SOCHI, Russia — It would’ve been easy for Dan Bylsma to go with Ryan Miller.
The United States head coach could’ve compared the numbers: Miller’s .923 save percentage this season with the Buffalo Sabres, to Jonathan Quick’s .911 mark with the Los Angeles Kings.
He could’ve pointed to Miller’s outstanding play in the 2010 Vancouver Games that helped the Americans win a silver medal, or to Quick’s past few NHL games, which haven’t all gone well.
But Bylsma went with Quick, announcing his decision Wednesday afternoon following practice, the day before the U.S. will open its Olympic tournament versus Slovakia.
“We’re dealing with a position of strength when it comes to the goaltender, and the goaltender decision,” said Bylsma.
“Jonathan’s won a championship with his team, won a Stanley Cup. Certainly Ryan this year has played very well for his team as well, so it’s been dealing from where we have two very good guys to be in net. Jonathan will be getting the nod.”
And what about Saturday versus Russia?
“We have plans for game one.”
How did Miller take the news?
“We had a conversation. He said, ‘I’m ready when you call on me.’”
Miller was understandably disappointed, but also supportive of Quick.
“Obviously I want to play and compete and be here and do my part,” said Miller. “I think he’s a great goalie and he’s going to do great for us. You know, see where it goes from here, and just be ready to go.”
As for Quick, the 2012 playoff MVP said his job now is to give his team a chance to win.
“I believe it’s just for tomorrow’s game, so I’m just keeping focused on what we have to do to win tomorrow’s game,” he said. “Obviously in a short tournament, you want to try to make the most of every time you’re on the ice, whether it’s practice or a game.”
Slovakia won’t be an easy out for the Americans, and in a way that may actually be a good thing for Bylsma, who will want to get as good a handle as possible on Quick’s play before Saturday’s showcase game of the preliminary round against the tournament hosts.