In the not-too-distant past, the discussion over Kings’ goaltending and defense centered around the flukish.
“We went through that real tough stretch where I think we had over a two-week period 12 deflection goals [against], and 11 of them hit our bodies. That’s just the hockey gods were frowning on us at that point,” said Goaltending Coach Bill Ranford. “I think it was kind of a reflection of the bounces that went our way in the playoffs. So it came full circle.”
Whether or not the hockey gods have been appeased, Jonathan Quick – and the team’s defense – has produced a stretch of quality play during the club’s seven-game winning streak. While the Kings have scored at least three goals in six of the wins, Quick has a .934 save percentage over that stretch and the team has been sustained by an airtight penalty kill that has ceded only one power play goal over its last eight outings.
The defensive improvements led to Jonathan Quick being named as the NHL’s first star of the week after having stopped 94 of 98 shots in wins over Tampa Bay, Colorado and San Jose. Overall, the Kings have outscored their opponents 25-13 during the winning streak.
It raises the question – has Quick improved significantly, or has the entire team raised the detail and purpose of its game?
“I think it’s a combination of a little bit of everything,” Ranford said. “Your goalie has got to be getting better. Our PK has been much better, and that comes off of faceoffs, play by your goalies, defending, that willingness to block shots. Just the combination of everything has kind of turned it around.”
While the blue line’s play has been fine despite Alec Martinez’s injury, credit should also go to the forwards for their ability to remain tightly spaced with the defensemen and advance the puck quickly, a staple of the team’s systems when things are going well.
“I think we’re a good defending team when all five guys are working together in the D-zone,” Matt Greene said. “I think the forwards deserve a bunch of credit for this run. I think our centermen especially have been great in the D-zone and helping us out, helping us break pucks out.”
Bill Ranford, on whether Jonathan Quick is playing as well as he did in October:
Yeah, I think the difference is in October was we really struggled as a team at that point. It was probably the play of Quickie and Jonesy and the Carter line really kind of saved us early on. This is more of a total group effort where we’re starting to get that urgency back in our game that we needed.
Ranford, on whether the schedule has prevented Jonathan Quick from being overused:
Yeah, there hasn’t been the back-to-backs which is crucial. I mean he’s the type of guy that likes to play a lot. It’s kind of ironic, for that reason we looked at maybe playing Jonesy in that Colorado game but we were worried about the fact that a break, five days between games, and the last time it kind of bit us in the butt when we did that. Darryl ultimately makes the decision on who plays and he just felt that that was too much time off. It was obviously a good choice because Quickie was outstanding in that game in Colorado. [Reporter: If it had been three days off?] If it would’ve been three days off, I mean I think we would’ve looked at it a lot more closely. The other thing too, for me, is when you get a goalie on a roll it’s very unfortunate for the other guy. But when a goalie is playing well, it’s hard for you to take him out of the net. We’ve had situations where we’ve done that and it’s gone the other way on us. So it’s one of those things where you have to look at the intangibles that are involved and there are guys that have played more hockey than him this year, so it’s not like he’s the only guy playing a lot.
Ranford, on Quick getting stung by a puck in today’s practice:
It was actually a rough practice for both goalies, but there are days like that where a few shots to the head and shoulders and stuff. [Reporter: I didn’t see what happened to Joner.] He took a couple – one in the collarbone, one off the shoulder – so it was a tough practice for both guys today, but they’ll live. That’s what the equipment is for. [Reporter: You can’t get any revenge though. What can you do beside slash them?] Oh, you can still. There is the odd time. A little bit of stick as they’re flying by, accidental trip. There are ways of getting back. [Reporter: And then Trevor-] Yeah, tough last shot of the warm-up. I didn’t even notice it until after the game when he’s getting on the plane. See, that’s how you get back at them. Jonesy just kind of off the blocker, off his face, so maybe there is a way. … It’s really amazing that doesn’t happen more often, especially or when guys are in the corner for the drills.