There’s one question that looms large over the U.S. Olympic hockey team as they prepare for the 2014 Sochi Games: Who will be the starting Goaltender?
The answer is Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings.
As early as the beginning of the 2013-14 season it seemed as if this was a given. Quick was one of the top two or three Goaltenders in the world and was easily the best postseason Goalie, and potentially player, over the past two seasons. However, Quick has had a subpar season and has spent some time riding the pine after an injury kept him out for part of the year.
Quick’s competition comes in the form of Ryan Miller, the Buffalo Sabres Goalie who was the 2010 Olympic tournament MVP. Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings is also on the roster but he does not pose much of a threat to Miller or Quick.
It would stand to reason that both Miller and Quick will start a game for the U.S. in the round robin portion of the tournament. Both are excellent players who have had success at the highest level against the best competition in the world. In order for the Americans to have any chance at medaling at the 2014 games the Goalies are going to have to step it up in a big way and return to dominant form.
So who should get the nod? Allow me to make a case for the Kings netminder.
The “Octopus Jedi” is the best big game Goalie in the NHL. I still don’t think that is up for debate. The 28-year old Quick has played in 50 playoff games, 38 of which have occurred in the past two years, and he has a .940 save percentage over that time. He put the entire 2012 8th seeded Kings on his back and ran through the playoffs en route to winning the Stanley Cup. Those Kings went 16-4 in the playoffs, one of the best playoff records of all-time, and Quick had 3 shutouts, allowed 1.41 goals per game and had a .946 save percentage.
Quick’s excellent play in the playoffs continued in the 2013 when the led the Kings to the Western Conference Finals. Despite the fact that the Kings eventually fell to the eventual Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, Quick played as well as anyone had all year against the Hawks. In the 2013 playoffs Quick also had 3 shutouts, allowed 1.86 goals per game and had a .934 save percentage. Those are excellent numbers across the board.
Quick is the ultimate big game goalie. He struggled during the regular season in 2013 but stepped it up when it really mattered. My gut tells me that he will be able to elevate his game in the 2014 Olympics if given the opportunity. Miller is a fine Goalie and has had success on this stage previously; however, he’s not the best Goaltender on the roster and doesn’t have the Stanley Cup pedigree that Quick does. When the cards are on the table you should always ride with your best player and the guy who has shown time and time again that he steps up huge in big moments. Do you think that if Clayton Kershaw struggled during the regular season the Dodgers would be hesitant to give him the ball in Game 1 of the World Series? Absolutely not. The Dodgers would ride with their most talented player. The U.S. Olympic hockey team should do the same. They should ride with their most talented Goalie.
That man is Jonathan Quick.