May 4, 2012

Quick has Kings on cusp of conference finals

By Jesse Connolly

Goalie Jonathan Quick (Milford, Conn.) has the Kings just a win away from the conference finals. (Getty Images)

Thanks to the institution of the salary cap back in 2005, parity now reigns supreme in the National Hockey League. Gone are perennial powerhouses and sure bets come playoff time. 

Because of that, the notion of shocking upsets has also evaporated, as any team is capable of winning on a nightly basis during the regular season or even up-ending a higher seed in the postseason.

Nevertheless, while an eighth-seeded squad still has a fighting chance of making it through the playoff gauntlet, one would think it’d still be an uphill battle, an absolute grind to climb to the top of the NHL mountain. Jonathan Quick (Milford, Conn.) and the Los Angeles Kings are making it look easy.

In the opening round of the playoffs, Quick and the Kings needed just five games to send the President’s Trophy-winning Canucks packing. On Thursday night, their 4-2 victory over the No. 2 seeded St. Louis Blues – a team that ended the year on a 43-15-11 run under coach Ken Hitchock and dispatched the Sharks in five games in the first round – gave Los Angeles a commanding 3-0 lead, putting them a win away from advancing to the Western Conference finals.

Quick, a product of UMass, has been hugely instrumental in their success.

The win in Game 3 – an 18-save effort for his easiest night of the postseason – pushed his record to 7-1 in these playoffs, during which he’s allowed more than two goals on just one occasion (a 3-1 loss to Vancouver in Game 4). The 26-year-old netminder owns a 1.62 goals-against average and .948 save percentage thus far in the postseason.

"The difference between a good goalie and a great goalie is, a great goalie will make all the saves he's supposed to and a few he's not supposed to," Kings captain Dustin Brown told the Vancouver Sun. "That's what he's given us."

A standout at Avon Old Farms before he joined the Minutemen, Quick is among this year’s three nominees for the Vezina Trophy. He’s up against Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers and Pekka Rinne of the Predators.

"To be put in that category is a tremendous honor,” said Quick. “It's something that a lot of hard work was put into and it goes to credit the way these guys played in front of me.”

But the netminder has his eyes on a much bigger prize.

"That's not the trophy that I set out to win nine months ago or whenever,” Quick said after learning of his nomination early last week. “We still have a shot at the other one and that's what we're working on right now.”

With seven wins down and nine to go for the Kings, Quick’s stellar play is making their ultimate goal of capturing the Cup seem awfully realistic.

Jesse Connolly can be reached at jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseNEHJ.