|ESPN.com: NHL Playoffs 2012||[Print without images]|
The first time Bill Ranford watched Jonathan Quick in a college hockey game, he saw a goaltender with all the skills but unsure how to use them.
"He had all the tools; he just had to kind of get them in place," the Los Angeles Kings' goaltender coach said in an interview Monday. "The way he did things from a tactical standpoint was very raw. He didn't really have any coaching growing up. He basically went out there and stopped the puck."
The 26-year-old Quick has organized his toolbox and is one of the big reasons the Kings are on the brink of eliminating the Vancouver Canucks from the first round of the NHL playoffs.
He made 41 saves in Los Angeles' 1-0 victory over Vancouver Sunday night, which gave the Kings a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal series. This came on the heels of making 46 stops in Game 2. In three games, Quick has blocked 111 of 115 shots.
If the Kings beat the Canucks in Wednesday's Game 4, it will be the first time since 2001 that Los Angeles has advanced past the first round of the playoffs.
The Canucks, last year's Stanley Cup runner-up, want to avoid becoming only the third Presidents' Trophy winner to be swept out of the playoffs, and the first to suffer that fate in the first round.
|In the first three games of the series against the Canucks, Jonathan Quick has blocked 111 of 115 shots.|
For a Kings team that struggled to score goals most of the season, Quick has been a solid, dependable presence.
"We just have that feeling with him (and) him with us," center Jarret Stoll told reporters after Sunday's game. "We go out there and we battle our butts off for him, and he does that for us. We know he's going to make big saves when he needs to."
Quick lives up to his name. He uses cat-like reflexes to position himself. Unlike some goaltenders, he can drop to his knees and still move with stealth across his crease.
When he was younger, Quick relied on his athleticism to stop shots. Ranford, who won two Stanley Cups as a goalie with the Edmonton Oilers and was MVP of the 1990 playoffs, tried to hone Quick's technique.
Quick has developed a hybrid butterfly style. He plays low and wide on his skates. At 6-foot-1 and 214 pounds, Quick isn't the biggest goalie, but his ability to move from post to post gives shooters little space to aim. He sucks up pucks and allows few rebounds.
Tinkering with a goaltender's style can be like do-it-yourself repairs to a car. Make the wrong adjustment and things can head into the ditch.
"It's very tricky," said Ranford. "You give him the tools and you try things out. If it works, you keep it in the tool box. If it doesn't, you throw it out and try something different.
"He's been a sponge since Day 1. He has the crazy ability, you can talk to him about something in the morning and he's able to work on it in a game at night. That's the type of person he is, trying to make himself better."
One of Quick's big saves Sunday came when he dragged a leg in front of a blistering Alex Burrows shot in the dying seconds of the first period. Late in the third, with the Canucks storming the Kings' net, Quick stayed calm in the mayhem.
Quick is the first to credit his defense for limiting Vancouver's scoring chances. Players like Willie Mitchell and Rob Scuderi have cleared traffic in front of the net and kept the Canucks from getting to the few rebounds Quick has allowed.
"Not a lot of pucks got through and the ones (that did), I was able to see," Quick said. according to the Kings. "Guys (are) sacrificing all over the ice and making sure they (shots) weren't getting through. They've been doing it all year. That's something everybody expects out of each other and it's something they've done really well."
Quick has shown resiliency and poise all season. The father of a young daughter has become a quiet leader in the Kings' dressing room. He had a 35-21-13 record, led the league with 10 shutouts, was second-best with a goals-against average of 1.95 and was fifth with a save percentage of .929 during the regular season.
But it's just not his numbers that have made Quick a Vezina Trophy candidate as the NHL's top goaltender. He managed to keep a team that scored the second-fewest goals in the league in the playoff hunt. In Quick's 34 losses, the Kings managed just 46 goals.
"As he's matured over the last three years he's become more and more resilient," said Ranford. "Look at the frustrating two-thirds of the season we had from an offensive standpoint. He didn't let that bother him. He just controlled what he could control and that was stopping the puck."
As good as he has been this year, Quick remains a work in progress.
"He's still a young guy," said Ranford. "There's lots of room for him to get better. Understanding the game better, reading plays better, getting to know the shooters better."