Despite much of the drama of these Stanley Cup Final being sucked out of it by virtue of the Los Angeles Kings 4-0 blowout of the New Jersey Devils Monday night, fans will still have a monster reason to tune in to what could be the Cup clinching game on Wednesday: To witness the culmination of what is shaping up to be one of the statistically greatest goaltending performances in Stanley Cup Playoff history. Monday’s shutout was the latest gem from Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, who is having a postseason that he’ll tell his grandchildren about.
Quick stopped all 22 shots he faced en route to his third shutout of the playoffs moving some of his stats to the be best that has been seen in the playoffs. His current save percentage of .950 and goals against average of 1.36 stand out as the best of any goaltender in history with at least 13 games played. Lost in the shuffle of declining US TV ratings and a shortage of story lines is we might be seeing the stuff of legends in Quick’s performance. And the fact that he’s put up these numbers against the level of competition he has faced (facing the 1, 2, 3 seeds just to make it to the Cup Final) makes it all the more impressive. Add to it was the fact that he was leaned upon all season long just to get the Kings into the playoffs as the offense struggled to put up just the 2.29 they gave him as goal support.
And even in this series, his play has ripped the heart out of a Devils team that has a strong core of forwards that have led them through the 1, 3, 5 seeds to get here. Ilya Kovalchuk came into the series as the leading point producer in the playoffs. So far, he hasn’t managed one. In fact, the only two Devils goals have come from a deflection off a Kings defender in Game 1 and a deflected point shot in Game 2. Not one true shot from the likes of Zach Parise, Patrik Elias or Travis Zajac has beaten him. Most times, it looks like the shots aren’t even giving Quick any trouble at all.
Wednesday night, Phil Pritchard will be in Staples Center, polishing up the toughest trophy in professional sports to win. If Quick plays like he has, the Kings will win the game and claim the franchise’s first Stanley Cup in its history. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will present him the Conn-Smythe Trophy as the most outstanding player, amongst his traditional throng of boos one would assume. And then Mr. Pritchard will walk out with the Holy Grail of hockey players, the Stanley Cup. After a robotic like speech, Bettman will present Kings captain Dustin Brown with the Cup, who’ll raise it with the smile of a 10 year old kid making his first trip to Disneyland. Afterwards, the should look in the direction of Quick and make sure he’s the next guy who gets to raise the cup. And when he does, hockey fans savor the sight (ok, Devils, Ducks, and Sharks fans are excluded from this) of one of the finest playoff performances they’ll ever see. There is still much left to be written in the story of his career. But for these past two months, he’s played as well as just about any goaltender that’s ever been between the pipes.
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