The last two times the United States have won international hockey tournaments, it has done so on the back of excellent goaltending.
At the first World Cup of Hockey in 1996, it was Mike Richter, the tournament’s MVP, who led the Americans to victory. In 1980, it was famously Jim Craig, who stood on his against the mighty Soviet Union and throughout the tournament, that led the United States to its first Olympic Gold since 1960. This iteration will once again need to rely on excellent play between the pipes, given its flaws up front and on the back end.
Luckily, the Americans’ strongest position is in goal. The team boasts three reliable options with proven track records. One has a case full of trophies and awards, but it’s the one who’s received the least amount of mainstream recognition that may be the Americans’ best bet in net.
Team USA Goalies
Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning
Bishop is probably the least likely to start of the trio, but is someone that John Tortorella should absolutely feel comfortable turning to. The massive, 6’7” netminders has established himself as one of the league’s best since being traded to Tampa in 2013. He’s a proven postseason performer, with a career .927 SV% in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but is coming off of a scary ankle injury from this past postseason.
Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils
Since becoming a regular netminder in 2010-11, Cory Schneider has been the best American goalie in the NHL. He ranks 8th in even-strength save percentage (.931) among all goaltenders that have played a minimum of 1000 minutes over that span, and has done so despite playing on a subpar Devils team over the last three seasons. According to Corsica, he ranks 8th in high danger save percentage since 2010, which is also the best among Americans in that span. He may not make the flashy saves that other goalies do, but he’s rock solid positionally and has shown over the past three seasons that he can be consistently relied upon to carry a team. It’s evocative of Henrik Lundqvist on Tortorella’s Rangers, and the American coach would be wise to recognize the parallel and start Schneider.
Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
But, standing in Schneider’s way is two-time Stanley Cup champion, Conn Smythe winner, and Vezina finalist Jonathan Quick. Outside of his stellar playoff runs in 2012 and 2013, he’s been a solid, if unspectacular goalie in Los Angeles. To Quick’s credit, he has shown he’s capable of carrying the Kings during short stretches, and has the hardware to prove it. Plus, he was the least of the United States’ concerns in their disappointing Sochi performance, posting a .923 SV% in five games. As a result, I’d expect Quick to get the nod, even though that likely isn’t the right decision.