Coming into this season, the Kings were considered contenders, albeit a mid-seed with an outside shot at making a serious run. However, their early play has put them in a position to run away with their division, with early struggles in both Phoenix and San Jose. Much of that credit goes to net-minder Jonathan Quick, who was a bit of a question mark coming into the year, but has solidified the Pacific Division's top team.
Quick wasn't a glaring concern for the Kings heading into the season, but there was skepticism as to whether or not he was a goaltender that could help the Kings reach Cup contender status. Quick broke into the league in '08-'09, when he played in 44 games for Los Angeles, starting 41 of them. His numbers were solid as a rookie, posting four shutouts and a 2.48 GAA.
However, his performance in 2009-2010 saw a bit of a drop off, mostly due to a big increase in playing time. Quick became the primary goalie for the Kings heading into the season and his experience jumped by almost 30 games, playing in 72 last season. With 30 more games, he still posted the same four shutouts, but his goals against average and save percentage took small hits, with the latter dropping down to just .907.
The early going in 2010-11 has Kings fans excited about Quick. He's off to a stellar start for a squad that's at the top of the West. He's won eight of his nine starts, putting up a .942 save percentage and a stellar 1.64 GAA.
As far as where Quick stacks up against the league's best in net, there's certainly a case to be made for Quick to be the third best netminder in the NHL, behind St. Louis' Jaraslov Halak and Boston's Tim Thomas, who are off to scorching starts of their own.
If Quick continues his stellar play, there's no doubt that LA can be among the best teams in the West, since they are built for a run with a nice mix of youth and veterans, with plenty of speed and brawn on the ice. Still, it starts with Quick and he is proving that the Kings have a strong foundation to lean on come springtime.