Slovakia v. United States Olympic Hockey Preview: Quick picked, Brown moved around
Slovakia won't be an easy task for the US in their opener.
Slovakia v. United States
Time: Feb. 13, 4:30 AM (PST)
Team USA Line-up
Dustin Brown - Ryan Kesler - Patrick Kane
James Van Riemsdyk - Joe Pavelski - Phil Kessel
Zach Parise - David Backes - Ryan Callahan
Max Pacioretty - Paul Statsny - TJ Oshie
Ryan Suter - Paul Martin
Ryan McDonagh - Kevin Shattenkirk
Brooks Orpik - John Carlson
Cam Fowler- Justin Faulk
Team Slovakia Line-upTomas Tatar
Milan Bartovic - Tomas Surovy - Michel Miklik
- Marcel Hossa
Meszaros - Ivan Baranka
Tomas Starosta - Rene Vydardeny
Injured: Marian Gaborik, Lubomir Visnovsky
Quick named the starter
Today’s biggest news has been Jonathan Quick getting the starting nod. There are many reasons to be wary about this, as Fear the Fin delineated in an excellent post earlier today. The number one reason would be Quick’s .906 combined save percentage while battling injuries and inconsistent play over the last two seasons.
Related, SB Nation’s Eric T. argued that inconsistent play from a goalie may not be the worst thing in the world (for an average team). That being said, it is not something that should be at the top of your list when picking a goaltender. Further, it is very difficult to make any sort of coherent argument as to why the USA’s most consistent goaltender (Cory Schneider) was left off the roster.
Over the short term and in a tournament such as the Olympics the differences between Quick, Miller, and Jimmy Howard are likely relatively small. Any of them have the potential of getting insanely hot over the course of the Olympics. In fact, Hockey Graphs recently projected future goaltending performances and the differences between the three were pretty tiny.
It’s safe to assume, given his performance in the ’11-12 Stanley Cup Playoffs, that Quick has had the starting job locked down. A strong performance in last year’s playoffs further solidified that it was his job to lose. Whether that’s fair or not is debatable, but should one falter, it’s nice to have options.
Unfortunately for the US, the selection committee didn’t maximize their options. The true injustice regarding the American goaltending situation isn’t Quick getting the nod over Miller. It was leaving Cory Schneider off the roster. As Darryl Sutter once said regarding save percentage, “it’s a stat that tells the truth. That’s one stat that doesn’t lie.” Schneider, along with Tuuka Rask, leads all active goaltenders in save percentage. And as per Hockey Graphs’ numbers, he projects to put up a .922 save percentage over the next three years.
Dustin Brown moved around
(Updated)Dan Bylsma changed up his line combinations in yesterday’s practice and bumped Brown down to 4th line duties. That really wasn’t much of a diss considering that the talent level on Team USA’s line is spread pretty evenly and the 4th line isn’t what you would figure a traditional 4th line to be.
In this morning’s practice, Brown was back playing with Kesler on Kane on what is probably the top line. Brown was with Kesler and Kane in the 2010 Olympics but managed 0 points in 6 games.
It has been a struggle for Brown this season and he is probably way behind where he’d like to be heading into the Olympics. He’s on pace to score just 14 goals this season which would be his fewest since 2005-06.
Perhaps Brown’s fancy new American linemates (whoever they turn out to be) can help him out of his slump.
Slovakia still a dangerous team despite injuries
The losses of Marian Gaborik and Lubomir Visnovisky are huge for Slovakia, which brings down the number of active NHL players on their roster down from 14 to 12. Despite that there is a lot of talent on their rosters. Their top defensive pair features Zdeno Chara and Andrej Sekera which is about as strong of a top pair as you’ll find in the tournament. Sekera, who was under the radar in Buffalo (we argued the Kings should have picked him up over Regehr at last year’s trade deadline), is having a breakout season in Carolina.
Marian Hossa and Tomas Tatar (who is on a 22 goal pace with the Red Wings) provide some skill up front. Jaroslav Halak will provide some decent goaltending. Outside of that, their isn't much gthat Slovakia has going for it.
Look for their top players to get some big minutes against the US and if they are at their best they could give the US a real headache in the opener.