More than one goalie expert across the NHL considers Jonathan Quick to be the League's most capable goalie when on his knees.
Quick, ever modest, says that is perhaps because he spends too much time in that position during the course of a game
He is joking -- sort of.
In fact, a major secret behind Quick's Vezina-contending success this season, is his proclivity for self-criticism. His perfectionism fueled him to lead the NHL in shutouts (10) and carry his scoring-anemic team into the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs where the Kings are in the midst of springing an upset on the President's Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks.
Los Angeles has a two-games-to-none lead in the series and Quick, who has a .946 save percentage, has continually frustrated a Canucks lineup loaded with skilled scorers. Game 3 is Sunday night (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC)
"Sometimes he is too hard on himself to a fault," said Bill Ranford, the Kings goalie coach. "He understands the position very well and doesn't shy away from being his own worst critic."
Ranford has coached Quick since he was fresh from a promising -- but not exactly Hobey Baker-esque -- college career at the University of Massachusetts. Quick started his pro career with the ECHL's Reading Royals and has quickly made his way up the ladder. Ranford has watched the transformation first-hand and marvels at the exponential improvement in Quick's game during the past five years.
The rookie pro struggled with rebound control. He also had a tendency to over-play shots, thus unnecessarily taking himself out of position for second shots, often with disastrous results.
"The biggest thing we talked about was getting away from making the athletic save first and instead trying to make the initial save in control," Ranford said
Quick's early-career weaknesses may be typical, but what wasn't is how Quick-ly (excuse the pun) he corrected his flaws.
Indeed: New York might have King Henrik, but now L.A. has King Quick.
"The biggest reason for his success is a lot of hard work on his part," says Ranford. "His game has really come a long way."
The list of his standout talents is long (and growing), but perhaps most impressive is Quick's athleticism and flexibility. If there were a skills competition for how fast a goalie can push laterally from point A to B, the big money would be on Quick to win.
Behind those rapid power pushes -- especially when already on his knees -- are extra-sharp skates and extra-strong legs.
Although Quick's toe-planting pushes are technically perfect, Ranford insists, "most of [Quick]'s power comes from pure leg strength"-- mostly resulting from dedicated off-ice weight training.
The 6-foot-1 Quick's gymnastic flexibility, which lengthens his range by several inches, is also the result of blue-collar efforts.
"Strengthening and stretching," his coach said, adding that, unlike yoga-practicing Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins, "He's not a big yoga guy. He just works at it and all that athleticism is a big part of his game."
Yet another big reason for Quick's standout play is something fans don't see.
Although Quick recently reveled in meeting actor Tom Hanks after a game, he is no longer a King you will find partying at a Hollywood nightclub. Instead he is a family man, married with a 2-year-old daughter, concentrating fully on his craft.
"He has just settled down off the ice," said Ranford. "He is more professional and has turned into a leader in our dressing room. He hates to lose and wants to win."