Dan Bylsma, the head coach for Team USA, has a very difficult decision to make before the US men’s hockey team takes to the ice—his starting goalie.
Many countries covet what the US has in terms of goaltending depth and would love to be in the position that USA Hockey is in. While USA may enjoy the depth, the question is though who should Bylsma start?
Does he start young Jonathan Quick who has won not only a Conn Smythe, playoff MVP trophy, and a Stanley Cup but has been one of the best goaltenders since 2011 and arguably the best net minder since 2011.
Or does he go with Olympic hero Ryan Miller who had some down seasons but has really put the Buffalo Sabres on his back and carried the team as far as he can, knowing the Sabres lack the talent of a competitive team?
Dan Bylsma should start Ryan Miller instead of Jonathan Quick for a few reasons.
The first reason would be Miller has had international experience playing against the players that Team USA will face in the Olympics. He played Team USA to a silver medal and was one score away from a gold medal. He knows his competition and has the body of work to prove that he can handle the spot light when the pressure is on.
The second reason is that Miller has the better numbers and consistency so far this season. Although his win record doesn’t show it, right now he is the only thing keeping the Sabres in consideration as an NHL team whereas Quick is having an easier season with the Kings playing very well and in the playoff hunt.
If one were to look at the numbers, Quick’s save percentage of .911 may not seem too far a cry from Miller’s .923 save percentage. It really isn’t on the surface but Quick has been injured and as mentioned before the Kings are a better team than the Sabres. Miller hasn’t missed any games like Quick has due to injury so there is a smaller sample size for Quick. In reality, Miller faced more shots and played in more games making his save percentage more consistent over longer period of time.
Going even further than just an ordinary save percentage by looking at the Corsi percentage of each team and one can see why Miller is the better choice. Corsi is an advanced statistic that measures puck possession based on a formula involving all of the shots taken in a game.
The King’s Corsi percentage is currently best in the league at 56 percent according to the advance statistics site Extra Skater. That means that the Kings possess the puck 56 percent of the time over the course of all of their games which tends to leads to more shots and the likely instance of a goal occurring. The Sabres, however, rank last at 42 percent.
So jargon aside, what those percent numbers tell is a story of how better Miller’s save percentage is compared to Quick’s. He has faced more shots, not only through being uninjured, but also because his team doesn’t possess the puck at least 50 percent per game so he is working harder at keeping his team in the game because they don’t have the puck often.
Both goalies have had a great season so far and have made Bylsma’s choice difficult. With that being said only one can be the starter for Team USA in it’s first matchup and hopefully as the no 1 net minder for the whole tournament.
Considering the numbers and the history, Miller should start in Team USA’s first game as he is more of a known quantity to the team. If he isn’t up-to-par then Bylsma can turn to Quick for an answer in net.
It’s a win-win situation for Team USA but they only get one shot of getting it right the first time if USA wants to win gold.