Wow and again
So Jonathan Quick is human after all.
For seven straight games that encompassed three playoff rounds the Kings’ stingy goaltender did not yield a goal in the third period, a key reason the Kings were able to barge so quickly and efficiently into the Stanley Cup Final.
Think of it. With so many sticks, skates and bodies between him and the puck, with so many shots hurtling toward him from all directions, he was perfect in the most frantic period of seven consecutive games under pressure that increased day by day and round by round.
His third-period success streak was ended Saturday by the New Jersey Devils, but in typical fashion he and his teammates calmly regrouped, weathered whatever the Devils threw at them and emerged triumphant.
The Kings’ 2-1 overtime victory at the Prudential Center allowed them to return to Los Angeles in position to win the franchise’s first-ever Cup championship at home, with Games 3 and 4 to be played at Staples Center on Monday and Wednesday. Jeff Carter scored the winner, but without Quick’s ability to block out pressure as well as he repels shots, they would not be anywhere near this position.
Without the unflappable Quick, who is 13-3 in 16 career road playoff games, the Kings would not have extended their NHL-record playoff road winning streak to 10 games this spring and 12 overall, dating back to last season. They would not be nearly as resilient or formidable or be in position to pull off a feat that looked nearly impossible as recently as two months ago, when they were fighting to make the playoffs.
After giving up a third-period goal in Game 3 of the Kings’ second-round series against the St. Louis Blues, Quick stoned them in the final period of the final game to complete the series sweep. He then blanked the Phoenix Coyotes in the third period in all five games of the Western Conference finals and added the Devils to his list of victims on Wednesday in Game 1 of the Cup Final.
His streak ended Saturday when Devils forward Ryan Carter, in the high slot, redirected a shot by Marek Zidlicky into the net at 2:59 of the third period to bring the Devils even with the Kings at 1-1. But as far as Quick and his teammates were concerned, it was a blip in their game plan, nothing to rattle them or their habitual poise.
“It starts from our coaching staff, our leadership group on the team,” center Jarret Stoll said. “We’re always talking on the bench. ‘We’re fine, we’re composed, we’ll find a way to get this goal, win the game, get a bounce.’
“We know Quickie’s back there. He kind of calms us down too, with the way he plays and how great he is back there.”
If Kings fans are still pinching themselves to be sure this is real, if the knowledge that the Cup can be theirs in just a few days is almost too much to believe, that type of euphoria hasn’t seeped into the Kings’ locker room.
After stopping 32 shots and running his remarkable postseason total to 432 saves on 456 shots-- a save percentage of .947 -- Quick was as calm and businesslike Saturday as if he had just finished a mid-February practice or a routine, mid-March win.
Those who watch him might marvel at the ride he’s on and suggest he should win the Conn Smythe trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs, but Quick himself has no time for such talk. He has pucks to stop, games to win. On Saturday, he also had bags to pack for the long, transcontinental flight home.
“We’re taking it game by game,” he said. “We know how great of a team they are. We have to bring our best on Monday if we think we’re going to have a chance of winning.”
That’s what he always says, with some small variations. He rarely shares his feelings, rarely offers insight into what he’s thinking, why he’s able to thrive under duress when so many other goaltenders melt into puddles of goo.
Stoll said Quick’s mental toughness gave every other player the confidence to believe they could win as they caught their breath after the third period and before overtime began.
“We knew it was in this room. We just had to find it,” Stoll said.
Quick led them there. He might not be the most quotable of players, but if he has more saves than comments he could have the final word when his name is engraved on the Cup alongside his teammates.