GA last two gms.; just 6 GA in 3 previous
|Howard (DET)||2.65 (29th)||.914 (26th)||One GA in 40 shots over 2 gms.; 12 GA in other 3|
|Team Canada||GAA (rank)||SV% (rank)||Note over last five games|
|Price (MON)||2.33 (14th)||.925 (9th)||.943 save pctg. or better each of last 5|
|Luongo (VAN)||2.38 (17th)||.917 (20th)||17 GA|
|Smith (PHX)||2.77 (33rd)||.913 (27th)||10 GA (just 5 in last 4)|
By comparison to the Canadian trio above, here's how Corey Crawford's numbers compare:
|Crawford (CHI)||2.35 (16th)||.916 (23rd)||8 GA; .912 save pctg. or higher in each|
And the squad with the most depth in goal, the "scary" one from Finland if one of these gets hot (starting with Tuukka Rask) to overcome the lack of overall star power and depth:
|Rask (BOS)||2.11 (6th)||.928 (4th)||10 GA|
|Niemi (SJ)||2.39 (18th)||.912 (28th)||12 GA (best: 2-1 shootout win over Hawks)|
|Lehtonen (DAL)||2.48 (22nd)||.916 (22nd)||11 GA (just 4 in last 3)|