LOS ANGELES -- For years, Jonathan Bernier has been touted as the goaltender of the future for the Los Angeles Kings. The 22-year-old was the team's first-round pick in the 2006 Entry Draft and was dominant the last two seasons in the AHL with Manchester, only increasing speculation that his time was approaching.
But with all due respect to Bernier, who has played well in his handful of appearances with the Kings, Jonathan Quick is showing he might be both the goaltender of the present and the future in Los Angeles.
The 24-year-old Quick didn't arrive on the scene with any of the hype of Bernier. He was a third-round pick in 2005 and after splitting time with Erik Ersberg and Jason LaBarbera in 2008-09, Quick became the undisputed No. 1 goaltender last season. He played in 72 games, won 39 of them, and backstopped the Kings to their first postseason berth since 2002 with his 2.54 goals-against average and .907 save percentage.
Despite his fantastic first season as a starter, the whispers that Bernier was about to take over the No. 1 job grew louder when he was appointed Quick's backup to start this season.
All Quick has done to counter his critics is open this season by going 7-1-0 with a 1.84 GAA and .936 save percentage. He made 39 saves in the Kings' 3-1 against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night and stopped all 20 shots he faced in a frantic third period.
"He's our No. 1 guy and he shows us why," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "He's winning games right now, playing very well and very sharp. That third period there was a lot of action around our net with world-class players coming at us. He was clean, he was alert, he was on the puck and he was under control and very composed the whole time."
Most of those 20 shots the Devils fired Quick's way were from the perimeter and appeared harmless. But Quick didn't give himself any extra work by either absorbing the shots and not leaving any rebounds or redirecting them out of harm's way.
It's tough to believe that someone with the numbers of Quick, who was also the third goaltender for Team USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics, needs to look over his shoulder. But the combination of a highly touted prospected and a disappointing postseason that saw Quick post a 3.50 GAA and .884 save percentage in a six-game, first-round loss to the Vancouver Canucks can be quite the motivator.
"Bernie's a great guy and a great goaltender. I think there's some healthy competition," Quick said. "You know, I think there has to be a little bit of a motivation knowing how good he is, that if I'm not able to make the save that I should be making, that he'll be in there. He should be in there. I think that's the best way to put it."
Despite the added pressure, Quick said he feels more comfortable in his second season as the Kings' No. 1 goaltender. It's translated into him helping the Kings to a League-best 8-3-0 record.
"I'd definitely say so," Quick said. "We got off to winning games like this last year, but I don't think personally I played as well as I have been this year. I think a lot of that stems from having some great defensive play throughout the season so far."
If Quick keeps playing like this, he could force the Kings to make Bernier the goaltender of the future in someone else's organization.
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo