USA coach, Dan Bylsma, announced today that Jonathan Quick will get the start in goal against Team Russia in their game Saturday morning. The move is not entirely unexpected, as Quick and the US team handled Team Slovakia with ease on Wednesday, beating the Slovaks 7-1. As the old saying goes: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But with Ryan Miller waiting in the wings for the United States, is giving Quick the start against Russia confidence from the coach or is there something more behind the scenes?
Let us get this out of the way first: Jonathan Quick is an amazing goaltender and Bylsma has every reason to have full confidence in the Connecticut-native. After all, Quick and the Los Angeles Kings recently won the Stanley Cup, with Quick winning the Conn Smythe award for most valuable player in the playoffs. Though his regular season numbers have been average of late, he knows how to perform and get the wins in big games. There are few as big as a game against Russia.
Ryan Miller also has his share of accolades. He won the Vezina for the National Hockey League’s best goaltender in the 2009-2010 season. He was also the goaltender that led Team USA to a silver medal in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic games. Though the United States missed out on the gold, Miller was named the most valuable player of the tournament. Bylsma should have just as much confidence in Ryan Miller as Jonathan Quick to start against Russia, unless there was something more happening behind the scenes.
Ryan Miller plays for the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres are a bad team this year. There is really no other way to put it. They are currently twenty-ninth out of the 30 teams in the National Hockey League and have the lowest win total out of all the teams. The Buffalo organization has indicated they are ready to begin a lengthy rebuild, a rebuild that Miller has said he wants no part of. The Sabres will try to trade Miller before the March trade deadline in order to kickstart their rebuild and give Miller a chance at winning the Stanley Cup.
Many teams have been rumored to be interested Buffalo goaltender, including the St. Louis Blues, the Washington Capitals, and the Winnipeg Jets. No doubt there are more teams that have not been leaked. The Pittsburgh Penguins could be one of them. The Penguins have finished near the top of the standings the past couple of years, but their playoff runs have ended quickly, eliminated in the first round both times. Their goaltending has been a big reason why. Marc-Andre Fleury has performed admirably in the regular season, but seems to crack under the pressure of the playoffs. Miller could fix any goaltending woes the Penguins may face, but only if he is healthy enough to do so.
With one team already losing a key player to injury in these Olympic games, as Team Sweden’s captain, Henrik Zetterberg is out for the tournament with an injured back, no doubt many general managers and coaches are being cautious with their players, especially those with an injury history like Miller has. Miller has a history of concussions, stemming from a 2011 hit from Boston Bruin forward Milan Lucic. If the Penguins are interested in the goaltender, it is their organization’s best interest to have Miller play as little as possible in the Olympics.
Luckily for them, they have control over that decision. Dan Bylsma is not only the coach of Team USA, but also the coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Team USA also has the Pittsburgh Penguin’s general manager, Ray Shero, as part of their executive staff. Jonathan Quick will get the start against Team Russia on Saturday, but is that decision made because of the confidence the coaching staff has in the goaltender or is there something more happening behind the scenes?
By Jonathan Gardner