Chris O’Meara/Associated Press
Tired of running around in this gross, humid summer heat?
Well, man up because it’s not going anywhere for at least the next few weeks.
Despite that fact, you have a reason to cheer up because the 2014 Winter Olympic Games and Olympic hockey tournament, to be played in Sochi, Russia this coming February, are right around the corner.
USA Hockey has released the names of those invited to its Olympic orientation camp, slated for Aug. 26 and 27 at the Washington Capitals’ practice facility in Arlington, Va., and we here at The Healthy Scratches are here to break it all down for you position by position.
Today, we’ll take a look at the goaltenders that have been invited and make our predictions on who plays between the pipes for the Americans in Sochi.
We’ll look at the forwards and defensemen later this week, next week or whenever Greg is lucid enough to string actual thoughts together and yell profane things at Harry after hand surgery this week. Or maybe we won’t get around to the forwards and the defensemen. Who knows? WE OWN THE SITE, NOT YOU! BOW TO YOUR SENSEI(s)!
Anyway, go throw on your jorts, crack open a case of Budweiser and shoot off homemade fireworks in your backyard, America, because it’s time to analyze the potential U.S. Olympic goaltenders!
Craig Anderson Park Ridge, Ill. Ottawa Senators
John Gibson Pittsburgh Anaheim Ducks (Currently with AHL Norfolk)
Jimmy Howard Syracuse, N.Y Detroit Red Wings
Ryan Miller East Lansing, Mich. Buffalo Sabres
Jonathan Quick Milford, Conn. Los Angeles Kings
Cory Schneider Marblehead, Mass. New Jersey Devils
Holy moly, the goaltending position is an embarrassment of riches for United States. Five of the six invited to the camp could start for almost any other country, especially Canada, which has no idea where it wants to go with its goaltending. (Please let it be Roberto Luongo just so the whole country and its media starts the preverbal storm of second-guessing a guy who couldn’t start for his own team this past season.)
No disrespect at all here to John Gibson, the sixth man, but he’s just a tad bit on the young and inexperienced side compared to the other goaltending invitees.
Gibson’s the real deal though. He backstopped the U.S. to the gold medal at the 2013 World Junior Championships and was named a tournament all-star and the tournament MVP along the way. Take that, Canada!
Consider this invite Gibson’s award for that stellar work and his chance to learn from and be around some of the best the goaltenders in the world. Look out for him in 2018 in South Korea, that is if the NHL allows its players to head over to the Far East for those games.
Now then, let’s get to the real juicy part.
Of the five remaining goaltenders, we’re going to eliminate Schneider next.
It’s nothing against Schneider, but he just doesn’t have the experience of the other four remaining goaltenders. His situation in Vancouver where he had to split time with Luongo over the past few seasons hasn’t really helped his Olympic candidacy.
Over the past three seasons of splitting time with Strombone, Schneider has won 53 of the 88 games he’s played in while posting a .931 save percentage, a 2.10 goals-against average and nine shutouts. His numbers aren’t the issue.
The shame of it is that if his trade to New Jersey had happened earlier in his career, his chances of being an American Olympian would have been much better because he would have had more of a role even with an aging Martin Brodeur in the picture. Schneider’s time is coming, though.
We’re down to four and the next one voted off the U.S. Olympic island is… Howard.
Sure, Howard has been an NHL starter for four seasons now and a successful at that. He’s taken his Red Wings to the second round of the playoffs in those four seasons and was named in all-star in 2012.
But Howard’s story is almost the same as Schneider’s because it comes down to experience.
Yes, Howard has been a full-time starter for four years now with very good Red Wings teams. He’s more than capable of being an Olympian and even a starter. But compared to the other guys left, he’s inexperienced, especially at this level.
Howard is an excellent goalie but he is a victim of his position here because the U.S. is so stacked at goaltender. Canadians are wiping tears away because he isn’t from north of the border. He would be their starter in a heartbeat.
That brings us to the United States’ third-string goaltender. Drumrolls, please… Anderson.
Has anyone benefited from a change of scenery more in the past few seasons than Anderson?
He’s been spectacular since the 2011 trade that sent him from Colorado to Ottawa. Not only he has he been spectacular, he’s been the backbone of the young, energetic Senators, who have reached the playoffs the last two seasons despite numerous key injuries and predictions of sheer and utter doom.
He was especially stellar last season before suffering an ankle injury in Februrary and missing about 6 weeks of action. He was 8-4-2 before the injury with a 1.57 goals-against average and a .950 (!) save percentage. He was a lock for the Vezina Trophy before the injury.
Anderson returned and led Ottawa to a first-round upset of Montreal and played well in the next round against Pittsburgh.
All of this with a young, inexperienced defense in front of him.
The moral here is that Anderson has proved that he can carry the load. He deserves a shot on the team and he should get it, just not in front of the last two goalies we’ve yet to touch upon.
Which brings us to our back-up goalie, 2010’s Captain America, Ryan Miller.
Throw away his “average” performances over the past few seasons. He’s been concussed, had no protection from his teammates and played on some pretty stinky Sabre teams.
By the way, Miller hasn’t been all that “average” the past two seasons. He has 46 wins, a 2.81 goals-against average, a .916 save percentage and six shutouts in that time frame. There are plenty of teams out there that would kill for those numbers on a consistent basis – *cough* Philadelphia *cough*. He’s really the only reason Buffalo has been somewhat competitive in that span.
That fact aside, Miller deserves another shot at Olympic glory after the way he stood on his head in Vancouver in 2010 on his way to a silver medal.
He was a star-spangled wizard during that tournament, going 5-1 with a 1.35 (!) goals-against average, a .946 save percentage and a shutout. His only loss was in the gold-medal game but we don’t have to talk about that. The dude stood on his head and was the driving force behind the surprising American push that year.
Plus, Miller is only 33 years old, still in the prime of his career and will actually get to play with a good defense in front of him for the first time since, well, 2010. He’s a lock in our view.
And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, our prediction for the United States’ starting goalie in Sochi in 2014.
Ok, this is going to be the most anticlimactic thing ever. It’s obviously Quick because he’s the only one of the goaltenders we haven’t mentioned yet. We’re sorry. We suck.
While we may suck, Quick most certainly does not. In fact, he’s pound-for-pound the best goaltender in the world right now.
The 27-year-old Connecticut native and 2012 Conn Smythe Award winner is the ruler of the goaltending roost.
He’s led Los Angeles to the playoffs in each of his four seasons as a starter, compiling 127 wins, a 2.30 goals-against average, a .914 save percentage and 21 shutouts in the span.
His 2011-2012 Stanley Cup-winning campaign was off the charts. During that regular season, he posted a 1.95 (!) goals-against in 69 games played. That’s fairly impressive, if we do say so ourselves. But his playoff numbers from that season are just stupefying. During the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the 2012 all-star went 16-4 with a 1.41 (!) goals-against average, .946 save percentage, and three shutouts.
Toss away the numbers, have you seen this guy play? He’s unbelievable. He’s like a human Stretch Armstrong. Shame on you if you don’t understand that reference.
At 6-feet, 1-inch tall and 214 pounds, Quick doesn’t take up the whole net like Pekka Rinne or Ben Bishop but he’s incredible flexible and, forgive the pun, incredibly quick.
Just when the opponent thinks he has him beat, he rises from the dead to absolutely stun the opponent and make him feel shame.
Quick is the best in the world at what he does. Isn’t proving that fact the whole point of this Olympics thing?