NEWARK, N.J. – Jonathan Quick sat with a hat on his head, and a hoodie pulled over it as he faced probably the biggest throng of reporters in his five NHL seasons.
The Los Angeles Kings goalie has been letting his stellar numbers do the talking all along as he posted a Vezina Trophy-caliber season, and he saw no reason to change on the eve of the Stanley Cup finals. He is certainly way more comfortable in his crease than in front of multiple microphones and cameras.
Quick, a Connecticut native who was a fifth-round pick of the Kings in the 2005 draft, is back home—sort of—as he prepares to face the New Jersey Devils in the finals.
His clearest hockey memory is of the 1994 Eastern Conference finals when the New York Rangers—with Mike Richter in goal—outlasted Martin Brodeur and the Devils in a classic seven-game series that truly launched that area rivalry.
“I was rooting against Marty in that one,” Quick said Tuesday at media day. “It was a battle, though. That I remember well.”
Now that Quick has reached the final round, all these years later, the man standing in his way of a championship is the 40-year-old Brodeur, who just knocked out the Rangers in the East finals to get there.
“Everyone knows what he’s meant to the league and this team, and where he stands in history,” Quick said. “For me, it’s not about me against him. It’s about the Kings and the Devils.”
In the playoffs, it’s been no contest for Quick against the Canucks, Blues and Coyotes—the top three teams in the Western Conference. The Kings struggled just to get into the post-season as the No. 8 seed, but since they have gotten there, they have run over every club in their path.
Quick is not only the name of Los Angeles’ goalie, it is the perfect adjective to sum up the Kings’ playoff run.
Vancouver was gone in five games, St. Louis lasted only four, and Phoenix stretched the Kings to five in the West finals. Quick is 12-2 in the post-season with a minuscule 1.54 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage. In 14 games, Quick has yielded only 22 goals.
“He’s the backbone of our team,” forward Jeff Carter said. “Just knowing that he’s there if something happens does a lot for our confidence.”
Quick has been able to thrive in relative anonymity by playing in a nontraditional hockey market in the Pacific time zone.
NHL general managers surely took notice of him enough to make him a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, given to the league’s top goalie. Even out West, it is hard to miss 35 wins and club records of a 1.95 goals-against average, and a .929 save percentage in 69 games.
He also posted a franchise-record 10 shutouts for the Kings, who are hoping to win their first Stanley Cup championship.
“Being on the West Coast, we have a little less media coverage down there,” forward Justin Williams said. “You guys are sleeping by the time we’re starting our games. It’s just the way it works. There is not going to be a lot of media coverage, especially Eastern media coverage, to work with. If Quick was on the East Coast, people would know him a little bit more.
“His demeanour is very low key. He is not a guy that will come in and say, ‘Look at me, look at me, look what I’m doing.’ It’s more about the team, and that is one of the great things about him. I think people are starting to find out how good he is. There is no secret.”
Brodeur has taken notice, too. He remarked that he was never as flexible as the 26-year-old Quick.
“And it’s not getting better at 40,” the never shy Brodeur said.
As much as Quick might shun the spotlight, he is feeling the attention now. There is no doubt he knows exactly what is at stake, and he is prepared to lead his club through one more round.
The Kings will have had seven days off since they finished off the Coyotes, so Quick and his teammates expect to be quite fresh when they hit the ice for Game 1 against the Devils. The regular-season doesn’t matter now, nor does the seeding or even home-ice advantage. Los Angeles has won a record eight straight away games this post-season, making the Kings the first team to reach the finals undefeated on the road since the current playoff format was established in 1994.
“There’s more pressure now,” Quick said. “There’s more (reporters) around for sure. But my job is the same as always, and that is to stop the puck. Throughout the year, I’ve always tried to just do my job. I try not to worry about all the stuff around me.
“To be honest, this is not the kind of stuff I think about when I think about being in the finals. Being here, with my team, in this round, is about going out and playing hockey games, and that won’t change. We just try to outwork everyone, as simple as that sounds. We don’t do anything special, I know I don’t. Working hard and making the most of our opportunity is the key to winning at this level, whether it’s at home or on the road.”
So far, so good, so Quick.