Quick's solid play good news for Kings
Despite a 3-2 OT loss to Vancouver in Game 1, goaltender seems on his game again
With one contorted, diving, sprawled-out save after another, Quick, who hasn't won a game since March 22, proved he is still the Kings' best chance at upsetting the Vancouver Canucks despite being in the midst of a nine-game winless streak -- one that continued after the Canucks' 3-2 overtime win over the Kings in Game 1 of their first-round Western Conference series.
While Canucks captain and hometown hero Roberto Luongo got the win in goal, there was little doubt who was the best goaltender on this night, as Quick kept the Kings in the game time after time when it looked as if Vancouver was on the verge of opening things up. The Canucks outshot the Kings 44-27, with most of those shots coming in the first and third periods where the Kings were outshot 30-8.
"It's always good at the beginning of the game to make a couple saves and feel the puck," said Quick who had 41 saves, his second-highest total of the season. "That happened when I saw four or five shots in the first couple minutes or so. You get right into the game and that helps your rhythm."
Quick's rhythm has been completely out of whack since returning from the Olympics, where he sat on the bench and got cold while watching Ryan Miller lead Team USA to the gold-medal game. But he had perhaps one of the best games of the season in his playoff debut.
In a physical first period that not only set the tone for the game but most likely for the series, Quick was forced to keep the Kings alive while seemingly every Canuck other than coach Alain Vigneault attempted a shot on him. He made 17 saves and somehow prevented Mikael Samuelsson and Daniel Sedin from getting on the board early despite getting point-blank shots at the net. Both players, however, would eventually break through with Samuelson scoring two goals, including the game-winner.
"He was really effective," said Kings winger Ryan Smyth. "It's a confidence boost for all of us. We believe in him. He stood tall and he was by far our best player tonight and gave us a chance to win. He's got confidence and we have confidence in him and now we just have to help him out."
While the Kings helped Quick by scoring a couple of power-play goals, it was their inability to kill Vancouver's power plays that came back to haunt them as it has most of this season. In fact, both the Kings and Canucks rank in the top half of the league in converting power plays but in the bottom half of the league in killing them, so it shouldn't have been a surprise to see three of the four goals in regulation come with a man advantage.
"It's going to be tight the way both teams play," said Kings center Jarret Stoll. "Both teams have gritty, hard, heavy defensive players and good goaltending so the chances are going to be few and far between and when it happens it's usually with a man advantage."
Almost as maligned as Quick's goaltending coming into the playoffs was the inexperience of the Kings, since half the players on their roster were making their postseason debuts. While Vancouver was able to get off nearly three times as many shots on goal as Los Angeles in the first period, the youthful Kings made their presence felt early with more than few hard hits and seemed prepared for the rigors of playoff hockey early on.
"Experience does help out, but we have enough of it around the locker room to go far in the playoffs," Quick said. "We got guys who have won the Stanley Cup and guys who have made deep runs, so I don't think that's something this team is lacking. We have some young guys but those guys make up for it with talent and we have a nice blend here."
Before the game, Kings coach Terry Murray smiled when asked about his team's playoff inexperience coming into a Canadian city when the opposition isn't just playing the team in front of them but a country vying for its first Stanley Cup champion since 1993.
"I think it's a good thing," Murray said. "We're playing innocently. Maybe they don't even know what this kind of level of play is. We're just going to go out there and play."
While the Kings weren't able to win their first playoff game since 2002, they certainly didn't look like a team feeling its way through the postseason either and took offense to the notion they simply came up to Vancouver to steal a win and go back to Los Angeles.
"We don't feel like we're stealing anything," Quick said. "We feel like we're just as good a club as these guys and we can play with them all night long. In our minds it's not about stealing a game but winning a game."
Whether the Kings can win or steal a game against the Canucks in Vancouver will continue to depend on how well Quick plays, but if he can continue to play as well as he did in Game 1, the Kings will probably go home with a win and won't care how it's labeled.
Arash Markazi is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
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