People are talking about goalie Jonathan Quick
again, but in a whole new context.
Just a few days ago, the discussion about Quick was fueled with skepticism, with doubt that his late-season play would translate well to success in the playoffs.
In the first two games of the Kings' first-round series against the Vancouver Canucks, though, it's not major stretch to say that Quick has been the Kings' best player, and he will be important again in Game 3 tomorrow at STAPLES Center.
Quick made 41 saves in his playoff debut but suffered a tough-luck 3-2 loss. Then, in Saturday's Game 2, Quick allowed an "uh oh" goal less than 10 minutes into the first period, which gave the Canucks a 2-0 lead and great momentum.
How did Quick respond? By shutting the door and making 22 consecutive saves as the Kings rallied for a 3-2 overtime win and tied the series 1-1.
Quick's eight-game winless streak at the end of the regular season was cause for concern, but his play in the first two games of this season has allowed his coach to exhale.
"We had a concern going in. I'm not going to kid you," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "Looking at the last bunch of games that he played after the Olympics, there was a lot going on his life, with the new baby. There was a little loss of focus at times, but the one thing that we've always talked about with Jonathan Quick
is his ability to refocus, to show that mental toughness, to bounce back after a goal that he wished he'd had or a game that wasn't quite the `A' game that he normally shows. Right now, he's back on track.
"He had a great first game. He had an even better second game. That's a team that puts a lot of pucks around that five-foot area at the top of the crease. You've got to be totally focused and, at the same time, quick and calm and relaxed, to be able to get to the right place and get square to pucks and make those crucial saves."
Quick, a fiery competitor on the ice, during games and practices, takes an even-keel approach in the locker room and indicated that he wouldn't make too much of the Kings' victory in Game 2.
"It was a great way to finish out those two games up there," Quick said. "Even that first game, it could have gone either way. The series, we could be up 2-0 or they could be up 2-0. Both games could have gone either way. Both teams have played some great hockey.
"As far as the confidence level goes, we were confident going in. Even after we lost that first game, we were still confident going into Game 2. That game didn't change anything. After that win, it gives us a bit of momentum going into Game 3, and it's going to be exciting to play here in front of our home fans." NO CHANGES
Murray said he doesn't expect to make any lineup changes for Game 3, meaning that forwards Justin Williams
and Raitis Ivanans and defensemen Davis Drewiske
and Randy Jones will be the healthy scratches.
"All I'm going to do is leave things the way they are," Murray said. "All of the lines will stay the same." POWERFUL PLAY
The Kings' power play is a big reason why they were able to earn a split in Vancouver. The Kings scored two power-play goals in each game and are 4-for-9 with the man advantage so far in the series.
After Sunday's practice, Murray had strong praise for defenseman Jack Johnson, who has joined the second power-unit, on the blue line with Drew Doughty
, along with Dustin Brown
, Alexander Frolov and Fredrik Modin up front.
Johnson had the initial shot in overtime Saturday that, while blocked, eventually led to Anze Kopitar
's game-winning goal.
"Absolutely outstanding," Murray said of Johnson's play. "We're going to keep him on the power play with Doughty. I loved what he did. With his agility and mobility on the blue line, lateral movement, looking people off and getting wrist shots to the net. He's such a strong kid. He has the knack of getting the puck to the net.
"A lot of defensemen can make those moves and then it hits a stick, hits a foot, hits a leg, and they're not quite getting it to the net, but he has that knack, and pucks do end up at the net. Now you've got those second and third opportunities. That's a skill in itself, and we're going to keep him going."
The Kings' other power-play unit features Kopitar, Doughty, Michal Handzus, Jarret Stoll
and Ryan Smyth. TIME TO CHANGE
The Kings have had mixed success in this series against Vancouver's top line, which includes Henrik Sedin, the NHL's top scorer, and his twin brother, Daniel.
The twins factored in all three of the Canucks' goals in Game 1 but were kept off the scoresheet entirely in Game 2.
Now, with the series shifting to Los Angeles, Murray will have the right to make the final line change before faceoffs, meaning it will be easier for him to get the matchups he prefers. In the case of the Sedins, that means likely matching them up against the line of Handzus, Modin and Brad Richardson
"It means a little bit," Murray said. "It doesn't make the difference in the game. I think the way we see the NHL set up today, there's a lot of parity around the game. We talk about that all the time, a level playing field or however you want to talk about it. We are aware the Vancouver has the premier line in hockey.
"They have the leading scorer, and we have to make sure we have the right matchup against them. We had Doughty and Scuderi as the matchup we wanted in the last two games. We tried to make it more on the fly in the last game. Now I have that last change, and I'm looking probably at that Handzus line, more consistently being able to match him up against Sedin. I hope it has an effect.