As preparations for the World Cup of Hockey 2016 hit high gear leading up to the start of the tournament on Sept. 17 in Toronto, NHL.com looks at how the teams stand. Seven writers who will cover the two-week event at Air Canada Centre were asked to rank the teams from 1-8 in various categories. Today, we look at which team has the best trio of goalies on its roster.
In the end, health may well determine which team in the World Cup of Hockey 2016 has the best goaltending, but heading into the tournament, it is Team Canada by the slimmest of margins in a poll of NHL.com writers.
Team Canada, which has Carey Price (Montreal Canadiens), Braden Holtby (Washington Capitals) and Corey Crawford (Chicago Blackhawks), received four first-place votes and 53 points.
Team USA, which has Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles Kings), Ben Bishop (Tampa Bay Lightning) and Cory Schneider (New Jersey Devils), received three first-place votes and 52 points.
Team Finland (37 points) and Team Sweden (36 points) also were in the conversation. Team Finland has Tuukka Rask (Boston Bruins), Pekka Rinne (Nashville Predators) and Mikko Koskinen (SKA St. Petersburg, Kontinental Hockey League). Team Sweden has Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers), Jacob Markstrom (Vancouver Canucks) and Jhonas Enroth (Toronto Maple Leafs). Enroth was named to Team Sweden on Aug. 26 as an injury replacement for Robin Lehner (Ottawa Senators).
Video: World Cup of Hockey: 3 Biggest Questions at Goalie
"There are several teams with outstanding goaltenders," said Tom Gulitti, NHL.com staff writer. "Two-time Stanley Cup winner Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings played very well at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, but Schneider and Bishop are also worthy of being the No. 1 for Team USA. Canada isn't far behind with the winners of the Vezina Trophy for each of the past two years in Price and Holtby, as well as Crawford, a two-time winner of the Stanley Cup. Finland is right up there with Rask and Rinne. Lundqvist, who nearly carried Sweden to the gold in Sochi, can steal a tournament like this as well."
Among those goaltenders, Price, Schneider and Bishop each is coming back from injury.
If Price is fully healthy, that may tip the balance in Team Canada's favor. But Price missed the final 59 games of the 2015-16 NHL season with a MCL sprain of his right knee, so his effectiveness remains in question.
"Carey Price is arguably the most valuable player in the League, and if healthy he should be the No. 1 goalie for Team Canada in the World Cup," said Dan Rosen, NHL.com senior writer. "That's saying something considering Holtby is coming off a Vezina Trophy-winning season and Crawford is a two-time Stanley Cup champion.
Video: NJD@TBL: Schneider uses his right pad to make a save
Schneider insists he is all the way back from core-muscle surgery on May 10 and is ready to fight for the No. 1 job. Bishop sustained ligament damage in his right ankle during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final on May 13 and did not play again for the Lightning, who lost to the evenutal champion Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games.
If Schneider and Bishop each is fully healthy, Team USA may have the deepest group in the tournament.
"Unquestionably, goaltending is the Americans' strongest position at this tournament," said Brian Compton, NHL.com deputy managing editor. "Bishop has helped the Lightning be one of the final four teams standing the past two postseasons. Quick has led the Kings to two Stanley Cup championships and gives his team a chance to win every night. Schneider kept the Devils in contention for a playoff spot last season far longer than anyone expected."
TEAM CANADA - 53 points (4 first-place votes)
TEAM USA - 52 points (3 first-place votes)
TEAM FINLAND - 37 points
TEAM SWEDEN - 36 points
TEAM RUSSIA - 29 points
TEAM NORTH AMERICA - 16 points
TEAM EUROPE - 16 points
TEAM CZECH REPUBLIC - 13 points