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Who are the hottest goalies going into the Olympics?

Feb 5, 2014, 3:44 PM EDT

Goalie Ryan Miller of the United States looks on during warm ups against the ice hockey men's preliminary game between Canada and USA on day 10 of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at Canada Hockey Place on February 21, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada.
(February 20, 2010 - Source: Harry How/Getty Images North America) Getty Images

As we’ve seen since NHLers began participating in the Winter Olympics in ’98, one hot goalie can make a world of difference.

Dominik Hasek stole the show en route to the Czechs capturing gold in Nagano. Finnish netminder Antero Niittymaki was named tournament MVP for the silver medal-winning Finns in 2006. Ryan Miller did much of the same in Vancouver, capturing MVP honors as the U.S. lost to Canada in the gold medal game.

So… which netminders are looking sharp heading into Sochi?

United States: Miller and Jonathan Quick

American head coach Dan Bylsma wouldn’t tip his hand as to who would start in Sochi — “that’s not a question I’m ready to answer,” he told NHL.com on Friday — but Quick didn’t do himself any favors last week when he got hooked in a 4-1 loss to the Penguins.

Quick’s two games since weren’t great, either. He gave up two goals on 13 shots in a loss to Philly on the weekend, then got torched for five goals on 30 shots in a loss to Chicago two nights ago.

Miller, meanwhile, was hooked in his last outing — a 7-1 drubbing by Colorado — but had been playing well prior to that, allowing six goals over three games. He’ll have a big chance to make a mark on Bylsma tonight, as he’ll start when the Sabres host the Pens on NBCSN.

Canada: Carey Price and Roberto Luongo

Head coach Mike Babcock told Sportsnet radio Price and Luongo will likely split Canada’s first two games — against Norway and Austria — but wouldn’t say which goalie would start when Canada opens against the Norwegians on Feb. 13.

Price has been rock solid lately, rebounding from a rough stretch in January when he allowed at least four goals in five straight games. He’s given up just four goals over his last four starts and posted shutouts over Calgary (27 saves) and Carolina (36 saves).

Luongo has been average over his last five, winning just once while allowing 16 goals.

Czech Republic: Ondrej Pavelec

Pavelec might be the NHL’s most improved netminder over recent weeks, as his play took a noted uptick after the coaching change from Claude Noel to Paul Maurice. Pavelec is 7-2-0 since the switch, putting up quality wins in Anaheim (stopping 40 of 42 shots) and Carolina (stopping 28 of 29). It’s a far cry from the substandard play he displayed in the early parts of the season, and that has to be a boon for the Czechs heading into Sochi.

Sweden: Henrik Lundqvist

Here’s the big one. Lundqvist’s been outstanding lately and is peaking at the right time. He’s held opponents to two or fewer goals in nine of his last 10 games — going 8-2-0 over that stretch — and stopped 27 shots against Colorado in a 5-1 win on Tuesday. Sweden boasts one of the deepest and most talented rosters at the Olympics and will be a formidable foe should Lundqvist continue this run.

Finland: Tuukka Rask

Assistant GM Jarmo Kekalainen wouldn’t commit to which goalie — Rask, Antti Niemi or Kari Lehtonen — would start in Sochi, but it’s widely speculated the B’s netminder will get the call. Rask’s been a model of consistency all season long and, save for some sketchy goals allowed in mid-January, has been one of the NHL’s best goalies this year, boasting a 25-13-3 record with a 2.09 GAA and .929 save percentage.

Slovakia: Jaroslav Halak

Halak continues to platoon with Brian Elliott in the St. Louis goal, but he’ll be the clear-cut No. 1 for the Slovaks in Sochi. Halak’s biggest issue, as it’s been for a while, is with consistency. Check out his last 10 games:

source:

Good overall, but some big letdown games in the mix. The Slovaks will hope that Halak can get on a crazy hot streak, much like what he did with Montreal during the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Russia: The hosts have to be thrilled with their options in goal. Semyon Varlamov and Sergei Bobrovsky have both been great over the last month — Bobrovsky went 8-2-0 in January with a .926 save percentage, while Varlamov thrived in the face of some really high shot totals (he beat Chicago with 46 saves, Dallas with 41 and Florida with 34.)

At this point, there’s no clear-cut favorite as to who’ll start when Russia opens the tournament against Slovenia, but either option will be a quality one.

Switzerland: It stands to reason Jonas Hiller will be facing a lot of rubber in Sochi, as Switzerland was drawn into a group with the Czechs and Swedes. Thankfully for the Swiss, Hiller is enjoying a tremendous campaign in Anaheim — he was named one of the three stars for December and earned a star of the week in January. Hiller’s 24-8-4 on the year with a 2.35 GAA and .915 save percentage, but has cooled off of late by losing four of his last five starts.

The rest: Slovenia, Austria, Norway and Latvia don’t have any goalies currently playing in the NHL. The closest is Latvia’s Kristers Gudļevskis, currently playing for Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate in Syracuse. Gudlevskis is 10-8-2 for the Crunch this season, with a 2.78 GAA and .898 save percentage.

  1. sabatimus - Feb 5, 2014 at 3:49 PM

    Beefcake?

  2. Whooten Anit - Feb 5, 2014 at 4:35 PM

    Corey Schneider has looked amazing since late December, lack of goal support notwithstanding.

    Oh wait….forget it.

    • chanceoffleury - Feb 5, 2014 at 9:15 PM

      I’m not sure what the obsession with Schneider is. Has he been great? absolutely. But it’s not like putting him on the team would result in replacing somebody who isn’t worthy. Quick has proved himself to be quite the cut throat performer. Average regular seasons followed by insane playoff runs these past 2 years. It’s comical to even entertain the idea that Schneider’s 3 good playoff games to Quick’s past 2 runs of 38 games with a .940 S% is even comparable. The playoffs are really the best level of judgment since neither has much international experience at all, either. And anybody who thought Miller didn’t have a top 2 spot has got to be delusional. He’s been putting up crazy good numbers behind an abysmal, possibly league worst defense all year. Team USA’s number 1 has been his job to lose since he stepped off the ice in Vancouver in 2010. He’s done nothing to justify not getting a nod. I’m sorry, but I don’t care what Schneider’s done over the past month or two, I’ll take Quick and Miller over him as the pair I dress for the Olympics every day and twice on Sundays.

  3. barkar942 - Feb 5, 2014 at 5:08 PM

    Norway won’t need a goalie with Zuccarello just ragging the puck and playing keep away from their opponents!
    Personally, I really think the quality of the goalies is top shelf this time around. Should be an awesome tournament.
    Question is who plays the best D in front of them all? We know that won’t be Russia.

    • phxyotes - Feb 5, 2014 at 5:35 PM

      Russia will be lucky to place top 5. Those clowns don’t play and D at all and just leave their goalies hung out to dry.

  4. phxyotes - Feb 5, 2014 at 5:33 PM

    I like how there is no mention of Mike Smith who’s been better than blow Luango and Price as of late.

    • pxland - Feb 5, 2014 at 5:38 PM

      Who is Mike Smith?

    • bsaures - Feb 5, 2014 at 6:45 PM

      Price has 2 shutouts in his last 4 and overall has been much better than smith this year

  5. muckleflugga - Feb 5, 2014 at 7:47 PM

    barkar942

    russia’s style of defence involves playing keep-away in the offensive zone … much as detroit did when the russian five owned the north american game

    here it is no there it is no its over there no it’s back here yes there it is no there it is no its over there no it’s back here yes there it is … zip clang red light red light … in the net

  6. jimw81 - Feb 6, 2014 at 2:50 AM

    Jonathan Quick won the job after miller’s performance vs penguins but dont be surprised if Jonas Hiller steals games for the swiss..

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