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At 25, Jonathan Quick Has Already Seen Just About Everything

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Looking for a way to rattle Jonathan Quick? Looking for a situation on (or off) the ice that might be unfamiliar to Quick, one that he might not know how to handle?

Well, good luck with that.

At the young age of 25, in just his second full NHL season, Quick has seen almost everything. He climbed up from the ECHL. He surprised many by claiming the Kings' No. 1 goalie job. He set a franchise record for games and wins and helped the team to the playoffs for the first time in eight years. He became an Olympian and a first-time father.

All of these accomplishments have been accompanied by challenges, and Quick -- arguably the Kings' most competitive and self-critical player -- has internalized all the experiences and, seemingly, become a much better goalie for all of it.

``When you've been through it, you know what to expect, you know what it's like, you know what kind of game it is when you're playing with a playoff-like mentality,'' Quick said. ``Teams are fighting to save their seasons. ... You know how the games are, you know that every play matters and it all comes down to the attention to detail.''

Quick has been among the league leaders in the major goalie statistics all season long. He entered the final week of the regular season with an outstanding 2.18 goals-against average, and not once this season has that figure been higher than 2.23.

Thanks in large part to Quick's consistently strong efforts, the Kings are pointed toward the playoffs for a second consecutive season. Now, Quick hopes to take what he has learned from the past few seasons and apply them to earn some postseason success.

Last season, Quick set franchise records for goalie wins (39) and games played (72), but the Kings lost to Vancouver in six games in the first round of the playoffs. This season, per the strategy of coach Terry Murray, Quick's workload was cut back -- he's on pace to start 59 games this season -- and he appears sharp at an important time of the season.

``He's our number-one guy,'' Murray said. ``He's going to play the big games against the top teams. That's a challenge that he takes on, and he has performed well with those kinds of expectations on him.''

Quick has spent much of his professional career, thus far, exceeding expectations.

A third-round draft pick of the Kings in 2005, Quick left the University of Massachusetts and turned pro in 2007. He started the following season in the American Hockey League with Manchester but, after a regrettable incident of oversleeping, was assigned to Reading, which was then the Kings' affiliate in the East Coast Hockey League.

Things got progressively better for Quick from there. He started the 2008-09 season in Manchester and was playing well when the Kings needed a goalie. Quick came up, had a solid 2.48 goals-against average in 44 games, and never let go of the No. 1 job.

That's not to say there haven't been challenges. Even last season, in his record-setting campaign, some doubts were raised when Quick went 4-7-4 in March and April and then twice allowed five goals in the six-game first-round series against Vancouver.

The criticism, while not heavy, came from all angles. Some said Quick couldn't handle the big games. Many called for Jonathan Bernier, who had excelled in the AHL, to take Quick's job this season. Some league pundits flat-out considered it a fait accompli.

Quick, true to his nature, remained nonplussed. There is no harsher Jonathan Quick critic than Jonathan Quick, and throughout last fall's training camp and the early part of this season, Quick showed remarkable maturity and poise.

Quick showed up to training camp in the best shape of his career and, at every turn, praised Bernier and talked about how he needed to be better.

From day one, Quick had the support of Murray, who repeatedly reaffirmed Quick's status as the Kings' No. 1 goalie. Murray took much of the fire onto himself, saying that he might have played Quick too much last season and vowing to cut back on his games.

In training camp, Murray said he hoped to limit Quick to no more than 60 regular-season games, and if all goes to plan this week, Quick will end up playing exactly 60 games.

Quick's numbers would suggest the extra rest has helped.

``At the time last year, I felt good going into the playoffs,'' Quick said. ``I felt fine, and I was looking forward to it. I do notice it this year. I guess you could say I feel a little bit better. But at the end of the day, it's a long season. Every team has to go through it, deal with the ups and downs and try to prepare themselves the best they can for the playoffs.''

The ``Quick got overplayed last year'' storyline quickly got legs, and has now essentially been accepted as fact, but is it? Kings goalie coach Bill Ranford has a different take. Ranford argues that, in a sense, Quick was actually underplayed, not overplayed.

Last season, Quick's NHL campaign got interrupted for two weeks when he served as the third goalie for the United States Olympic team. Quick didn't appear in a game but took home a silver medal and, in Ranford's view, an excessive amount of rust as well.

``I think the `tired' thing might have been a little bit of an anomaly,'' Ranford said. ``We talked about it. I think the thing that might have hurt him was the Olympic break. He might as well have just been at home and had that good week of practice with us. It hurt him a lot. The U.S. team didn't practice much, and when he practiced he was the third guy, getting in very few reps. It probably did more harm to him than probably anybody else. The fatigue, he did play a lot of hockey, but I think it was more about that break. He just got off track a little bit, and it was a tough battle to get back.''

Murray's confidence in Bernier is far higher than the confidence he had in last season's backup, Erik Ersberg, who is now playing in the KHL. Last season, Quick started 21 of the Kings' final 22 regular-season games, a run that might rightfully exhaust any goalie.

This season, Murray has sought to start Bernier in at least one game per week, and Ranford said that practice time, and not necessarily rest, has been important for Quick.

``I think it's just allowed us a little more maintenance time this year, where we were really lacking in that last year, especially down the stretch,'' Ranford said. ``By Bernie taking a little bit of the workload this year, especially in the morning skates where we have that extra time to do some little things after practice, I think it's gone a long way to help his [Quick's] game.''

The true test is yet to come. So far, Quick has taken the lessons from last season and applied them well to this season. But with the Kings pointed toward the playoffs for a second consecutive season, Quick's biggest test is likely still to come.

Quick knows that late-season games, and playoff games, are a whole different challenge.

``I just found it to be a harder game, around the front of the net,'' Quick said. ``Everybody's compete and battle level goes up a little bit. You've got to fight to see every puck, and rebounds, you're fighting to cover them up. It's a harder game. It's a lot more physical game, I feel, and momentum swings are big. Every play matters.

``It's a fun time of the year. It's extremely exciting to go out there and play. Every rink we go to is going to be sold out, with great energy in all the arenas, and it's a lot of fun to play at this time of year. This is what we worked hard for all summer, all year.''

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