EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Jonathan Quick has set the bar so high for himself, his Los Angeles Kings teammates can barely see it.
“He’s playing on another planet,” forward Jarret Stoll said Tuesday. “That’s what he expects.”
The 26-year-old American has put together a post-season that is taking on historical proportions. As the Kings entered Wednesday’s Game 4 against New Jersey with a chance to win the Stanley Cup, Quick sat poised to post some of the best playoff statistics in NHL history.
In the process, he’s completely eliminated any debate there might be about who deserves to take home the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
“In these playoffs, every game he’s been on,” said Hockey Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille, the Kings’ president of business operations. “He’s been very, very special.”
The Devils have been unable to find a way to solve him. As one-sided as the Stanley Cup final seems right now, it likely wouldn’t have looked that way if not for the performance of Quick.
He’s been particularly sharp early in games during this series, giving the Kings a chance to get more comfortable while planting seeds of doubt in the minds of the New Jersey players.
“We’re creating as many chances this round as we had against the Rangers the prior round—we’re not finishing,” said Devils coach Pete DeBoer. “He’s played very well. … We’ve never been able to grab momentum, (score the) first goal, at a critical time.”
Added veteran Devils goalie Martin Brodeur: “We’ve got to find ways to score.”
It might not be possible. Quick’s playoff save percentage of .950 would rank him first all-time while his 1.36 goals-against average would be better than any goaltender in the last 52 years.
To put it in a different context, Brodeur was never able to scale those kind of heights while winning three Stanley Cups on some of the best defensive teams in history.
Quick has been a cornerstone for the Kings for three seasons, but this is the first one where he’s commanded national attention. A little shy and short with answers in interviews, he comes across as someone who wouldn’t mind getting his anonymity back.
But that won’t be possible now that he has a chance to match Tim Thomas’ trophy haul of a year ago by winning the Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe and the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goalie. Teammates believe he would have received his due sooner had he played in the Eastern Conference.
“If he’s in New York, where everyone is thinking (Henrik) Lundqvist is going to win the Vezina or whatever, if Quickie’s in New York I don’t think there’s any doubt that he’s going to win it,” said defenceman Drew Doughty. “We lost so many games by one goal, we won so many games by one goal.
“That was all due to his hard work and how he was playing.”
Few would have predicted this for Quick back at the 2005 draft in Ottawa, where he became the eighth goaltender selected when the Kings called his name with the 72nd pick. The goalies who went ahead of him? Carey Price, Tuukka Rask, Tyler Plante, Jeff Frazee, Ondrej Pavelec, Pier-Olivier Pelletier and Kristofer Westblom.
Quick seemingly has the perfect demeanour to handle the stresses of the job. In fact, other than a restless afternoon nap prior to Game 1, he’s barely experienced any nerves at all during his first trip to the Stanley Cup final.
It’s a far cry from his experience as an eight year old growing up in Milford, Conn., where he had a poster of Mike Richter on his bedroom wall. Watching the New York Rangers scratch and claw their way to a championship made for a stressful spring of 1994.
“I was more nervous back then than I am right now for the games,” Quick said. “Obviously you watch all the games throughout the playoffs there. I think the save in Game 6 that Richter made on Pavel Bure (stands out) more than anything that happened in Game 7.
“I was really excited for them to win.”
Now he finds himself in Richter’s position.
There are no doubt kids around the continent watching closely as Quick is doing something so special that few—including Robitaille—can recall having witnessed anything like it. Consider that he’s had more shutouts (three) than games where he’s allowed more than two goals (two) during a remarkable run for the Kings.
“I’ve tried to give my team a chance to win every night,” Quick said. “From a goalie standpoint, that’s your job. You try to do your job every night. Hopefully more times than not, you’re able to do that.”