June 4, 2012
The Quick and The DeadL.A. goalie set to join elite company
By STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency
In a place where style and celebrity mean just about everything, there isn’t much to like about Jonathan Quick.
He hasn’t quite figured out this newfound stardom thing. He doesn’t smile for the cameras on cue or appear at all comfortable in the spotlight. He’s sort of a goalie grump. He would rather, if truth be told, hide behind his mask and have nobody bother him at all.
But he’s blowing his cover. Boy, is he ever.
Quick is a win away from his first Stanley Cup, his first Conn Smythe Trophy, his first real place as a champion goaltender of consequence. He had a terrific regular season with the Los Angeles Kings -- good enough to be nominated for the Vezina Trophy -- but this is a whole new world for him.
Quick and the Kings are now 15-and-2 in the Stanley Cup playoffs, a lofty belonging for a team that is still defying credulity. These are not the Edmonton Oilers of 1988. Those comparisons, if being made, are ludicrous. There was a Wayne Gretzky on the ice Monday night, but he was there to drop the ceremonial faceoff. There was a Mark Messier at the Staples Center. He was here to talk about the award in his name that no one pays attention to.
There are no Gretzkys, no Messiers on this Los Angeles team steam rolling its way to the Cup. But there’s a goaltender who won’t be beaten, can’t be beaten, and has gotten in the heads of what’s left of the thinking man’s team, the New Jersey Devils. And for the fourth round in a row, the Kings are making a decent opponent look like they don’t belong.
The Devils scored one goal in four periods of Game 1.
They scored another goal in four periods of Game 2.
They couldn’t score in Game 3.
In all, after close to 11 periods of hockey in this Cup final, the 26-year-old Quick had faced 70 shots and been scored on twice. That’s a .972 save percentage. Only one goalie in history has ever been better in the final. That was Patrick Roy in 1996.
The incomparable Patrick Roy.
The difference between both goalies is .974 vs. .972. By Wednesday night, all that could change with Quick writing a story for the ages on a team with so little history that matters. But the history of these two months matter now. Quick is about to join a pretty impressive list of goaltenders who have won both a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe Trophy in the past two decades.
The remarkable Roy did it. Twice, in fact. Bill Ranford, who is now Jonathan Quick’s goalie coach, did it. Mike Vernon did it. Loopy Tim Thomas did it. And in a Conn Smythe vote that should be taken over again, Cam Ward did it. But few have played in a series where goal scoring almost seems obsolete and somewhat close to impossible. In Game 3 Monday, with the score 0-0, the spotty Devils seemed to have taken the life out of the building and some of it out of the KIngs. It is at moments like this Quick looks impenetrable. He squares up in his low crouch, like a cat waiting to pounce on some kind of thread, and he’s just there. Always there. Stopping pucks even when he doesn’t see them.
He turned his head Monday night misreading a play and fourth liner Ryan Carter backhanded the puck off Quick’s blocker. Even blind, the Kings goalie is stopping everything. Quick has been so square to the puck that the Devils are starting to think there are only two places to shoot: Off the L or off the A of his jersey.
The excited crowd at the Staples Center never chanted Quick’s name in Game 3, instead using the derisive chant of “Marty, Marty” as if Brodeur could himself. Brodeur couldn’t help the Devils when they failed to score on a minute long 5-on-3 power play in the first period. And as the third period began, the fans changed their chant to “We want the Cup!”
They will have it. Shortly. Or should I say, Quick.