Column: The torch remains in Jonathan Quick’s hands as Kings open playoffs against Oilers

Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick protects the goal during a game against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick protects the goal during a game against the Chicago Blackhawks on March 24 at Arena.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

The symbolism seemed obvious when Kings coach Todd McLellan chose Cal Petersen over Jonathan Quick as the starting goaltender for the team’s season opener in October.

The decision created images of a torch being passed from the ring-adorned hands of the core group that won two Stanley Cup championships to the skilled but largely unproven hands of the kids entrusted with ending the franchise’s post-Cup decline. Quick had earned nearly every significant goaltending record in franchise history over his 14 seasons and had started every regular-season opener since 2009, but there was no room for nostalgia when fans and players needed a playoff berth to sustain their faith in a long rebuilding process.

Besides, the calendar doesn’t lie: He was 35 when the season began and had undergone shoulder surgery five months earlier after playing only 22 games in the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season. It seemed time for Quick, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Drew Doughty — the remaining players from the Kings’ 2012 and 2014 Cup teams — to begin receding into the background while the next generation rose to the top of the depth chart. It was a sensible plan until Quick shredded it by rekindling his old ferocity and displaying the legendary flexibility of his younger days to win back the No. 1 job.


Here’s how to watch, stream the Los Angeles Kings vs. Edmonton Oilers playoff series and every other first-round NHL Stanley Cup series.

May 2, 2022

Challenged to withstand the team’s wave of injuries, the missteps of a young defense, and the pressure of frequent one-goal games, Quick produced gutsy performances when the Kings’ postseason chances were iffy. He didn’t start their first regular-season game, but he will start their first playoff game since 2018 when they face the high-powered Oilers on Monday at Rogers Place in Edmonton. The torch remains in his gloved hands.

“You can tell he’s a winner — his attitude on the ice, off the ice. He’s always working really hard,” center Phillip Danault said. “He’s always focused and ready to go for the boys. Every game he’s giving us a chance this year and he’s doing it again. Quickie’s been awesome for us, and hopefully it will be the same in the playoffs.”

Quick is usually a man of many saves and few words, more comfortable facing wicked slap shots and crease-crashing opponents than talking to the media. He was in postseason form at least verbally Saturday, the last full day of interviews before the playoffs, offering short replies and abruptly leaving when he became restless.

Kings’ Dustin Brown, Ducks’ Ryan Getzlaf put SoCal on NHL map. They began their careers together, both were captains, and both are retiring.

April 29, 2022

Asked how it felt to be back in the playoffs after a long absence, he was brief. “Feels like it’s playoffs. It wasn’t that long ago. Just a couple years,” he said.

He also shrugged off suggestions he had exceeded his own high standards with his remarkable feats down the stretch. “As a team we’ve won games. That’s what we’re able to do to get into the playoffs,” he said. “So as a team we were able to step up and win games that mattered. But that’s behind us now. It’s 0-0 right now, so we’ll start fresh.”

The Kings are hoping he can continue his late-season form, which featured a personal six-game winning streak. He gave up only one goal in three of those games, highlighted by a spectacular, 29-save effort on April 19 at Anaheim in a 2-1 victory that solidified the Kings’ hold on third place in the Pacific Division. “That’s probably as vintage as we’ve seen him last couple of years,” Kopitar said with a smile, “and I am very happy about that.”


McLellan joked after the game that Quick looked like he had been under duress before. “He feels real good in the net right now and we feel good with him in the net,” McLellan said.

The better Quick feels, the better the Kings’ chances against the Oilers and brilliant center Connor McDavid, who won his second straight NHL scoring title and fourth of his career by piling up a personal-best 123 points. Kopitar and Danault, both strong defensive centers, will have their hands full. “We have to defend well as a unit,” Danault said. “Five guys on the ice — six with Quickie.”

Edmonton Oilers center Derek Ryan tries to score on Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick.
Edmonton Oilers center Derek Ryan, left, tries to score on Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick during the third period April 7 at Arena.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The Kings can’t match the Oilers’ prolific scoring — second-line center Leon Draisaitl was fourth in scoring with 110 points — or Edmonton’s potent power play, which had a 26% success rate. Quick will have to be the Kings’ best penalty killer, too. While Edmonton hopes for a continued resurgence from 40-year-old goalie Mike Smith — who lost to the Kings in the 2012 Western Conference finals with the Phoenix Coyotes — the Kings have a two-time Cup winner in Quick, who can be the great equalizer against the Oilers’ scoring onslaught.

The native of Milford, Conn., compiled a goals-against average of 2.59 and save percentage of .910 this season, his best in both categories since 2017-18, when he won the Jennings Trophy as a member of the team that allowed the fewest goals. What can’t be measured is that he knows what it takes to win, wisdom the Oilers have yet to gain despite getting the No. 1 overall draft pick four times in a six-year span that ended with their selection of McDavid in 2015.

The Kings have made only two playoff appearances since their 2014 title; they won one game against San Jose in 2016 and were swept by Vegas in 2018. Those losses weren’t Quick’s fault because they occurred before general manager Rob Blake belatedly went all-in with roster renovations that have finally made the team younger, faster and deeper.


The Kings are in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2018 and will rely on the roster’s experience to make a deep run.

April 27, 2022

Quick has survived coaching and system changes, down seasons, and the end of his streak of starting season openers. He insisted he didn’t feel insulted by that October decision. “Nope. They do what they think’s best for the team. That’s the way it’s always been,” he said. “You just look forward to your opportunity when you get it.”

He seized that opportunity. He wasn’t there for the beginning of this season’s journey but he will be there when it matters and will carry the Kings’ hopes on his back.