By Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer
During the Kings' dominant run to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, it's been impossible not to notice goaltender Jonathan Quick.
In his fourth NHL season, the University of Massachusetts product already had a Vezina Trophy nomination sewn up before leading L.A. to the Final with a miniscule 1.54 goals-against average and .946 save percentage, both postseason highs among goaltenders who have played more than three games. The only other goaltender in history to lead the Kings this far has also noticed Quick's play, and he likes what he sees.
"I've been saying this for a few years now. I'm amazed by how good he is. He's going to be a superstar," said Kelly Hrudey, who helped lead the Kings to the 1993 Final, the team's only previous appearance in the final round. "With all due respect to [former Kings goaltender and general manager] Rogie Vachon, who I love and adore and respect a ton, I think if Quick has longevity he will be known as the best goalie in Kings history. He's so good."
If there is one person who can appreciate what Quick has done with the Kings, it's Hrudey. After enduring the worst slump of his career in the 1992-93 season, he helped lead the Kings to the 1993 Final, making a number of key stops behind a team loaded with names like Gretzky, Robitaille, Kurri, and Blake.
"Kelly was there on the back end when we needed a big save," said Pat Conacher, a forward on that 1993 Kings team and the current coach of the WHL's Regina Pats. "In the playoffs you need goaltending. Kelly was definitely that guy for us."
Hrudey finished three wins shy of winning hockey's ultimate prize and, while he hasn't interacted much with the Kings' current star netminder, he has been watching him play since his first year in the League.
An analyst on CBC's "Hockey Night in Canada," Hrudey doesn't just see the future of the Kings franchise in Quick, he sees the natural evolution of the goaltending position.
"I love the way he plays, because he's not just a shot blocker. We had goaltenders going through a stretch where they were told to lose their athleticism and just be in perfect position and be big and be a shot blocker," Hrudey said. "I think that's important, don't get me wrong. But what I love about Quick is you see a real athlete behind the goalie. He's so flexible. He's quick, he's strong. For me, he is the ideal goaltender in today's game."