Jonathan Quick's storybook season highlight might well have been his nomination as one of three Vezina Trophy candidate finalists. That will be surpassed by his forthcoming leading role in the Kings capturing the Stanley Cup.
The tale of Quick's rise to the upper echelon of NHL goalies is an inspiring one. He played his college hockey at University of Massachusetts, an unlikely source of pro players.
In the 2005 draft he was selected 72nd in the third round making him the eighth goalie picked. Four of those goalies selected ahead of him have yet to play an NHL game.
The Kings, at the time, had just acquired Mathieu Garon in a trade from Montreal and he appeared to be their future net-minder. Just in case Garon did not pan out in succession they drafted Jonathan Bernier with the 11th pick of the first round in 2006, and later acquired Jason LaBarbera.
Quick appeared destined to languish in Manchester, NH, the Kings American Hockey League affiliate, as a mere emergency stand-in possibility.
When LaBarbera surrendered six goals in a loss at Colorado in early December, 2008 the door opened for Quick. He capitalized on the opportunity by producing shutouts in two of his first three stats, three of his first 13 and four of his first 26 and has been the starter ever since.
Those of us on the East Coast have been bedazzled by Martin Brodeur, Henrik Lundqvist, Tim Thomas, Ryan Miller and perhaps do not recognize the stunning Quick improvement the past couple of years.
Year Goals Against Save Percent
2009 2.54 90.7
2010 2.24 91.8
2011 1.95 92.9
12playoffs 1.54 94.6
Quick out-dueled Brodeur in two LA victories in 2010, Jan. 31 and Oct. 30, despite the Devils out-shooting the Kings in both games. This season on Oct. 13, 2011, Quick played a great game, stopping 36 of 37 Devils shots in a 2-1 shootout loss at New Jersey.
Skeptics might argue that one great playoff run does not elevate Quick into the lofty company of the top goaltenders. However I am employing another criteria; the ability to play well on the road. It is this capability that distinguishes the elite talents from the second and even third tier guys.
So who are my examples of third-tier level goalies?
Calgary's Mikka Kiprsusoff is a good example. His career 67.1 winning percentage at home with a 2.19 goals against average and 92.0 save percentage is sparkling; his 51.1 winning percentage on road with a 2.74 goals against average and 90.7 save percentage suggests he is a different player on the road.
Chicago's Cristobal Huet is another. He's a career 63.8 percent winner at home with a 2.21 goals against average and 91.9 save percentage while the numbers slide to 52.0 win percent, 2.70 goals against average and 90.8 save percentage on the road.
Columbus' Steve Mason is a third mediocre goaltender for his home versus road splits are similarly significant.
These players also have big differences in their home versus road won-loss percentages and goals against averages but the distinction from the third-tier guys is that their save percentages on the road are close to their home performances.
I conclude from this that their road woes are more attributable to their teammates problems than the goaltenders themselves. Luongo's gap in win percentage is striking , 58.6 percent at home versus only 48.3 percent on road but his save percentage is consistent no matter the venue.
The same goes for DiPietro who carries a career 55.6 home win percent but only a 43.2 road win percent. Edmonton's Nikolai Khabibulin , Tampa Bay's Dwayne Roloson, Minnesota's Niklas Backstrom and Dallas' Kari Lehtonen are others that fall into this category.
So too does Montreal's Carey Price who was the first goalie selected in that 2005 draft with the fifth pick. His career home record is 57.4 winning percent with a 2.40 goals against average and a 91.9 save percentage; on road 50.0 win percent with a 2.72 goals against average and 91.4 save percentage.
The second-tier guys could conceivably backstop their clubs to playoff success if their general managers surrounded them with a better supporting cast. Check out Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman's home versus road splits to get a glimpse into how goalie Roloson has been victimized.
Now back to the elite guys; they win on the road.
Quick's career 61.6 home win percent and 91.6 save percentage compares favorably to his 56.6 road win percentage and 91.7 save percentage.
Los Angeles is blessed with exciting star power including Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Dustin Penner and Anze Kopitar. I believe that imbued with confidence in their own goaltender they will aggressively attack the Devils in waves and put enough pucks behind Brodeur to win the series in a relatively easy fashion five games.
I must admit that's what I'm rooting for . I believe most of us sports fans live vicariously through the exploits and successes of those athletes we admire. For me, Jonathan Quick is one of those guys.