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Kings' Jonathan Quick sets new standard in goal

Los Angeles KingsNHLSportsIce HockeyJonathan QuickJonathan BernierNew York Rangers
The Kings' goalie gets highest of praise from Rogie Vachon, the Kings' first star in net
Rogie Vachon says Quick is one of the most athletic players in the league

Sure, go to the highlight reel.

Watch Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick make that toe save on the New York Rangers' Derick Brassard. See him deny the Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Kane with a flypaper-like grab. Admire the way he punched the Ducks' Corey Perry in the gut for violating his ice space.

All intriguing moments from a journey through the Stanley Cup playoffs that ended with the Kings winning their second title.

But to understand Quick, go to an expert. Send a thief to catch a thief; find a goalie to explain a goalie. Rogie Vachon, the gold standard for goalies with Kings fans, has seen moments that matter beyond the don't-tread-on-me attitude and kick saves.

Said Vachon: "What really impressed me was against San Jose, when we were down 3-0 [in the series], he went to the bench during a timeout. The team was on the brink and he talked to each player individually. We won four straight games."

Before Quick, there was only one player in net who mattered for Kings fans. Oh, Kelly Hrudey had some moments. The Kings squeezed a couple seasons out of Felix Potvin. Mario Lessard had one brilliant season.

But too often the Kings goaltender situation has been a black hole, identified by a red light.

Vachon was different. His retired number dangles on the wall in Staples Center and at the Kings' practice facility. There's room for another. Quick's "32" next to his "30" would be aesthetically pleasing to Vachon, as well as appropriate.

"I have never seen a guy who goes side-to-side as fast as he does and as often as he does without getting hurt," said Vachon, who played for the Kings from 1971-78. "He's probably the best athlete on the team. He may be one of the best in the NHL."

That ability was apparent early on. "The first training camp," Vachon said.

The Kings brought two rookie goaltenders to camp in 2007, Quick and Jonathan Bernier. Quick had been drafted in 2005 by Dave Taylor, the Kings' previous general manager. Bernier was the 11th player taken in the 2006 draft, and the first player selected by General Manager Dean Lombardi.

Bernier had the pedigree. Quebec does goaltenders like Tim Horton's does doughnuts. Vachon, for example, who was traded to the Kings by the Montreal Canadiens during the 1971-72 season.

"Bernier was supposed to be the next one, but along comes Jonathan, who was so impressive during camp," Vachon said. "Then he goes to the minors and puts up incredible numbers. They had no choice but to call him up. The rest is history."

Bernier was. The Kings traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs last June.

Quick remained to make history, winning two Stanley Cups while methodically supplanting Vachon in the Kings' record book.

Vachon's single-season goals-against record (2.24) was tied by Quick in 2010-11, then replaced by his 1.95 average in 2011-12. This past season, Quick picked up his 176th career victory to break Vachon's team record.

After the game, Vachon paid a visit to the dressing room, and saw a different side of Quick.

Quick shows passion during games. There's an extrovert behind that mask. When it comes off, he makes Coach Darryl Sutter look like a chatterbox.

But when Vachon showed up, Quick became giddy.

"That was a fun night," Vachon said. "I told him that I wished I had put up better numbers so it would take him longer to break them."

The one number Quick still needs to put up is the one next to Vachon's on the Staples Center wall. That's coming, Vachon said.

"If he continues the same way, he is going to put up numbers that might take two centuries for someone to break," Vachon said.

Quick didn't have gilded numbers during the playoffs, not when you compare it to his 2012 run — 1.41 goals-against average and .946 save percentage.

This spring, Quick battled more than reigned. He had a 2.58 goals-against average and .911 save percentage. The result was the same. The Kings skated around Staples Center ice with the Stanley Cup.

"What separates the great ones from the good ones is the mental attitude," Vachon said. "You play an 82-game schedule. You can't have a bad slump, where all of a sudden you team loses seven, eight, nine games."

Quick, Vachon said, "might have a bad game. He might have two. But he doesn't have three. He regroups. Players love playing in front of guys like that."

That was never more evident than in the series clincher against the Rangers on Friday.

Quick made saves … and left rebounds on a silver platter. His defense bailed him out, clearing pucks out of harm's way.

But when the game tightened up, Quick didn't. He gave up a goal to Brian Boyle at the end of the second period, then stopped the last 18 shots the Rangers fired at him, 15 in the two overtimes.

Vachon sees his own reflection.

"He's like me," Vachon said. "You give up a bad goal, go to the dressing room and break a stick, say 'Sorry guys,' and then go out and then shut the other team down."

chris.foster@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Los Angeles KingsNHLSportsIce HockeyJonathan QuickJonathan BernierNew York Rangers
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