SOCHI, Russia — When Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick was named to the U.S. Olympic team for the 2010 Vancouver Games, he knew he wouldn’t see much action behind Ryan Miller and Tim Thomas. And he didn’t, dressing as the backup for only one game and otherwise serving as the third goalie as Team USA won the silver medal.
Much has changed since then for Quick, who has a Stanley Cup title and Conn Smythe trophy on his resume and is vying for the starting job with Miller. But Quick insisted he’s not preparing any differently for potentially seeing a lot of action in the Sochi hockey tournament than he did while preparing to sit around a lot and try to stay sharp in Vancouver.
“Last time, you know where you were on the depth chart but you still kind of prepare as if, just because anything could happen,” Quick said Tuesday after Team USA practiced at the Bolshoy Ice Dome training rink.
“So you’re staying prepared. And in 2010, at the end of the tournament, you still have a season to play so you’re trying to stay in shape and get in as much work as you can, when you can.
“I wouldn’t say this is that much different. You keep working out and keep trying to get better every day. And if you get the opportunity to play you try to make the most of it.”
U.S. Coach Dan Bylsma said he has decided which goalie will start but won’t disclose his choice. Bylsma huddled with Quick, Miller and No. 3 goalie Jimmy Howard for quite a while on Tuesday, but Miller later said they were just working out the key words the U.S. defensemen will yell to help the goalie when the puck is around the net.
Quick said he’s not nervous about the decision.
“I wouldn’t say pins and needles. We have three goalies that are great and could win games,” he said. “Even picking the team, from the coaches’ standpoint and the GM, to narrow it down to three wasn’t easy. And to narrow it down to one who is going to play is probably even tougher. You don’t envy their position as a coaching staff but we have three great goalies here that all want to play and all want to win. At the end of the day, whatever situation is, you’re just going to try to contribute to the team, whatever your role is.”
It’s an especially interesting situation because Quick missed a chunk of the season after injuring a groin muscle in mid-November and there was some question whether he would be able to return to top form in time for the Olympics. Miller has played 39 games for the Buffalo Sabres and has a 2.74 goals-against average and .923 save percentage. Quick has a 2.18 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 32 games.
The other interesting angle is that Miller and Quick are friends who sometimes skate together in Los Angeles over the summer. Miller said they’ve managed to compete but maintain mutual respect.
“I think we have a good relationship. I just like to have fun with him, joke around, talk a little bit,” Miller said. “He’s an easy-going guy.”
Miller also said he’s a fan of Quick’s game.
“I enjoy watching him play. I like to watch him compete. He’s pretty inspirational as a player,” Miller said. “The way he can move and the way he brings his intensity is something that’s kind of infectious and kind of rubs off.
“I like to feel that I’m a competitive person so I want to show that I can play, too, even though he’s probably one of the guys in the league that you can say is amazingly strong, agile, quick, flexible. He’s an impressive goaltender. I just have a lot of fun being on the ice with him and talking to him.”
Both Miller and Quick have experience playing on the international ice surface, which, at 100 feet wide, is 15 feet wider than NHL rinks. Quick said his college rink at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst was bigger than NHL size and he also played against other teams that had international-size rinks.
“At the end of the day it’s still the same game,” he said “Obviously there’s a little more room width-wise. But the net is the same size and you’re still trying to protect the front. As far as D-zone coverage, at times you have to be a little more patient, and in the offensive zone, sometimes you have a little more room to make a play. I think everyone’s played on the big sheet before, whether in college or junior or whatever. …
“At the end of the day the net is the same size. You’ve just got to stop the puck.”