LOS ANGELES — Kings goalie Jonathan Quick has won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP after yielding just 29 goals in Los Angeles' 20 playoff games on the way to the franchise's first Stanley Cup title.
Quick allowed just seven goals in six games in the Stanley Cup finals, capping a breakthrough season for the Vezina Trophy finalist who kept the Kings competitive while they were the NHL's lowest-scoring team for much of the regular season.
Quick then thoroughly dominated the playoffs, posting three shutouts and leading the league in pretty much every statistical category among goalies who started at least four games.
He was largely impenetrable in the finals, stopping 125 of 132 shots – and two of New Jersey's seven goals against him deflected off Quick's teammate, Slava Voynov.
Quick is the second straight goalie to win the award, but had better numbers than Boston's Tim Thomas last season.
They might be the best in NHL history.
With a 1.41 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage in the postseason, Quick even set NHL records for goalies who played at least 15 postseason games. Quick's stats slid under Chris Osgood's 1.51 GAA for Detroit in 2008 and Jean-Sebastien Giguere's .945 save percentage for Anaheim in 2003.
"It's outstanding," Quick said. "I couldn't be more proud of this group. We had to fight for everything. Nothing was given to us."
The Conn Smythe is a fitting finish for the 26-year-old Quick, who finished with 35 wins, a 1.95 goals-against average, a .929 save percentage and a franchise-record 10 shutouts despite playing for the NHL's second lowest-scoring team.
Quick has been the Kings' best player and backbone all season, frequently carrying them through long stretches of mediocre skating and shooting. His stellar effort was the main reason the Kings were even close to playoff position in late February, when the lowest-scoring team at the time finally awoke its slumbering offense by trading for power forward Jeff Carter, who scored two goals in the finale.
"I think it's all about competing," Quick said. "You have to compete, always. That's something this organization preaches, and it makes us all feel so good to be on top now."
Quick earned his first All-Star berth for his steady excellence despite a stunning number of 1-0, 2-0 and 2-1 losses this season. With an offense generating consistent goals since March, he has been nearly unbeatable, going 28-8-2 since Feb. 25.
While some will note the remarkably low scoring totals across the NHL playoffs when evaluating Quick's records, others will cite Quick as one of the main reasons for it.
Quick has better numbers than any goalie in recent playoff history – and Quick looks nothing like most of the NHL's best netminders. He disdains the butterfly for his own unique style, and he played it to perfection this spring.
Most hockey minds' best comparison is Hall of Famer Terry Sawchuk, whose low-to-the-ice style is the closest thing to Quick's agile, flexible puck-stopping strategy. He plays low and wide while his peers generally stand tall, using his aggression, anticipation and pure hustle to stop pucks.
Quick's teammates know he's locked in when he's crouching nearly parallel to the ice to watch the puck through his opponents' legs. He calls it "less style, more compete," and he praises the technique adjustments of Kings goaltending coach Bill Ranford, another Conn Smythe winner with Edmonton in 1990.
Quick's success has been a product of determination, because nobody expected spectacular things out of the kid from Hamden, Conn., who grew up idolizing the Rangers' Mike Richter. One of his earliest hockey memories is being at home with friends in 1994 when Richter backstopped New York to its first title in 54 years.
He was a third-round draft pick who played at UMass before moving to the ECHL's Reading Royals. He says he "messed up" a couple of shots at promotion from the AHL before sticking with the Kings in 2008-09, taking over the starting job midway through the season. He has kept it despite the rise of talented backup Jonathan Bernier, a first-round draft pick by general manager Dean Lombardi, who didn't draft Quick.
Quick has just been too good to unseat – and after his playoff performance, he's clearly among the NHL's top handful of elite netminders and a surefire candidate to play for Team USA at the Sochi Olympics if the NHL allows its players to compete in 2014.