Through five games of the Western Conference Final, Jonathan Quick has been stealthily goaltending under the radar.
At the other end of the ice, Corey Crawford has been beaten by half-speed, 30-foot wrist shots and just about every somewhat difficult attempt the Los Angeles Kings have thrown at him since Game 1. Crawford’s .882 save percentage in this series is the reason why the Chicago Blackhawks are trailing 3-2 and why no one has noticed Quick has been nearly as unreliable.
Quick’s save percentage for this series is .894; the 2012 Conn Smythe Trophy winner has a .909 save percentage in the 2014 playoffs.
Montreal Canadiens goaltender Dustin Tokarski, thrust into action in the Eastern Conference Final because of an injury to Carey Price, has a .902 save percentage.
The guy with the 10-year, $58 million contract is being outplayed by a guy who was in the AHL at the start of this year’s playoffs.
But while the Blackhawks are losing largely because of Crawford, the Kings have been winning in spite of Quick, as the team has scored 19 goals over the past four games.
If Quick was just average in Game 5, the Kings would be in their second Stanley Cup Final in three seasons.
The Blackhawks entered the third period trailing 4-3, the fourth goal coming off the stick of Tanner Pearson. It was perhaps the worst goal Crawford has allowed during this four-game stretch, an un-screened floater to the blocker side that should’ve been enough to break the defending champions.
The notion that a goaltender should just protect a lead in the third period of a big game no matter the circumstances is silly. Sometimes a goaltender will get beat by a great shot or have no hope as the puck whizzes past him through a screen or bounces off a skate and into the back of the net.
Ben Smith’s tying goal early in the third period was none of those things.
Quick steered a harmless, soft shot from the top of the left faceoff circle directly into the middle of the ice. The puck found an uncovered Smith, who buried it past a helpless Quick. It’s understandable that he reacted late to the shot, as he was worried about the initial shot being tipped, but there’s no excuse for the placement of that rebound.
Michal Handzus’ double-overtime goal won it for the Blackhawks and left Quick with a sub-.900 save percentage for the third time in this series and eighth time in 19 postseason games.
In his two previous postseasons, a span of 38 games, Quick posted a sub-.900 save percentage five times.
Three of those five occurrences happened against the Blackhawks in the 2013 Western Conference Final.
|Jonathan Quick's past three postseasons|
The difference between last year and this year is the Kings are scoring at a much higher rate and, in turn, Crawford has been disastrous in net.
There are at most two games remaining in this series, perhaps just one, and both Quick and Crawford can turn it around at any moment. Both are playing far below their career postseason averages (Quick: .924; Crawford: .922), but it was Crawford who locked things down after the unbelievably gross goal he allowed to Pearson.
Crawford stopped the final 25 shots he faced and looked demonstrably more comfortable in the third period and overtimes after fighting the puck over the first 40 minutes. Quick couldn’t lock down a win after this team had scored four goals, and now he has to again face the one team that has given him postseason trouble the past two years.
Quick has gotten a pass for his substandard goaltending in this series because the Kings were winning. If the Blackhawks have been awakened with the Game 5 overtime win and Quick doesn’t return to form, it’ll be Quick that bears the brunt of the blame for the Kings squandering a 3-1 series advantage.
All statistics via NHL.com.
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