Jonathan Quick has been so good, so often, this season, that when Quick has an off game, eyebrows are raised and questions are asked about what’s “wrong’’ with Quick. Quick has had six games this season in which he has allowed more than three goals. Consider that the New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist, widely considered to be the Vezina Trophy favorite, has had four such games, while Nashville’s Pekka Rinne, considered a Vezina contender along with Quick, has had 12 such games.
Still, there are legitimate questions about Quick, more along the lines of his usage. Quick has started 56 of the Kings’ 66 games. Only three goalies have played more: Anaheim’s Jonas Hiller (61), Rinne (59) and Montreal’s Carey Price (58). Calgary’s Miikka Kiprusoff has also played 56, and Quick ranks fifth — behind those four goalies — in total minutes played this season. Is it too much? Are the handful of goals Quick has allowed recently a sign that he is wearing down, or just a blip? Darryl Sutter suggested something else, when he noted that Quick might be facing a different type of pressure than he did early in the season…
SUTTER: “I think we’ve changed some stuff in our system that puts a little more emphasis on goalies making saves from the outside, which is a big change from prior. We expect him to make those saves, and we expect the defensemen to not give up the cut-in, or the quality shot from there.’’
For elaboration, I talked to goalie coach Bill Ranford, who played 647 NHL games, to get his thoughts on Quick and his theories on a goalies’ ideal number of games…
Question: With Quick, he’s been so good all year, and every goalie is entitled to bad games, and Darryl was talking about how you guys have changed some things in the system. It’s also getting late in the year. Is there anything there, that you saw, or was it just one bad game?
RANFORD: “You look at the second and third goals (last night). The second goal, as a goalie you play the release. The puck got released looking like it was going to come to his body. It stuck on (Martin Erat’s) stick and it kind of knuckleballed. And we’re talking about a fraction of a second for a goalie to decide (how to play the puck). Is it a bad goal? Yes, it’s a bad goal, but it’s something that happens once out of every 200 shots in that situation. So, yeah it’s a bad goal, but do you worry about it too much? No. You don’t want it to happen again, and you talk about it and see what the read is. At first, I thought it was a flat-out bad goal. Then you see the last replay from behind. But we need that save. Quickie knows that. I know that. Then it follows up with one off the shaft. Quickie is going high-glove, and the thing ends up down in the corner. It happens. But it happened twice in one game.
“You’re not going to get (Pekka) Rinne on a bad night very often. I was talking to their goalie coach. That’s not a typical L.A.-Nashville game. The goaltending, both guys didn’t have their best nights. But the way I look at it is, we got two points, and you regroup. I think, when you get into a run like this, where it’s so late in the season and we’re battling for our lives, he’s played so well but everybody is going to have questions. We’ve got to make sure we have the answers for him.’’
Question: Physically, this late in the season, he’s still OK?
RANFORD: “Yeah, he’s fine. He’s fine. He’s disappointed, because he’s a leader in the room and he wanted to play better. That’s what I love about him. He’s competitive, and he doesn’t like average nights.’’
Question: Has the philosophy changed at all, in terms of playing goalies? When you played, you had 71 games and then 77 games a couple years later. So clearly we’re not seeing goalies play more than they used to, but is there a number that is too much during the regular season, or does it just depend on situations?
RANFORD: “Seventy-seven is too much. Basically, I was crap in the playoffs, but we got in on the last day. Our playoffs was basically the last two months of the season. We [Boston] came back from 10 or 11 points down, to make the playoffs, and that’s when Boston had that streak of 30-some straight years in the playoffs, that was on the line. Is there a magic number? I think a magic number is probably — because No. 1 guys want to play — I think it’s probably high 50s or low 60s. That’s probably a good number. I think the compressed schedule, with the amount of back-to-back games, you might look at it differently. But for me, I played. I played a lot. I played back-to-back all the time. These guys are much better athletes than the athletes of our day, by far. Their nutrition is much better. The way they work out is much better. But I would say, high 50s or low 60s is a manageable number, to keep you fresh.’’
Question: He’s going to end up higher than that, though…
RANFORD: “He will end up on the higher end, but it’s one of those scenarios. When you’re having a season like he has had for us, he plays. I’ve got nothing else. Is that fair to Bernie [Jonathan Bernier]? Probably not, but Bernie is not stupid. When a guy has been, basically, a Vezina and a Hart candidate from the start of the season, it’s not fun for the other guy to sit and watch, but you also appreciate what he has done.’’
Question: And, along the way, you watch Quick to make sure he’s not playing too much?
RANFORD: “Right. And yeah, there have been changes, but his game has got to be better than that, and he knows that. He’s competitive, but we also need some big games out of Bernie. You need that time to spell off your No. 1 guy. That’s how it works, to get in the playoffs.’’
Question: With what Darryl talked about, with the system change and shots coming from different positions, does that change anything?
RANFORD: “It shouldn’t effect us, as goalies. I don’t think it effects them, one way or the other. You go out there and you stop the puck.’’
Question: With two of the recent goals, the Smith-Pelly goal and the goal last night, coming from the same area, is there any adjustment to be made there?
RANFORD: “The Smith-Pelly one was a bad goal. Like I said, the one last night, you might not see that in another 200, 300 shots. It caught on his stick. It was like a slingshot. Why do the missed shots always go in. Because you [goalies] have a nanosecond to react. You’re reading everything that’s happening with the stick, and that stick showed that the puck, realistically, was probably going to go here [to the middle of the body]. Then, all of a sudden, the puck is over his shoulder.’’