Quick's breakthrough year, playoffs conclude with Conn Smythe Trophy
LOS ANGELES -- On a night when his team scored six goals, enjoyed the advantage of an opponent that managed just 18 shots and earned frequent visitor status to the penalty box, Jonathan Quick was in mid-coronation, an apt place for an exalted King to be.
After giving his team a lift for most of the playoffs -- he allowed two goals or fewer in 18 of his 20 games -- Quick only needed to do heavy lifting when he accepted the Conn Smythe Trophy.
With the play in center ice as the seconds ticked away and no more pucks left to stop in the Kings' series-clinching 6-1 victory, Quick instead focused on the onslaught of teammates he had to grab instead. Drew Doughty got there first. Then Colin Fraser. Then a swarm. Quick caught them all, just as he had puck after puck during the regular season when he saved his team and in the playoffs when he lifted them to the franchise's first title in its 45-year history. The 26-year-old goalie with the stoic demeanor became giddy.
"As much as you keep pushing it out of your mind," he said, "It will creep back in. Especially when you get that four-goal lead, you know it's hard for it not to creep into your head a little bit."
With a team that struggled to score more nights than not, Quick kept his team in the playoff chase until they secured the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference at the end of the season. In the playoffs, his numbers were staggering: a goals-against average of 1.41 and a .946 save percentage.
"He's a battler," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. "He never quits on pucks. Saves you think he can't make he makes every game. We're not here without him. We're not even in the conversation."
After Quick raised the Smythe overhead, he promptly gave it to NHL officials and asked, "Where's the Cup?" This was, after all, Quick's first such celebration, and the spoils of ceremony are new. Moments later, the goalie playfully grabbed his coach, Darryl Sutter, who had stepped onto the ice and bearhugged him, taking him off his balance for one of the rare times in the playoffs.
Throughout the postseason, Quick insisted he was just one equal King in the royal flush that also steamrolled the Presidents' Trophy-winning Canucks, No. 2 seed Blues and No. 3 Coyotes. In fact, as the Cup passed from captain Dustin Brown from player to player, Quick was the 11th King to hold the trophy -- after Dustin Penner and before Doughty. It was as close as he could get to being just another in a line of champs.
Within minutes, he was on the ice with his family, posing for a photo with 2-year-old daughter Madison and his new trophy.
"It's almost as big as you," he told her. Quick then asked Dave Keon of the NHL where his name would be engraved.
"Right there," Keon told him, pointing to the bare leaf that would commemorate his superb efforts.
Among others, Quick now joins Bill Ranford, who won the Conn Smythe with the Edmonton Oilers in 1990 and is now the Kings' goalie coach.
"I'm so proud of him," Ranford said. "This morning he was great, very calm as always, determined as ever. We talked about attention to details. Nothing really gets to him. You looked at him and you just felt he's going to get his tonight."
It is hard to judge Quick's outstanding numbers in context, especially in an age when goals are tougher to come by than they were in 1990 or when Ranford won his first Cup as a backup to Grant Fuhr two years earlier.
"You know, John's performance has to be right up there with the greatest playoff runs in history," Ranford said. "This performance is as good as anybody's and not because goals are harder to come by. This is as good as anything we've seen."
It didn't seem likely when the team that finished with the league's second-fewest goals during the year was asking him to shut out the opposition every night.
"He never hung his head on those days," Ranford said. "He believed in his teammates and that's why they believed in him -- not just because he was stopping the puck. It says a lot about the person."
Ironically, it was during the spell when the Kings were looking up at the last playoff berth when Quick said he most believed in his team.
"At our lowest moments, I think the biggest thing is nobody ever turned on someone else," he said. "Everybody stuck with it. Go through five-, six-game losing streaks, whatever it was, you know and guys are still encouraging. You just can't say enough about resiliency that it took to get through those times."
With his stellar play, Quick rarely found himself needing redemption as an apology for his play. But in Game 5 two nights earlier, his misplay behind his net led to the game's opening goal by New Jersey's Zach Parise.
"You make mistakes," he said. "Everybody makes mistakes. It's part of the game. You can't be a hundred percent every time. I was trying to help the D-men a little bit. I made a mistake. It's going to happen. Guys know that."
It was fitting that when Quick first pictured himself holding the Stanley Cup, he was watching Mike Richter, his favorite player, backstop the 1994 New York Rangers to their first title in 54 years. The ultra-flexible keeper known as Gumby, who used to sleep through alarm clocks and miss meetings early in his career, was lifting his team to a place it had never been.
"The people here deserve this," said Hall-of-Famer Luc Robitaille, now a Kings vice president. "We had a lot of great players and really good teams. But this team had something extra.
"It had Jonathan Quick."