Team USA’s Tough Decision in Net

Team USA opened their training camp for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey yesterday. The 23 players that will represent the United States will come together at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio where they will practice and participate in a pre-tournament game against Team Canada later this week.

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
173 NHL players will compete against on another in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. (Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)

The United States will end their tune up with a game against Team Finland at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC, three days before the preliminary round opens on Sept. 17 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

As Team USA tries to form some chemistry and work out any kinks before their first contest of the tournament against Team Europe, one major decision will have to be made.

Who will be between the pipes for the States?

When it comes to who mans the crease for the United States, Team USA general manager Dean Lombardi and head coach John Tortorella, likely welcome the tough decision that has to be made.

Team USA has a trio of goalies in Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles Kings), Cory Schneider (New Jersey Devils) and Ben Bishop (Tampa Bay Lightning) that could carry the Americans through the tournament. Any one of the three goalies on the team’s roster could give the United States a chance to win every game. The question now for Lombardi and Tortorella is, who will be the starter for Team USA?

A Look at the Numbers

All three goalies have a resumé that would warrant them the starting role for Team USA. Quick led the Kings to two Stanley Cup championships in 2012 and 2014 and won the Conn Smythe in 2012, Bishop has carried the Lightning to at least the Eastern Conference Final each of the last two seasons and Schneider kept a mediocre Devils team afloat for much of last season.

Last season’s totals suggest much of the same. Quick posted a 2.22 goals against average, recorded five shutouts and won 40 games, fewer than only Braden Holtby who won 48 games for the Capitals. Bishop led the league with a 2.06 goals against average, posted a .926 save percentage, good enough for second in the league, and won 35 games. Schneider finished the season with a 2.15 goals against average and a .924 save percentage. While both Quick and Bishop were finalists for last season’s Vezina Trophy.

Tough to go wrong when you’re picking from three of the top five or so goalies in the NHL. But that is what is going to have to be done, a starter is going to have to be selected to anchor Team USA throughout the tournament.

Jonathan Quick, Toronto Maple Leafs, NHL, Los Angeles Kings
Jonathan Quick could be the early leader in the race for Team USA’s net . (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

When it comes to who has the inside track on starting for Team USA, it could be someone who Lombardi is very familiar with. Quick, who was selected 72nd overall by Los Angeles in the 2005 draft, has played his entire NHL career under Lombardi, who has been the general manager for the Kings since 2006. Over that time the duo has been a part of two Stanley Cup championships and 475 wins together.

However, if the decision comes down to recent performance, Bishop might steal the crease from the field. Bishop finished in fourth place last season with 35 wins, his lowest finish in the four major categories. The 29-year-old set the pace in the league in goals against average, finished second in save percentage and finished tied for second with six shutouts. All in all, it was a career year for Bishop who set career highs in goals against average, save percentage and shutouts. Tough to keep that on the bench.

After all that, Schneider may be the odd man out in the battle for the blue paint. Schneider’s numbers are the weakest out of the three, but he was able to put up respectable totals on a Devils team that was much weaker than the Kings and the Lightning. Schneider’s save percentage was good enough for sixth in the league. The Devils finished only two games above .500 and Schneider was the reason. So it’s hard to base probability of starting on Schneider’s numbers because of who he played with in New Jersey. If Schneider is able to wrangle the starter position from either Quick or Bishop, his numbers would likely be much better thanks to an improved supporting cast in front of him.

Related: Team USA’s Ben Bishop ‘Feels Good’ Entering World Cup 

International Experience

When looking at international play, all three goalies have represented the United States at various levels.

Quick was a member of Team USA during the 2010 Winter Olympics when the United States came up short in a 3-2 overtime loss to Canada in the gold medal game. Quick was the team’s third goalie and did not make an appearance for Team USA during those games. Quick was named the starter for Team USA during the 2014 Winter Olympics where he started five games, grabbed a 3-2 record, a 2.17 goals against average and .923 save percentage. All while the United States failed to medal.

Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning, NHL, Flames Targeting Ben Bishop
Ben Bishop might be Quick’s main competition when it comes to who starts for Team USA. (Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Bishop has manned the crease for the United States a total of six times, once during the 2010 World Championships and five times during the 2013 World Championships. In those six games, Bishop has put together a 3-2 record and a 2.65 goals against average. The United States did take home a bronze medal during the 2013 games, but Bishop was not in net for the States for the medal game.

Once again Schneider comes up a bit short compared to Quick and Bishop. Schneider, although he has had some success representing the United States in several U18 and World Junior Championships, he has yet to represent the States at a pro level.

It seems like it might be a two-horse race between Bishop and Quick for the starting spot. Both have the numbers and recent play to suggest a carry over into the national tournament. The international experience between the two is also a plus. But going into Team USA’s training camp all three should have a shot at outplaying the other two.

No matter who is named the starter for the United States, the team is in a good position with one of, it not the deepest, pool of goalies going into the tournament.

Who do you think should man the crease for the United States? Let everyone know in the comments below, or sound off on the THW Twitter feed or Facebook page.

The Hockey Writers coverage of the World Cup of Hockey 2016 is being brought to you by PrimeSport, the official Fan Travel & Hospitality Package Partner of the World Cup of Hockey 2016.