In elimination games throughout his career, Jonathan Quick has posted a playoff record of 6-3 with a 1.89 goals-against average, .941 save percentage and one shutout.
“I think that’s a lot of the reason why this team is successful in these kinds of moments, because our top players step up at the right time,” Drew Doughty said. “You’re going to see Jonathan step up tonight, and that’s for sure. You’re going to see Kopi step up tonight. When we have our leaders playing the best way that they can possibly play, everyone else is going to follow and watch what they do. That’s exactly what we need from everyone, just a solid game, playing with a lot of heart.”
Those words wouldn’t be much of a surprise to Bruce Boudreau, who called the Kings “comfortable” in elimination scenarios.
“This is not something where they’re a young group panicking over there,” Anaheim’s coach said. “They’re more determined. It’s like when they get down in the game, they change their game a little bit. I expect them to be sitting there thinking they’ve got us where they want us right now. Who’s to say that for the last two games, for four of the six periods they’ve been the better team?”
The expectations that the Kings will raise their game when facing elimination appear to be universal despite a few disconcerting numbers. Though Quick has claimed the Jennings Trophy as the backstop of a team that allowed the fewest goals in the regular season, Los Angeles’ 2.83 goals against per game in the playoffs ranks last out of the eight teams that qualified for the second round.
Perhaps some of Quick’s underlying numbers were unsustainable. Though he stopped 61 of the first 65 shots he faced while the L.A. was shorthanded, he has allowed five goals on the last 16 Anaheim power play shots. His even strength save percentage through the playoffs is .915, and when compared to Tuukka Rask’s .951 even strength save percentage, Henrik Lundqvist’s .940, Carey Price’s .930 or Corey Crawford’s .928, something appears off either in the Kings’ net or in the consistency of the opposition to be able to exploit the team’s defense.
“I don’t think we’ve played our best game so far this series,” Alec Martinez said. “Obviously last game we gave up way too much, and you can’t give them opportunities because they’re going to capitalize on them. They’ve got a lot of high powered offense over there, and they’re a really good hockey club, so you can’t dig yourself a hole like that.”
Darryl Sutter, on young players rising to elite levels in the playoffs:
I think young guys have to learn, because they don’t get in those occasions or situations very often as a young player, or during their career, when you think about it. The proven guys, well then you’re not asking that question. They are proven. I mean, it’s easy to say, ‘He’s a veteran player,’ or ‘He’s an experienced player.’ You know what? He’s not a veteran player or an experienced player unless he’s done it at playoff time. You can play a lot, but until you’ve played in a lot of elimination games or won in those games or lost in those games, you can’t say you’re proven or experienced. If you’re talking about that player, Jonathan, or just because he’s won those games, you know what? It always comes down to those guys once they’ve won and they’re looked on as an elite player. You watch last night? Lundqvist, right? You know what? Those guys are the top four or five goalies in the league. They expect to win. Jonathan expects to win. There’s been a lot of talk in this series about Anaheim’s goaltenders, but at the end of the day, the reason there is is because they’re young guys. They’re unproven. You look at Andersen and Gibson, Jonathan’s proven. Jonathan’s won…the Conn Smythe. Jonathan was part of the Jennings this year. So that’s what he expects of himself. It’s not what we expect.
Sutter, on the challenge in preparing to face a goalie the Kings don’t know well:
We know him very well. You guys asked that before the series. You’re in a division that has Anaheim and San Jose, so when we finished, we knew we were finishing third…April 1st or 2nd. Whatever it was, we knew we were finishing third. So Anaheim and San Jose were fighting for number one. We knew we were playing one of ‘em, so we just weren’t watching San Jose. We were watching Anaheim, and if you look at Anaheim, what they’ve, that’s full marks. Everybody’s talking about these players. You should talk about Bob Murray and his group. Over the last two years, in terms of goaltenders, last year the rookie came in, Fasth, and split the year with Hiller, and then Hiller went the whole distance in the playoffs. He played all seven and they lost. So this year’s a different formula. Full marks – trade one, and Andersen’s a rookie, too. He comes in and has a hell of a year. He is their starting goalie in the playoffs, but Gibson is just as highly looked on. When we look at it, we’re going, ‘OK, one of those guys is going to start the series.’ That’s what we thought. So we were ready for both those guys, and we knew Hiller from experience. So that’s how you look at it. It’s got nothing to do with how the players play. I mean, if you’re only looking at that, we scored three goals against him last game. That’s enough to win. So it’s not their goaltending. We want to make sure ours is as good as theirs.