The Los Angeles Kings have a 3-0 lead against the New York Rangers in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Final entering Game 4 at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS). There have been a number of players contributing to their great run through the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but with the Kings on the verge of winning the Stanley Cup for the second time in three seasons, you have to look at the man in net, Jonathan Quick.
I really think he's been awesome. I've said it all the time for the past two years: Jonathan Quick has been the best goalie in the world. It's his unique combination of talent, skill, athleticism and flexibility that has made him great. Most important, he's mentally stronger than any goalie on the planet.
Game 3 of the Cup Final was his first pro start at Madison Square Garden. He hadn't played at MSG since he was in peewee playing for a minor hockey team and family come down from Connecticut to watch. He grew up idolizing the Rangers and Mike Richter. With all that, he put on a show in Game 3. He made body-based saves and compact saves because his timing and positioning were excellent. When he had to go to his tool kit, he did. That's when he brings out the superhuman flexibility and athleticism and net instincts. It's an amazing combination.
If the Kings can wrap this series and hoist the Cup again, I would use the word legacy to describe them. It's a great accomplishment in this era. This is a very well-run organization, starting with general manager Dean Lombardi, who was mentored by New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello. He spent a lot of time with Lou and wanted to learn. He trusted Lou as a mentor, and you know what the Devils have done across the Hudson.
The Kings did their homework in trading for Marian Gaborik. He comes in and looks great and is a great fit, contrary to what most "experts" would have thought. I don't think it's unfair to use the word legacy if the Kings win the Cup for the second time in three seasons, especially in the salary-cap era and given that they play in the hardest division in hockey.
But it all comes back to Quick. For me, you see a lot of Richter in Quick's game. I also see a lot of Dominik Hasek in his game, and Grant Fuhr, especially with his mental strength. Anytime you're using those goalies to describe someone, that pretty much tells you everything you need to know.
Quick grew up in a state where people looked at him and said, "You're going to play hockey? Not football or hoops or baseball?"
I know what it's like to go the road less traveled, it's lonely. We're programmed to do what everybody else is doing. It takes a lot of courage to dance to your own drumbeat. He's earned everything he's gotten. All of that shapes the foundation for his mental toughness and mental makeup. You don't just arrive at the NHL tough mentally. It's a collection of our life experiences. For him, he's just a different cat. If you talked to any of the players in the Kings locker room, any one would tell you the same thing. He's a unique individual.
It wasn't that long ago, even in 2012 when they won the Cup, that there still were people in that organization who weren't sold on Quick. But in every series, when needed, he has dialed it up. It's one of the hardest positions in sports in the world. It becomes a lot more enjoyable when things are going your way, especially if you're already great. But when you can thrive by grinding your way around the blue paint when things aren't going well, if you can deliver in those situations over and over again, it tells you what you need to know.
We have so many great goalies in the NHL, from Tuukka Rask to Henrik Lundqvist to Carey Price, but Quick just has a very unique ability to elevate himself and a genuine sense of belief. It's very similar to what Fuhr used to do. Talk to Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier about those classic Edmonton Oilers teams and they'll tell you about Fuhr. When he got down and let in a few, he would tell guys, "They're not scoring again."
You can corroborate those stories with anyone on that team. It wasn't just talk; he made that happen.
Jonathan Quick is exactly the same way.