Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 1/12/12
LOS ANGELES, Calif. Jonathan Quick was selected eighth amongst the 23 goaltenders chosen overall at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, behind names such as Carey Price, Tuukka Rask and Ondrej Pavelec and in front of 15 players who have thus far combined for 18 NHL games. None of those players and perhaps only two or three players of any draft year, really have meant as much to their team as Quick has meant to the Los Angeles Kings this season. The fourth-year goaltender, who turns 26 later this month, was selected to his first All-Star Game Thursday and by virtue of his NHL-leading six shutouts as well as five straight starts and 14 overall in which he failed to yield more than one goal is in the midst of posting the best season by a goaltender in Kings franchise history and results that would suggest serious consideration for the Vezina Trophy. Until Quick, the team's spotty goaltending history had previously peaked during Rogie Vachon's excellence in the 1970's, Mario Lessard's 35-win season of 1980-81 (the last year a Los Angeles goaltender had been selected to an All-Star Game) and Felix Potvin's career resurrection during a blazing 2001 stretch run.He's just the fourth different Kings goaltender to make the All-Star team and first since 1981: (Terry Sawchuk in 1968; Rogie Vachon in 1973, 1975 and 1978 and Mario Lessard in 1981). Team Captain Dustin Brown, who was on the ice in 2007 when Yutaka Fukufuji assumed the crease for the Kings and became the first Japanese-born player to appear in an NHL game, sees something different in Quick from the previously-installed rotating door in net, other than the vast production discrepancy. There's something about Quick's persona, even if it's difficult to place. "It's just hard to really finger it with him. It's more about an attitude," Brown said. "Two things I think haven't really changed with Quicker is his work ethic and his I don't know how to put this he's got a cockiness to him, and he's had it since the day he's come up here from the East Coast League, I believe," Brown said. "He walked in it's not a cockiness where you want to punch him in the face, but like, I'm going to stop the puck, you guys do your job,' that kind of cockiness. He chirps guys in practice." "He definitely wants to let you know if you haven't scored on him in a couple weeks. That's about the only time I've seen him brag is when he's got someone's number in practice," Brown said. Selfless and more eager to defer credit to those around him, the needle gauging Quick's character never extends past confidence. As he surmised earlier this year while in the middle of his franchise-record 202 minute, 11 second shutout streak, it's teams that produce gaudy defensive numbers, not goaltenders. "I just feel that goaltending in general is the most dependent position, maybe, in all of sports," Quick said in October. "As the team goes, so does the goalie. When the goalie's doing really well, he usually is getting more credit than he deserves. There's guys that aren't' getting credit that are blocking shots, and fighting hard in the tough areas along the wall, in the corners and stuff like that that are helping the goaltender get the numbers that he is."At the team's practice facility Wednesday, he described how he's been able to develop such an acute focus that doesn't show any signs of abating at the season's midpoint. His 1.93 GAA ranks fourth among qualified goaltenders; his .934 save percentage ranks fifth. "You just go in trying to make one save at a time," Quick said. "Whether you're making one save every minute, or one save every five minutes, you'll see how that plays out throughout the game." Without any room for error, Quick and Jonathan Bernier have produced the type of minutes necessary to lift a team that ranks last in the league with 93 goals the team has scored 23 goals in Quick's 17 regulation and overtime losses into a playoff berth and only two points behind division-leading San Jose, though the Sharks have four games in hand. Los Angeles is 6-1-3 in Darryl Sutter's first 10 games and appears to be trending upward, though with the lack of offensive consistency, there's absolutely no room for a bad goal, even every now and then. "When your mind wanders, that's when you tend to let up goals. Sometimes you might for a sec, and you've got to have the awareness to snap right back," Quick said. "Realize what you've got to focus on, it is that one shot at a time, and you go from there." Sutter coached Ed Belfour in Chicago, Mike Vernon in San Jose and Mikka Kiprusoff in Calgary and understands that it's not just innate athletic ability that determines a goaltender's fortunes, but also the approach and character that projects current success over a longer span. "I think he's really similar to a lot of top goalies I've been fortunate to coach, in terms of his practice habits and his respect in the locker room in terms of leadership," Sutter said. He's also a legitimate contender for the first Vezina Trophy in Kings history. There will be stiff competition from Henrik Lundqvist, who appears well on his way to a career year behind a first place team, boasting a win total (19), GAA (1.85) and save percentage (.939) that rank superior to Quick's statistics. Tim Thomas and Jimmy Howard's statistics are also in the range of Quick's, but is there any one player, let alone goaltender, currently as valuable to their team? When Los Angeles scores exactly two goals in front of Quick, they've won six games and earned points in nine of 15. They've won two 1-0 games, courtesy of Quick shutouts. Without the world-class goaltending the Kings have received, they'd be much closer to a lottery pick than a playoff berth. Jarret Stoll's first year in Los Angeles was 2008-09, the season Quick was an opportunistic December call-up at a time when he had more starts in the ECHL than the AHL. In the three years that followed, an entire organization's goaltending legacy has been shifted positively, a feat not lost on the veteran center. "He's all about the team, he just wants to win games. Period. That's all he wants to do is win hockey games, whether it's in overtime or a shootout or a shutout or whatever. If we win 6-5, he's happy," Stoll said. "Some goalies maybe aren't like that. He definitely is. He cares about the team a lot, he cares about his teammates and he's been so solid for us when we've struggled and won so many games for us. Any good goaltender will win you games, and he's definitely a great goalie."
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