By Jerry Sullivan
SOCHI, Russia -- U.S. hockey coach Dan Bylsma said after practice here Friday that he will stick with the Kings' Jonathan Quick in goal for Saturday's big Olympic meeting with the host Russians and continue to use the Sabres' Ryan Miller as the backup.
I was a little surprised by the decision. All along, I'd suspected that Bylsma would rotate his goalies in the first two games and use Miller in the big spot against Russia to see if he still had the magic of 2010, when he led the Americans to the gold-medal game and was named MVP of the tournament.
"Jonathan will be starting in net tomorrow," Bylsma said in the practice rink at Bolshoy Arena. "He played real well in Game One. I thought there was a period of inactivity in that game, and he had to stay sharp, stay focused, and it was followed by two really big saves he had to make. I thought he played really well in the game."
Bylsma acknowledged Miller's great play in Vancouver, and his experience at this level. But he said Miller is his backup for the time being.
"Jonathan Quick is a goalie who’s guided his team to a Stanley Cup and was a huge factor, and a guy who in the past 12 games, the last month, has a goals against just a shade over two and a .918 save percentage," Bylsma said. "Those are great numbers. He's a great goalie. He was for us in Game One, and he's going to need to be in Game Two."
Miller has faced more shots and saved a higher percentage of them this season than Quick, who missed the early part of the year with a groin injury. Miller is 14-22-3 with a 2.74 goals-against. But he has a .923 save percentage. Quick is 16-13-2 with a 2.18 GAA, but a save percentage of only .911.
Miller had a 9-4-3 record and .940 save percentage from Dec. 10 to the end of January. He gave up 10 goals on 61 shots in his two February games before the Olympic break, which might have hurt his cause.
Still, coaches are known for switching during the course of an Olympics. If Quick falters, we'll see Miller in the net. At some point, Bylsma will want to find out if Miller can rediscover his form of 2010. If he doesn't, and the Americans falter, there will be lots of second-guessing.