Complete Breakdown of Team USA's Goaltenders at 2014 Winter Olympics

Jonathan Willis@jonathanwillisNHL National ColumnistJanuary 1, 2014

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 26:  Goalkeeper Ryan Miller #39 of the United States looks at the puck during the ice hockey men's semifinal game between the United States and Finland on day 15 of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at Canada Hockey Place on February 26, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Entering the 2013-14 season, Team USA’s goalies represented the strongest point on a strong team, and the Americans had the top-end ability and depth to compete with anybody else in an Olympic tournament.

It would be a stretch to say now that all is lost. There is no doubt, however, that the goalies set to represent the red, white and blue in Sochi look considerably less formidable than they did only a few months ago.

ARLINGTON, VA - AUGUST 26: Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings poses after being named a candidate for the 2014 USA Hockey Olympic Team at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex on August 26, 2013 in Arlington, Virginia.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The team’s presumptive starter this summer, Jonathan Quick, is still in the conversation for the top job in Sochi, but he’s vulnerable on a few fronts.

Firstly, Quick has not played a game of hockey since early November when he suffered a groin injury against the Buffalo Sabres. He is expected back early this month, but Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times reports that he may start off with an AHL conditioning assignment before returning to the majors.

Second, and more critically, Quick hasn’t really looked like the goalie who turned in a brilliant, Conn Smythe-winning performance in the 2012 playoffs in quite a while. In 71 games and just under 2000 shots since, he has a decidedly middling 0.912 save percentage. Looking just at his regular season work over the last two years, that save percentage falls to 0.903.

The man who many felt would be the key to Team USA’s medal hopes has been both hurt and unimpressive.

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 10:  Ryan Miller #30 of the Buffalo Sabres tends goal against the Ottawa Senators on December 10, 2013 at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)
Bill Wippert/Getty Images

Fortunately for the United States, it still has Ryan Miller. Miller, who had some ups and downs last season, and who was seen as some as the odd man out for the 2014 team today, looks like the best goalie on the roster.

Miller started for Team USA in 2010, leading the Olympics with a 0.946 save percentage and winning both the award for best goaltender and most valuable player in the tournament. But it is his work this season on an awful Buffalo Sabres team that has him on the team.

He has a 0.927 save percentage for worst team in the NHL. Six times this season he’s lost games where he had at least 35 saves and a save percentage north of 0.920, and three times he’s posted a 0.950 save percentage or better in a game and still posted a loss. He’s been given almost no support but it hasn’t stopped him from putting on a clinic in the Sabres’ net.

ANN ARBOR, MI - DECEMBER 31: Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings looks on at practice during 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium on December 31, 2013 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Winning third-string duties is Detroit Red Wings starter Jimmy Howard. While it’s likely that Howard won’t play, he’s still an interesting choice. Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop (20-5-3, 0.935 save percentage) is the hottest goalie going into the roster announcement. New Jersey goalie Cory Schneider has better numbers this season (5-8-5, 0.914 save percentage) and on his career (60-34-13, 0.926 save percentage).

Instead, the American management team opted for Howard, a goalie in the middle of a poor season (6-9-7, 0.906 save percentage) and with respectable, but not irresistible career numbers (137-76-33, 0.917 save percentage).

Whatever the failings of Quick, Miller and Howard as a group, though, one thing the trio possesses is experience in pressure situations. Quick has been a playoff MVP and has 50 games of playoff experience. Miller has been through an Olympics once before and has 47 NHL playoff games on his resume. Howard has played 42 postseason games in the best league in the world. All three have posted strong numbers in those postseason runs.

Regardless of whether Miller or Quick emerges as the team’s starter, and regardless of whether Howard is called on or not, Team USA will have a pressure-tested goalie with a distinguished career between the pipes. Doubtless, that was the idea.