With less than a year until the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, I will preview the goaltending for each country going into the Olympics in a weekly series. Today I take a look at USA, easily one of the powerhouse squads going into the games next year. They lost in overtime in 2010, can they top that performance this time around?
Craig Anderson: Craig Anderson was easily one of the best NHL goaltenders this year, and probably the best American one at that. Anderson played for the United States at the 2006 IIHF World Championship held in Riga, Latvia. In five games, Anderson went 3–2–0 with a 2.36 GAA, however, the USA finished in seventh place. Anderson once again represented the USA at the 2008 IIHF World Championship held in Quebec City, Quebec and Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he went 0-0-0 with a 5.63 GAA in two appearances as the USA finished in sixth place. During the 2011–12 season, Anderson was among the league leaders for wins with 29 in 56 games before being sidelined in Mid-February by a right hand injury sustained in a cooking accident. The injury prompted the Senators to acquire minor league goalie Ben Bishop from the St. Louis Blues near the trade deadline. Later in the season, Anderson’s Senators faced the Eastern Conference’s top seeded New York Rangers and took the series to 7 games before losing 2–1 in the final game. The lockout shortened 2012–13 season started off very well for Anderson. In his first ten games of the season he posted a record of 6–2–2 with a 1.49 GAA and .950 save percentage, earning consideration as an early Vezina Trophy favorite. He was named the NHL’s first star for the month of January (2013). However, Anderson suffered a sprained right ankle in a game against the New York Rangers on February 21, 2013, when he was knocked down by Rangers’ forward Chris Kreider. He finished the season off with a 12-9-2 record with an incredible 1.69 GAA and .941, and would be a big reason why the Senators knocked off the second seeded Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the 2013 playoffs. Is he good enough to beat out Jonathan Quick for the starting spot? The odds are he won’t take that role away, but he could be the best bet at backup.
Jimmy Howard: Howard is probably the most criticized guy on this list, but I still believe he deserves a spot on Sochi. Jimmy Howard began his junior career playing for the Westport Rideaus of the Eastern Ontario Junior Hockey League,where he played from ages 14–16 before joining the U.S. National Team Development Program. He played with the U.S. National Under-17 and U.S. National Under-18 teams during the 2001–02 season, playing 9 games with the Under-17 team and 26 games with the Under-18 team for a total record of 22–11–1 with four shutouts. In April 2002, Howard played for the United States in the 2002 IIHF World U18 Championships in Slovakia. Playing in six tournament games, he led his team to a Gold Medal and was subsequently named USA goaltender of the year. During this past season, Howard recorded a 21-13-7 record as the Red Wings eventually clinched their 22nd consecutive playoff berth. During the season, Howard signed a six year, $31.8 million dollar extension with the Red Wings, showing confidence that Howard was for sure their guy. Many people believe that the only reason Howard is good for 30+ wins a season is because he plays for such a strong team in Detroit, however with the weakest defensive squad than the team has seen in years, he proved to everybody he has what it takes to be a top goaltender in the NHL. He is a winning machine, so its gonna be tough for him to be left off the squad.
Jonathan Quick: The last time around, Jonathan Quick was the third goalie of the US Olympic team behind Ryan Miller and Tim Thomas. This time around, Quick has emerged as the likely number one starter while the aforementioned are going to be sitting home when Sochi roles around. Among many accomplishments during his short career, Quick was nominated as a Vezina Trophy finalist in 2012, along with Henrik Lundqvist (winner) and Pekka Rinne. Quick was also named a 2011-12 NHL Second Team All-Star. Quick led the league with 10 shutouts (also a Kings franchise record), had the second-lowest goals-against average with 1.95, and posted a 35–21–13 record. Quick gained much attention during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the Kings defeated the No. 1 seed Vancouver Canucks in five games, followed by the Kings franchise’s first-ever four-game playoff series sweep against the No. 2 seed St. Louis Blues. On May 30, 2012 Quick set a new NHL playoff record, winning his 11th consecutive road game dating back to the 2011 post-season, surpassing the old mark of 10 by Billy Smith of the New York Islanders, and continued adding to the record. The streak ran from April 16, 2011 at San Jose to June 2, 2012 at New Jersey (12 games). The team qualified for the conference final for the second time in its 45-year history and first time since 1993. Los Angeles ended its 19-year drought and made it to the Stanley Cup Finals after defeating the number three seeded Phoenix Coyotes in Game 5 of the Western Conference final. Quick was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy following the Los Angeles Kings first Stanley Cup victory over the New Jersey Devils, 6-1. He posted a 16-4 record with a 1.41 GAA, a .946 save %, and 3 shutouts, one of the more impressive playoff runs seen by an NHL goaltender in recent years. After another solid season during the 2012-2013 campaign, its pretty much guaranteed Quick will get the starting spot in Sochi, but will he be able to one up what Miller accomplished in 2010 and lead America to gold?
Ryan Miller: In 2010, Ryan Miller faced more pressure than anybody should have to face. Overtime. Gold medal game against in Canada. Man, that just couldn’t be a fun scenario. While he did play fantastic, he wasn’t able to come out on top. As a member of the Sabres, Miller was made a reserve for Team USA at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, but did not play. Miller was selected as starting goalie for the United States hockey team in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Miller led the team to a perfect 5-0 start, including a 5-3 win over gold-medal favorite Canada in the preliminary round, stopping 42 of 45 shots. The five wins, including victories over Switzerland and Finland in the quarterfinals and semifinals respectively, brought the US to the gold medal game, where they faced Canada for the second time. In the gold medal game, the US lost 3-2 in overtime despite Miller’s 36 saves, as Sidney Crosby scored the game-winner in his second scoring attempt, after his first was saved by Miller. The US team won the silver medal, and Miller was named MVP of the tournament, with a save percentage of .946 and an American Olympic record GAA of 1.35. Miller also won IIHF best goaltender honors and was named to the All-Star team. The 2012-13 NHL Season did not go well for the Sabres as they finished 12th in the Eastern Conference and failed to qualify for the playoffs for the 2nd consecutive year. Miller’s play declined as well and he had his worst statistical year as the starter for the Sabres with a 2.81 GAA and a .915 Save percentage. On April 19, during a game against the New York Rangers, Miller allowed 4 goals on 14 shots leading to sarcastic cheers from the Buffalo home crowd and Miller responded by throwing his arms in the air. The game eventually ended in an 8-4 loss that eliminated the Sabres from playoff contention. It’s still not known for sure whether or not the Sabres will decide to keep Miller next year with Jhonas Enroth and Matt Hackett already looking for ice time, but he should still remain a factor in making the 2014 Olympic squad.
Note: I kept Corey Schneider off the list due to the uncertain goaltending situation in Vancouver.
1. Jonathan Quick
2. Craig Anderson
3. Jimmy Howard
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