Remember before these Stanley Cup Finals started everyone questioning the goaltending for the Kings? Remember when the “experts” were telling everyone within earshot that the Kings’ biggest issue was Jonathan Quick in net? That the Rangers had the huge edge between the pipes with their “King” who had the ability to carry his squad to a coronation ceremony? That there was a debate over who had the best goalie in the game on their side with just about every opinion leaning towards Henrik Lundqvist?
Well, the conversation is over now. It’s settled. The debate is finished. The judges have made up their minds. Jonathan Quick put the issue to bed Monday night in front of a stunned Madison Square Garden crowd after putting the Rangers on the brink of elimination.
Jonathan Quick hasn’t put up mind-boggling stats these playoffs. In fact there were times where he looked downright dreadful. But when you already have a Stanley Cup under your belt and are the backbone of a perennial contender, that kind of cache should buy you a little benefit of the doubt from the critics. But up until Monday night, he was still supposedly the weak link on the Kings. Not anymore.
Even before Monday night’s shutout, Quick was the difference maker in this series; he was already out-dueling Lundqvist. After allowing two first-period goals in game 1, Quick shut the door the final two periods and in overtime. He gave his team a chance to come back from two goals down. And in game 2, right after the Rangers regained a two-goal lead in the second period, Quick slammed the door the rest of the way into double overtime before Dustin Brown ended it.
After Monday night, it’s now nearly 115 minutes since the Rangers have found the back of the net. And they can’t fault their lack of chances. Between breakaway opportunities, second-chance shots, and chances with a seemingly open net, Quick has heightened his level of play and made the key saves when it matter most.
The more these playoffs go the more Jonathan Quick is starting to play the part of this generation’s Billy Smith or Grant Fuhr. Not the flashiest numbers during the regular season, but making saves when it matters most. Making the key save when it’s needed…isn’t that what every team wants from its goalie? It’s what the Rangers have needed but haven’t gotten from their goalie.
It’s not to say Lundqvist is playing poorly or the reason why the Rangers are down 0-3 heading into Wednesday night. But he hasn’t played at the all-world level fans are accustomed to seeing. He is playing like just another goalie. And if the Rangers had any shot of beating the Kings, the King was going to have to be the best player on the ice. Unfortunately for the Rangers he hasn’t even been the best goalie. When the Rangers needed its franchise player to shut the door to preserve a game, he just hasn’t been able to get it done.
So with a second Stanley Cup in sight, Quick has put his stamp on the best goalie debate and ended it for the time being. He may never have the best statistics in the game, but (and it’s cliché) all he does is win games. Call it clutch, call it the ability to play better when stakes are raised, call it luck. But when the chips have been down, Jonathan Quick has delivered. And that’s good enough to be the best goalie in the league today.