The United States have a decision to make in the near future regarding their netminder for the World Cup of Hockey. Each of their three goalies have played two periods thus far with some pre-tournament action left to play. USA’s options are a two-time Stanley Cup champion that has been the Americans’ starter on the Olympic stage, or a pair of goalies that have not yet won a Stanley Cup or recent medals for their country.
Jonathan Quick is the goalie with the impressive pedigree, while Ben Bishop’s and Cory Schneider’s resumes look bare in comparison.
Still, goaltenders look as good as their teams look, so it is worth considering that Quick played behind phenomenal Los Angeles Kings teams, helping him create his “big game” reputation. Individual statistics must play a major role in determining the starting goalie, as the goaltender with the best statistics is most likely to support the team put in front of him.
Under this scope, Quick’s 0.928 even strength save percentage since Bishop joined Quick and Schneider in the NHL in 2013 ranks second in the trio. Quick also ranks second in medium and high danger save percentages as well, with Schneider finishing ahead of him. Looking at those statistics, it appears the inexperienced Bishop can be removed from the equation, leaving the statistically superior Schneider, and the reputation-led Quick.
Cory Schneider has been touted as the “correct” pick for the United States goaltending position despite Quick being the incumbent. John Tortorella has made some interesting decisions before, so the choice could certainly swing either way. There is an argument for Jonathan Quick outside of counting the rings, however, one that must be understood regardless of who is in net once the games begin to count.
Jonathan Quick has won the big games. Yes, he has had a superior team in front of him, but statistically he has consistently picked up his game when it mattered most. Quick owns a fine 0.919 save percentage in the postseason since two ghastly performances in his first two playoffs, but an 0.886 save percentage this past series against the San Jose Sharks cratered the average some.
In Sochi for team USA, Quick tallied a 0.923 save percentage, including surrendering only one goal to Canada in the semifinals. He has the experience leading a team when it matters most, whether it be avoiding giving up the big goals, or carrying the team when necessary.
In the 2012 playoffs, Quick allowed only eight goals in five games in the opening round, six goals in four games in the second round, then eight goals in five games once again in the Western Conference Final. In the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final, Los Angeles scored a measly four goals, but Quick backstopped the team to victory anyway, allowing only two goals.
The Kings never looked back, and Quick led the team to a championship. The ability to turn up a notch when it matters most isn’t insignificant, though Schneider hasn’t had many chances to match his counterpart.
Perhaps most importantly however, the exact reason many want Jonathan Quick out of the net is why he should be in the net.
Jonathan Quick is a fundamentally disastrous goaltender. He exits the net when he should be staying in, leaves his position so often Henrik Lundqvist likely couldn’t bear to watch, and overall plays a style that begs to be exploited. He is a hit or miss goalie, and when he misses it is not pretty to watch. Being hit or miss does allow for the possibility of a hit, however, and when Quick hits, he knocks it out of the park.
Quick’s ability to steal games cannot be understated in a tournament in which USA is not icing their best roster, nor do they have the team to compete with Canada in all likelihood. For America to take down their chief rivals, it is very likely they will need their goalie to steal the game for them, something he has shown to be capable of doing in the past. While a stolen game is far from a guarantee, with the inability to match Canada in talent, Quick may be a risk worth taking.
A game to remember is Latvia’s near upset of Canada in the 2014 olympics. Latvia was outshot 57-16, yet lost by a final of 2-1 despite having a far inferior team. USA is greatly more talented than Latvia, but should expect to face a similar scenario in which the goaltender must contain Canada and allow the offense to only need to breakthrough once or twice.
Quick may not be the best goalie on the roster, but he is a voodoo magic machine, and a voodoo magic machine could be crazy enough to knock down the giant that is Canada.