If you knew absolutely nothing about hockey and just looked at statistics, Jonathan Quick may not leap out at you right away.
Last season, his 2.07 goals-against average ranked fifth in the league, but in wins and save percentage he finished outside the top 10 and top 20, respectively. Ask NHL shooters, however, who they would least like to see in the crease when they’re barrelling down 1-on-1, and Quick is the name they fear most.
“You make a move and he’s just super-fast,” said Anaheim’s Devante Smith-Pelly. “Like he’s already there, almost.”
When he steered Los Angeles to the Kings’ first Stanley Cup in 2012, he was virtually unbeatable. He posted a blazing 1.41 GAA in the post-season, winning 10 road games and scattering seven goals over six contests in the final series against New Jersey to win the Cup, and the Conn Smythe Trophy as well.
And even though he struggled at the beginning of the Kings’ second championship run last season, he recovered just in time to get his team back on track and break the rival Sharks’ hearts. San Jose had a 3-0 series lead in the opening round before the Kings came to life. Quick had uncharacteristically been shelled for 12 goals in the first two games of the California collision, but his ability to bounce back is part of what makes him so scary.
“The mental component is huge,” said Kings goalie coach Bill Ranford. “For him to come back from those first two games and contribute shows how tough he is.”
Ranford described Quick as a pretty quiet and laid-back guy, and that assessment is backed up by the netminder’s off-ice uniform – typically a hoodie with the hood up over a ball cap – that acts like the world’s most casual force field. Every once in a while you’ll get a profanity-laced parade speech, but usually Quick lets his play do the talking for him.
In an era of towering puck-stoppers, Quick is an average 6-foot-1, but his other physical gifts make him downright puzzling to shooters.
“It’s the athletic component in his game, the flexibility,” Ranford said. “He makes saves that many guys in the league can’t make. You think you have him beat, and then that toe comes out and stops you.”
This is the crux of the advantage Quick brings with him on the ice. Ranford, who was a pretty good netminder himself back in the day (not to mention a two-time Cup winner as well), breaks down a shooter vs. goalie showdown thusly: it’s a battle of the first move. Whoever flinches first usually loses, and as icy as Quick is in that department, he also has that sneaky athleticism that allows him to recover even when he does draw first.
This wizardry also extends to the shootout, where Quick was just as intimidating last season. Among goaltenders who faced 30 or more shooters, no one had a better SP than Quick, who slammed the door 77 percent of the time.
Once again, the Kings are one of the favorites to win it all, even if they have a reputation of slacking a little during the regular season. With Quick playing the majority of starts, there’s no reason the team can’t improve on its place in the final standings.
“He’s proven time and time again that he can play at an elite level,” Ranford said. “We’re a team that struggles to get into the playoffs, and we’d like to change that. We’ve seen how important home-ice advantage can be.”
Although when you have Quick, it may be tough to buy into that line of reasoning. After all, the team walked into two of the toughest buildings last season – in San Jose and Chicago – and came out with Game 7 road wins. Had it not been for some well-placed snow in Henrik Lundqvist’s crease, they would have swept the Rangers and lifted the Cup in Madison Square Garden, the world’s most famous arena.
The Kings getting better in front of Quick? That is a scary thought.