I'm assuming most people reading this have already seen the center-ice goal footage from last night's game, but for those that haven't, the link is here.
Of course, this goal was not the first center goal and it won't be the last. Goalies misread plays all the time, and pucks take crazy bounces; it's inevitable.
What does make a difference is when the goal is let in, and what the result was.
We all remember back in 2002 when the Canucks were up 2-0 in the series against the President's Trophy-winning Detroit Red Wings. With Game 3 tied 1-1, Nick Lidstrom scored from center-ice on Canucks' goaltender Dan Cloutier. The Wings not only went on to win the game, but the next three to win the series, and eventually won the Stanley Cup.
Cloutier was a first-round draft pick (26th overall) by the New York Rangers in 1994. While his numbers were never exactly stellar prior to the infamous goal, he was still young with plenty of promise. After that goal, he never looked the same.
Many people regard that goal as the moment Dan Cloutier's career began to end.
You're probably thinking that the Cloutier goal was an anomaly and has nothing to do with Jonathan Quick, and while that's partially true, there is other compelling evidence of the impact of a series-changing center-ice goal.
For example, in Game 6 of the first round of the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Dan Ellis allowed a center ice goal from Nicklas Lidstrom (of course). The goal put the Wings up 1-0 in the game and proved to be the game and series winner. If that's not proof enough for you, take a look at these numbers: Dan Ellis' save percentage in the NHL before that goal (including playoffs) was .926. Since then, it's .902, and his number of regular season starts has declined every year since, leading up to just 10 starts this past season in Anaheim.
Likewise, Roman Turek had a .910 career save percentage prior to allowing a center-ice game winner off the stick of Owen Nolan. Following the goal, his save percentage was .906; not a huge discrepancy but it is there.
Conversely, when Martin Brodeur let a similar goal in during Game 3 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals, losing the game but eventually winning the series, his career went unscathed.
The evidence is there: if a goaltender lets a bad goal in from center ice during the playoffs, resulting in both a game and series loss, it can be very damaging to the career.
In the case of Jonathan Quick, while the goal was brutal, he took home the win, which is the important thing. With that win, there's no looking back thinking what if? With that win, Jonathan Quick may have just saved his career.