Jonathan Quick is a man of few words. Mostly, he lets his goaltending do the talking for him.
Moments before presenting the Stanley Cup to Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown Wednesday night, commissioner Gary Bettman handed the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs most valuable player to Quick, the Kings’ goaltender. Quick went into the final game with stunning statistics - a 1.43 goals against average and a .946 save percentage, which was tied for the third-lowest in playoff history for goalies who’d played at least 10 games (behind Frank Brimsek in 1939 for the Boston Bruins and Patrick Lalime in 2002 with the Ottawa Senators).
Quick became the second American-born goaltender in the past two years to win the award, after Tim Thomas of the Bruins did it in a seven-game victory over the Vancouver Canucks last spring. Quick set an NHL record with 10 consecutive playoff road victories in these playoffs.
The NHL introduced the Conn Smythe trophy for its playoff MVP in 1965 and since then, goaltenders have won it 16 times. In that same span, goalies have only won the Hart Trophy as regular season MVP only three times.
Goalies are no more or no less valuable at this time of year, but they do tend to become the default MVP choice in a year, such as this one, when a team has multiple defensible candidates.
The Kings staked Quick to a quick 3-0 lead and he wasn’t tested much in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils, losing his shutout bid with 1:13 to go in the second period on a goal by Adam Henrique.
Quick said he couldn't start thinking Stanley Cup thoughts until after the Kings scored their fifth of six goals into the empty net.
"As much as you keep pushing it out of your mind, it will creep back in," Quick said. "Especially you get that four-goal lead, you know, it's hard for it not to creep into your head a little bit. But you just keep reminding yourself how dangerous of a team they are. The second you become relaxed, get your mind off what you're supposed to be doing, that's when they're going to take advantage of you. You keep telling yourself to work."
But Quick was the glue that kept the Kings together on the rare times that they threatened to unravel in these playoffs.
"Obviously I think when we scored that fifth goal, the empty-netter, that's when you take a big, deep breath, relax a little bit, and know it's going to happen."
Quick said he didn't think he'd be in the spotlight any more, even after winning the Conn Smythe and the Stanley Cup.
"I don't see it changing too much," he said. "I think the attention the team's going to get is great. That's something we have been looking for in this market for so long.
"It's an honour to be on this team. I'm glad to be a part of it."
Kings centre Jarret Stoll had seen what a hot goalie could do with the 2006 Edmonton Oilers, who rode Dwayne Roloson’s strong play all the way to the Stanley Cup final against the Carolina Hurricanes, but Quick?
Quick was setting record numbers for stinginess.
“You watch him on replays and the Iso-cam is on him, he’s constantly moving,” said Stoll. “His legs are so strong, he’s so flexible, so athletic, he can get to so many positions in that crease to make saves. We’ve seen it time and time again - how he can come up with these saves, and calm our team down, and keep the game 0-0, or keep the game 1-0, whatever the case may be, and he just does it, game in and game out. That’s the other thing that’s so surprising - the consistency he has in his game. There’s no valleys. There’s no dips in his game.”
Defenceman Drew Doughty has also come to appreciate what Quick means to his team.
“If he’s in New York, there isn’t any doubt that he would win the Vezina,” said Doughty. “We won so many games by one-goal and that was all due to his play.”
Quick is a dour sort with reporters, but according to Doughty, there’s a different side of him that comes out with his teammates.
“He’s awesome off the ice,” said Doughty. "He likes to have fun. He fools around at practice. He likes to laugh. He’s not like most goalies. Most goalies are kinda weird. They aren’t like most hockey players; I guess you could say you kinda stay away from them. But you can talk to him about anything; you can approach him about anything at any time. He’s awesome.”