- Craig Custance
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LOS ANGELES -- He smiled only briefly when he was handed the Conn Smythe Trophy, and it looked mostly forced for the cameras in front of him. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick took the award, skated a few feet and handed it to an NHL employee. He's not doing this for individual accolades.
A moment later we saw exactly what drives him.
Quick spotted Darryl Sutter as the Stanley Cup was being handed around by teammates near them on the ice, and he grabbed his coach in a bear hug that came with a giant grin, one of the few huge smiles Quick had shown in public during his playoff run. That smile remained while he embraced his teammates.
As the season came to an end, those teammates had become the NHL's most dominant team.
Quick was there from the start.
"We wouldn't have been in the playoffs without Jonathan Quick. Not only wouldn't we be standing here now, we wouldn't have been amongst the 16 [playoff] teams," said longtime NHL goalie and Kings assistant GM Ron Hextall. "He had a phenomenal year."
When the Kings couldn't score in December, Quick carried them until they finally broke through offensively. His regular-season goals-against average (1.95) was second only to Brian Elliott for the league lead. His save percentage was fifth overall at .929.
Somehow it all got better in the postseason.
He led all playoff goalies with a 1.41 GAA and .946 save percentage -- that save percentage ties Ottawa's Patrick Lalime's mark as the best all time for any goalie who started at least 10 games.
During the finals, he stopped 125 of 132 shots and was finally handed an easy one in the Cup clincher, one of the few easy wins he saw all season. But as the Kings' lead grew, he wasn't about to ease up on the intensity -- even though the fact that he was about to win his first Stanley Cup wouldn't stop seeping into his consciousness.
"As much as you keep pushing it out of your mind, it will creep back in. Especially you get that four-goal lead, it's hard for it not to creep into your head a little bit," Quick said.
It was never enough to shake Quick's focus, which was evident from the first moments of this night when he stared, bent at the waist, at the ice as the final words of the national anthem were performed.
"The second you become relaxed, get your mind off what you're supposed to be doing, that's when they're going to take advantage of you," Quick said. "You keep telling yourself to work."
As he spoke, his 2-year-old daughter Madison skipped around him holding a small Kings Stanley Cup flag. At one point as he was about to answer a question, she started choking while eating an M&M. Quick calmly grabbed her, patted her back and settled her down. Another save.
It's the kind of interaction Quick rarely shows the public. He's private with his family and typically approaches media scrums and news conferences with a quiet reserve that keeps the spotlight off him and on his teammates instead. Even that approach became a story as we constantly asked him and his teammates why he was so quiet with reporters and in front of cameras.
On Monday night, his wife, Jaclyn, let out the answer. It's not about us.
"He doesn't think it has to do with you guys," she said. "It's a team thing to him. He's always been such a team guy. Even to him, it's not about him. He's so happy they won together."
The Kings won because Quick wouldn't let them lose. When they needed him most during the rough times in December, he was the one constant. They didn't know how many goals they might score, but they knew exactly what kind of performance Quick would turn in. That never faltered as each game grew in importance.
In the most important game of the season, he stopped 17 of 18 shots and the Devils' only goal came when the game was all but settled. In the six-game series, the Devils scored only seven times.
"He's grown a lot as a person and a goaltender," Hextall said. "But his competitiveness is what sets him apart from everybody else."
He's competitive when the Stanley Cup is in the building. He's competitive when the team is fighting for a playoff spot. He's competitive in the preseason. In practice. Even in rug hockey.
During the offseason, he spends Sunday nights at family dinners that often include former teammate and Islanders forward Matt Moulson. Moulson and Quick married sisters and Moulson has seen that competitive fire in every possible situation.
From the ice to one-on-one rug hockey sessions against his wife.
"They've put on a couple good shows," Moulson joked.
Jaclyn confirmed the story.
"It's always me versus him and we beat the [heck] out of each other," she said as her husband wrapped up postgame interviews. "I almost chipped my tooth last summer. He threw me into a wall. But he's not as strong as he looks. I can take him."
She might be the only one.
The Devils were the final team to try and fail this season. And with the Conn Smythe, Quick enters that small fraternity of goalies who left their imprint on NHL history. Bruins goalie Tim Thomas had a season for the ages last year, one that looked like it wouldn't be duplicated for a long time. Quick just did it.
"It changes you forever," said Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward, who won the Conn Smythe in 2006. "He's obviously had a tremendous year, throughout the regular season. Just when you think he can't take it to another level, he does."
There's so much credit to go around anytime a team wins a Stanley Cup. Dean Lombardi built this team. Dustin Brown's leadership and big-time performances as captain were crucial to the success. Goalies coach Bill Ranford deserves a huge assist in molding Quick into the player we saw lift the Stanley Cup. He inherited a raw athlete with a competitive fire and helped teach him how to be an NHL goalie.
And what a goalie he's become.
"He learned to be a winner," Ranford said. "Once your name goes on the Cup, nobody can take it away from you. It's just a special night for him and I'm real proud of him. Real proud of him."
Jonathan Quick was the one constant for the Kings all season, but the individual awards aren't what drive him to be great, writes Craig Custance.