By Curtis Zupke - NHL.com Correspondent
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Jonathan Quick deflected everything that came his way. His form never wavered and the message was clear: He wasn't giving up anything on this day, or most other days, for that matter.
It had nothing to do with pucks. Practice was over, and Quick was in full shutdown mode with reporters. He did not care to name a favorite Stanley Cup Final when he was growing up, nor did he want to talk about facing 40-year-old counterpart Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils.
It wasn't unusual. On an off day during the Western Conference Semifinals, Quick walked into the locker room and, upon seeing a group of media entering, made a bee-line into dressing room.
But there's no hiding now. Quick has a well-deserved spot on the biggest stage in hockey as the Los Angeles Kings go for their first Stanley Cup, starting with Game 1 on Wednesday. While Quick isn't openly talking about who's at the other end of the ice, captain Dustin Brown stated what most people are thinking.
"I think that's an exciting matchup for Quickie," Brown said. "Given the year that he's had, to have a Hall of Famer at the other end compete against us is exciting because that's probably the one position, one-on-one, that you kind of have a matchup."
The two are 14 years apart in age, and the storyline is too juicy to ignore. Brodeur is the all-time winningest goalie in NHL history and has won the Stanley Cup three times – the first when Quick was 9. If New Jersey wins, Brodeur could neatly call it a career. If Los Angeles wins, it's the changing of the guard, with the 26-year-old Quick officially taking the torch from the so-called old man.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter heaps praise in tablespoons, and when continually asked to compare Quick with his former goalie Miikka Kiprusoff earlier this season, Sutter says there is no comparison because Quick does not have a body of work like Kiprusoff.
Not surprisingly, Sutter wasn't eager to compare Quick and Brodeur.
"Marty's played 20 some years, Quicker's played three," Sutter said. "That would be the biggest difference. And Marty's won how many Stanley Cups? End of story."
Quick's story could end with the Conn Smythe Trophy in his hands. He has a 1.54 goals-against average and .946 save percentage in 14 games. He is 8-0 on the road, an unheard of run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Quick won eight straight playoff starts and did not allow more than two goals in any of those games, which matches the longest such streak within one season by Terry Sawchuk of the Detroit Red Wings in 1952. Quick's one blemish is a 98-foot goal by Derek Morris of the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 1 of the conference finals. Since then, Quick has allowed seven goals in 15 periods.
Marty McSorley, a former King who works as an analyst, stresses Quick's importance to the Kings' breakout.
"The kid in net right now gives them the ability in that they've got three leadership defensemen in [Rob] Scuderi, [Willie] Mitchell and Matt Greene -- you don't have to ask too much from them," McSorley said. "They can go out and they can settle the game down. They can control their own end. They can allow these younger guys – [Drew] Doughty, [Alec] Martinez and [Slava] Voynov – to give you the offense from the back side, to advance the puck in a hurry. It starts from Quick, and it comes out from there."
While Brodeur will be playing his 200th playoff game and fourth Final, Quick has never been in this big of a spotlight. Nothing would suggest he isn't ready for it. Asked if Quick will thrive being in the Final, Kings goaltending coach Bill Ranford said simply, "I think he thrives on playing hockey."
Ranford remembers the Quick of five years ago, the Milford, Conn., kid known for his napping. The stories get mixed up in the re-telling, but the gist is that when Ranford went to see Quick when Quick was sent from the ECHL's Reading Royals to the Kings' American Hockey League affiliate in Manchester, Quick overslept and missed the meeting, which earned him a reprimand from the Kings' brass.
"Tough message," Ranford said. "We had issues early on. There were times where he forgot about time and he was sleeping. But I had good talks with [former Reading coach] Karl Taylor."
Quick's concentration now defines him, especially before games as Quick is an aficionado of hip-hop music.
"He's a big headphones guy," Jarret Stoll said.
Before home playoff games the Kings run a taped video segment that shows pictures of Doughty and Quick, among others, during their youth hockey days. One photo shows Quick at around 5 or 6 with a goalie stick in his hands.
"That's a good sign," Quick said.
Perhaps Quick was born to tend net for the Kings, whose franchise miseries long centered around a lack of stability in goal. Outside of Rogie Vachon in the 1970s, Kelly Hrudey in the 1990s and a briefly successful stint by Felix Potvin in the early 2000s, there has been a perpetual black hole in L.A.
The failed experiments include Dan Cloutier and Roman Cechmanek. The Kings used 11 different goalies in the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons before Quick won the job from incumbent Jonathan Bernier the next season.
Quick has stabilized the franchise, much like Brodeur did in New Jersey. The stage is set, but Quick knows it will require heavy lifting.
"It means we have the opportunity to do something special here," Quick said. "That's all we're looking at. We've got to work. We've got to be ready to work."