The final position left to prognosticate for the 2014 US Olympic roster is in between the pipes. I previously noted the impressive talent the Americans will have along the blueline, but in net is truly the strength of the team.
Tim Thomas probably won’t be part of the conversation this time around after a year away from the game in his bunker in Colorado – or however he actually spent the year. Ryan Miller will certainly be considered for a roster spot while Jonathan Quick will probably graduate from third to first string for the 2014 games.
Quick is the guy I’ve tabbed to be my started with Cory Schneider and Jimmy Howard to follow in behind as his backups.
Quick is an easy and obvious choice for the US starting job. He’s one year removed from a Conn Smythe and serving as a Vezina finalist. He’s crafting another stellar playoff run which proves his worth as an extremely effective goaltender in a tournament setting. Not only is he at the peak effectiveness in net, Quick has also exhibited the ever valuable quality to perform in a tournament setting.
Schneider slots in as my primary backup for a couple of reasons. First, he went on a great run over a short stretch this season that saw him roll up a dozen wins. Second, he has history of success in short, high pressure tournament play thanks to his time at Boston College. Finally, he should step in as Vancouver’s starter next season and see the majority of work during the year. That playing time will further cultivate his play heading into Sochi.
Jimmy Howard is listed as my third string keeper in this case although he and Schneider could easily interchange roles in behind Quick. In fact it really doesn’t matter what the depth chart order is behind Quick considering he’s all but assured the starting job for the tournament.
Howard has a strong resume early on in his career and is more than capable of carrying a team for long stretches – a product of Jonas Gustavsson serving as your backup. He’s technically sound and resembles Schneider’s style of play in many ways. Both play with a high level of technique and do an excellent job of steering rebounds and controlling their area. They’re both steady options that would provide honest support if they’re called upon.
Obviously I’ve left Ryan Miller off this list. I did it because he’s struggled a bit behind an ever growing porous defense in Buffalo and the improved play of other American goaltenders in the NHL. One thig to bear in mind about Miller is that nothing gets him going better than the Olympics. Two of his most impressive seasons came in 2006 and 2010. After being passed over for the 06 team, Miller helped lead the Sabres on an impressive run to the Conference Finals. 2010 is well documented as Miller’s Vezina run was complimented by his MVP performance in Vancouver.
While I don’t have him on this particular roster, Miller’s play next season may make it impossible for anyone to ignore him. He gets up in Olympic years and he could certainly do the same this season.
Craig Anderson is another goaltender who deserves a serious look for Team USA. One thing that I wonder about Anderson is his ability to perform in a tournament like this. He’s proven himself to be a stellar regular season goaltender but I question how he will hold up in a short tournament like the Olympics.
Anderson’s play in this year’s playoffs will likely do a lot to prove his worth for the Yanks moving forward. One thing I know for sure is that he won’t find himself any higher than second on this roster as Quick will be the unquestioned starter.