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Maria Kirilenko and her fiance, Alex Ovechkin attend the Figure Skating Pairs Short Program on day 4 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Iceberg Skating Palace on February 11, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by John Berry/Getty Images)
Jonathan Quick has been named the starting goaltender for Team USA -- for at least the first game.
Quick will get the nod in Thursday's opener against Slovakia. (Watch the game live at 7:30 a.m. ET/4:30 a.m. PT on NBC Sports Network and on NBCOlympics.com) The starting goalie for the rest of the tournament, however, is still TBD.
The decision by Dan Bylsma and the rest of the coaching staff to name Quick the starter for Game 1 was a no-brainer just a few months ago. But things got rather interesting as the NHL season began.
Quick and the Los Angeles Kings got off to a rocky start. And then he got injured. He just recently got back between the pipes for the Kings. While he showed flashes of his former self, his numbers are not great.
Meanwhile, in Buffalo, the Sabres have been horrible. But Ryan Miller, the American goalie who backstopped the 2010 silver medal-winning squad, put together an impressive season despite having an AHL-caliber squad in front of him.
The longer Quick was out, the better Miller played, and the whispers began. Maybe it was going to be Miller time in Sochi. Maybe he wasn't quite ready to let go of the reigns of Team USA just yet.
Despite his impressive performance for Buffalo, Bylsma decided to go with Quick. When Quick is on his game, there aren't many better in the world. He can win games by himself, which is a quality you can't help but ignore.
While Miller might be the sentimental favorite, it's the right move to go with Quick for the first game. See how he looks. Let him get some of that season-long funk off of him. And if for some reason Quick falters, I don't think Bylsma would mind having Miller come off the bench to start in Game 2. That's a luxury few coaches have at any level.
Oh, if and when Miller does have to enter a game, let's all hope that Puck allowed him to bring his mask to Sochi...
— Ryan Miller (@RyanMiller3039) February 8, 2014
Canada Goes A Step Further
While Team USA took it one game at a time, Canada made plans for not just Game 1, but also Game 2, with Carey Price manning the net in the opener against Norway and Roberto Luongo, the man who won gold in the OT thriller against Miller and Team USA in 2010, will start the second game against Austria.
Like their U.S. counterparts, Team Canada isn't formally declaring a No. 1 netminder -- for now. It seems like both Price and Luongo will get to state their case for the top job.
No matter where you look in Sochi, you're bound to see Russian hockey superstar Alex Ovechkin. The Washington Capitals winger's gap-toothed grin is plastered on billboards and walls and who knows where else.
Here's one example from NBC4's Jim Handly:
— Jim Handly (@JimHandly) February 3, 2014
The real Ovi arrived in Sochi a few days ago, along with his fiancee and tennis star, Maria Kirilenko. And it seems like they were able to head out and see some of the sights in Sochi before his real work on ice began. How do we know? They both tweeted out photos like this:
— Alex Ovechkin (@ovi8) February 11, 2014
Ovi also tweeted out a pic of his snazzy skates designed especially for the Sochi Games. They feature the colors of the Russian flag, and they're pretty sweet.
My skates,мои коньки!)) pic.twitter.com/aZaKwQpR4s
— Alex Ovechkin (@ovi8) February 10, 2014
We're not sure how much tweeting Ovi will do during the tournament, but he's worth a follow on the Twitter. If nothing else, you'll appreciate the amount of exclamation points and "hahahahaha"'s he inserts into all of his tweets in the future.
One can only imagine what an Ovi post-gold medal victory tweet would look like...