There is a TV commercial running on the NHL Network these days, in which Los Angeles teammates Jonathan Quick and Matt Greene are purportedly watching a replay – on Greene’s tablet – of a goal the Kings surrendered the night before.
“You should have had that one,” Greene says with a straight face.
Whereupon, Quick immediately responds: “But that’s your guy, right?”
It’s a neatly timed comic bit, and effective only because hockey players can generally be so awkward delivering lines when the script in no way reflects the reality of the situation.
In real life, Quick – an incredibly guarded, private, and interview-averse goaltender – is just the opposite and never ever points a finger at his defenceman for a goal. He takes them all upon himself.
As for Greene, he is like the rest of the L.A. blueliners, fiercely defensive of Quick, who has recovered from a rocky first half of the regular season to become one of the key figures in the playoffs – and the single biggest reason why the Kings’ Stanley Cup defence is still alive, heading into the Western Conference final, starting Saturday against the Chicago Blackhawks.
In their seven-game, second-round win over the San Jose Sharks, Quick posted a 1.43 goals-against average, lowering his career GAA to 1.94 in 45 playoff games. Eleven other goaltenders in NHL history have compiled a GAA lower than 2.00 with at least 20 games of postseason experience, but of those, only Patrick Lalime played in the last 50 years.
For that matter, the Kings have not allowed more than three goals in any of their last 33 playoff games dating to last year, an NHL record.
It is a remarkable statistical body of work, and yet, when you ask Kings goalie coach Bill Ranford what sets Quick apart from his NHL brethren: “He’s not a big stats guy.
“It’s more about wins and losses for him, which is huge in this day and age. Then, it’s just his attention to detail. He’s constantly trying to get better – through on-ice stuff, as far as the technical side and video,” says Ranford, who backstopped the Edmonton Oilers to the 1990 Stanley Cup.
“I think he’s just really grown up in the last couple of years and matured as an athlete and as a goalie. Nobody expected him to be where he is right now, so he’s always kinda had his back against the wall a little bit and just keeps proving people wrong.”
Ranford’s reference is to the fact Quick was a medium long-shot in his draft year, 2005, when he was selected 72nd overall by Los Angeles. The next year, the Kings drafted the player they thought would be their goalie of the future, Jonathan Bernier, with the 11th-overall pick. They both turned pro in the same season, 2007-08, but Quick got his hands on the starting job first and hasn’t relinquished it.
At a time when many questions are being asked about the state of goaltending in Canada, the Americans have a surplus of high-end netminders heading into the 2014 Winter Olympics. Even though the Americans can also choose from among Craig Anderson (Ottawa Senators), Jimmy Howard (Detroit Red Wings), Cory Schneider (Vancouver Canucks) and Ryan Miller (Buffalo Sabres), who won tournament MVP honours in Vancouver in 2010, Quick is currently favoured to be the starter in Sochi for Team USA.
There are three essential planks to Quick’s game: leg strength, overall athleticism, and competitiveness, according to Ranford, who says: “He just hates to lose.”
When Quick was coming out of college after two years at the University of Massachusetts, Ranford says he relied too heavily on his athletic ability and not enough to technique.
“So rather than your first option being athletic, we tried to get some technical in there and when you do need to be athletic, it’s still there,” Ranford says. “That’s a big thing. And when you do need to get athletic, it’s to make the second save.
“When we got him, it was always into the splits, down-and-out. Now, when he makes that athletic save, he’s still in a position to make the second one, and that’s what’s really changed. It’s just an adjustment to the body, of keeping it forward, versus falling on your butt, and being in a position where you’re available to make that second save.
“When he broke in, he’d make that unbelievable first stop but the chance of making the second didn’t happen. Now, with his hard work – of changing the way he attacks those pucks – at least he gives himself a chance on the second one.”