The goaltending situations for Team USA and Team Canada have been the best-kept secrets in international hockey over the past several weeks, but there is finally some transparency. Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings and Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens will start their respective openers in Sochi, according to Scott Burnside of ESPN.com.
Quick has been in direct competition with Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller for Team USA's starting job at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Miller was spectacular in leading the United States to the silver medal at the Vancouver Games as he was named tournament MVP.
Like Miller, prospective Team Canada backup Roberto Luongo had great success in 2010. The Vancouver Canucks netminder was between the pipes when Canada won gold, but he will make way for Price when Canada faces Norway on Thursday.
That doesn't necessarily mean that Luongo is out of the running in terms of being Canada's goalie in the knockout round, however. According to Stephen Whyno of The Canadian Press, Team Canada head coach Mike Babcock plans to start Luongo in the team's second game against Austria.
"I was going to play one of them in (each of) the first two games," Babcock said. "If I had put Luongo in, you'd be asking me the same question."
While some might view the decision to start Price to open the tournament as a slight against Luongo, the Canucks star is just happy to be part of the team, per Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports.
For me, I just want to be ready for whenever I'm called upon. As we saw last time, things change quickly. Whoever is playing doesn't matter as long as all three guys are ready to play. You learn how to handle things a certain way. At the end of the day I've always said, this is the Olympics, I want to enjoy being here and taking it all in. Everybody's going to have a different role on this team and if we're not all accepting of that role it's going to be tough for us to win.
Whyno provided an additional statement from Luongo:
We're all here to play for Team Canada, man. It's not about one player. We're all pulling the same rope. It's a team game right now. It's not about Roberto Luongo or Carey Price or Mike Smith. It's about being part of Team Canada. It doesn't matter what role you are given, you have to embrace it and accept it.
Who should be Team USA's starting goalie for the bulk of the tournament?
Canada's goaltending choice in the third group game against Finland and beyond may very well be up in the air and dependent upon the performances of Price and Luongo in the first two games. With that in mind, expect Price and Luongo to engage in a friendly game of one-upmanship.
Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mike Smith is also in the mix, but he is expected to reside in the press box as the clear No. 3 in the pecking order.
While it is known that Quick will start the opener against Slovakia for Team USA, it is unclear what lies ahead for the Kings star. Unlike Canada, Team USA's second game is its most difficult as it will take on host Russia.
Jerry Sullivan of The Buffalo News suspects that United States head coach Dan Bylsma may be saving Miller for that pivotal clash with Russia:
Jonathan Quick will start in goal for USA in first game vs. Slovakia. I figured they would use Miller vs. Russia to see if he had the magic.— Jerry Sullivan (@TBNSully) February 12, 2014
Kevin Oklobzija of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, on the other hand, believes Miller's long layoff will prevent him from starting either of the first two contests in Sochi:
Ryan Miller's last game was Feb. 5. Quick starts Thurs. for US, and there's no way Byslma throws the #Sabres goalie in rusty vs. Russia Sat.— Kevin Oklobzija (@kevinoDandC) February 12, 2014
Detroit Red Wings netminder Jimmy Howard could also factor in, but it seems likely that he is simply along for the ride as the emergency goaltender.
Bylsma has yet to tip his hand, but Quick's outing against Slovakia may very well be the determining factor. Despite playing on a far worse team this season, Miller has outperformed Quick with a .923 save percentage to Quick's mark of .911.
Whether Miller starts the second game against Russia or the third contest against Slovenia, expect him stake his claim for the starting job as well, meaning that the pressure will be on Quick to produce immediately.
Quick has a Stanley Cup to his credit, but Miller understands the pressure of playing in big Olympic games. He and Team USA came up just short in the their quest for gold against Canada in 2010. However, they wouldn't have made it that far without Miller's spectacular performances.
As good as Quick can be when he is on his game, he hasn't been great this season. Miller deserves an equal chance to prove to Bylsma that he can carry the load for the United States.
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