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Kings Surpass Goals in Goal

by Andrew Howard / Los Angeles Kings
Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick has set a Kings record with 39 wins in 2009-10.
It's a situation which the Los Angeles Kings haven't had in a long time, a once critical weakness that has become something of a luxury.

What would that be?

Goaltender depth.

This season the Kings have shown just how much depth they have at the position, not only in the minor and junior leagues but at the professional level as well. Currently, the Kings have three promising goaltenders on the team with Jonathan Quick, Erik Ersberg, and Jonathan Bernier.

To have that kind of depth while the Kings are gearing up for their first appearance in the playoffs in seven seasons is a far departure from where the franchise was just four seasons ago when Dean Lombardi became the team's General Manager.

In Lombardi's first season in 2006-07, the Kings had five players play in goal: Mathieu Garon (32 games, 28 starts), Sean Burke (23 games, 23 starts), Dan Cloutier (24 games, 23 starts), Barry Brust (11 games, 7 starts), and Yutaka Fukufuji (4 games, 1 start).

In the next season, six players played in goal: Jason LaBarbera (45 games, 42 starts), Ersberg (14 games, 13 starts), Cloutier (9 games, 9 starts), Bernier (4 games, 4 starts), Quick (3 games, 2 starts), and Daniel Taylor (1 game, 0 starts).

"It was tough," Kings goaltender coach Bill Ranford said. "[It was] just injury riddled. Bottom line is if you're playing that many goaltenders, you're either dealing with issues of injuries or poor goaltending, and it wears on the staff and players."

Now, the Kings no longer seem to have a revolving door between the pipes; in stark contrast, the position is now arguably one of the deepest in the organization.

"Now we're finally settled and it's a confidence builder," Ranford said.

Quick was tabbed as the No. 1 goaltender by coach Terry Murray prior to the start of this season, and has had a record-breaking season for the Kings. Quick's 39 wins are the most wins by a Kings goaltender in a single season, passing Mario Lessard's 35 wins in the 1980-81 season.

Additionally, Quick has tallied four shutouts, a 2.54 goals against average, and a .907 saves percentage in 68 games.

While Quick has struggled a bit as of late, Ranford is confident in what Quick means to the success of the Kings.

"Without a doubt he's probably the team MVP and the team would not be where it's at without him," Ranford said. "This is kind of his coming out year and the tough part is that we're in uncharted waters now with this being the most hockey he's ever played."

Murray also expressed confidence in Quick.

"Quick is our No. 1 goaltender, Murray told the Kings media after practice on Wednesday. "There's no gray area on that one. He's going to jump back into the net here against Anaheim, and he will play the following week also. This is just a look here, for me, to get specific in the practices and give him an opportunity to get away from playing games day after day. He's been one of the top guys in the league, so its a good break."

In place of Quick, Bernier has stepped up and delivered three impressive performances. In three games, Bernier has a 3-0-0 record and has allowed just four goals on 94 shots faced, including a shutout on the road against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.

Bernier's success at the NHL level is just an extension of the season he has had in the AHL with the Manchester Monarchs. In 56 games with Manchester, Bernier posted a 29-20-6 record, a 2.97 goals against average, a .936 saves percentage, and eight shutouts on the way to a first-team All-Star selection.

Ranford said that when the decision was made to name Quick as the No. 1 goaltender with the Kings and to have Ersberg back him up, the plan was to have Bernier play with the Monarchs in order to get him as much game-experience as possible.

So far, Ranford has been impressed with the results. Citing an improved consistency, Ranford said that Bernier has learned what it takes to be successful at the professional level.

"He's passed our expectations," Ranford said.

Bernier himself expressed that there was much he had to learn in order to succeed in the NHL.

"I had things to learn," Bernier told LAKings Insider Rich Hammond. "Right now, I can tell you that. I don't think I could have at 19. I was so excited and wanted to play here. Every day I want to be here, but there's things that you've got to go through. There's a process that you've got to go through. I feel way more comfortable and confident now that I've played in the American Hockey League and had a good season so far down there. I feel good about my game."

Yet the solid goaltending not only exists at the top level for the Kings, but throughout the organization.

Serving as Bernier's backup in Manchester, Jeff Zatkoff has posted solid numbers this season, amassing a record of 10-9-0 in 22 games, as well as a 2.92 goals against average and a .915 save percentage.

With the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL, Martin Jones had a tremendous regular season, posting a record of 36-11-1 in 48 games, a 2.21 goals against average, a .919 save percentage and eight shutouts.

With three goaltenders on the Kings roster, and with depth in the minors, what once was a source of frustration for the team as well as the fans now has become a source of strength.
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