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Tim Wharnsby - Sunday Feb. 9, 2014 02:33

Tuukka Rask tops list of Olympic men's goalies

Rask, Miller lead the pack, but Canada has two greats

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Tuukka Rask, seen playing for Finland in November 2012, will try and help the country win its fifth medal in the last six Olympic men's tournaments. (AFP/Getty Images)

The Olympic hockey tournament is played over 12 days, compared to the two-month grind of the Stanley Cup playoffs. But the importance of goaltending is similar, if not more vital in the Winter Games.

Ryan Miller was a significant factor four years ago, pushing the United States to overtime in the gold-medal final. Finland settled for silver in 2006, but goalie Antero Niittymaki was golden. He had a remarkable .951 save percentage and three shutouts in eight games.

Anybody remember what Dominik Hasek did in 1998? He was at his acrobatic best in leading the Czech Republic to Olympic glory. On the flip side, Sweden’s Tommy Salo played poorly in 2002 and cost his team a chance at gold with a quarter-final loss to Belarus. He surrendered a late-game long slapper from outside the blue line that took down the Tre Kroner.

Radio Canada hockey analyst Dany Dube, who was an assistant coach for Canada at the 1994 Winter Games, gave us four traits necessary to good goaltending in the Olympics:

  • An ability to go side-to-side.
  • Quick feet.
  • Can’t get caught going down too early because these are the best shooters in the world.
  • Compete hard to make saves on the rebounds.

Heading into the Olympics, here are the 10 best goalies at the tournament:

  1. Tuukka Rask, Finland – He was excellent for Boston in the Stanley Cup final and has followed up that fine play with an excellent .928 save percentage and a league-leading five shutouts.
  2. Ryan Miller, United States – The best goalie in Vancouver four years ago has found his form this season with 15 wins on a bad Buffalo team and sound .923 save percentage.
  3. Henrik Lundqvist, Sweden – He wasn’t very good early, but Lundqvist certainly has exhibited his winning ways lately with a four-game win streak.
  4. Carey Price, Canada – The cool-as-a-cucumber goalie was overheated at the end of the season because of his dismal play. But he’s been consistent for Montreal this season with 25 wins and a .924 save percentage.
  5. Jonas Hiller, Switzerland – His stock dropped a tad with only one win in six starts after reeling off 14 in row for Anaheim.
  6. Semyon Varlamov, Russia – He leads the league in saves with 1,436 and already has checked in with a career-high 28 wins for Colorado this season.
  7. Antti Niemi, Finland – He’s tied with Price for the most starts this season at 47 and simply wins and wins and wins for San Jose.
  8. Jonathan Quick, United States – He hasn’t been as good since he returned from his serious groin injury. His has lost five of his last since for Los Angeles and has a less-than-ordinary 6-8-2 record since he returned after being sidelined for eight weeks.
  9. Roberto Luongo, Canada – The defending gold-medal champion has slumped with only a victory in his last six starts and a less than dazzling .887 save percentage for Vancouver.
  10. Jaroslav Halak, Slovakia – Since a flu bug took him from the net for 12 days after Christmas, Halak has gone 7-2-1 since Jan. 9 for Slovakia.

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