The odd thing about this series, where L.A. finds itself up 3-0, is that it's never felt particularly dominant. The Kings have clearly been the better team, but Games 1 and 2 could have gone either way, and everything save the scoreboard says last night's 3-0 win was fortuitous.
So, how to explain a blowout (and the dead-silent MSG crowd after the third goal screamed blowout. When Mike Richards scores on you, it's time to pack it in.) in which the winning team chalked up half the shot attempts and scoring chances of the losers, even before heavy score effects came into play? Maybe it's time to give a little credit to the man that everything so soundly declared the Kings' biggest liability heading into the series.
Neither Jonathan Quick nor Henrik Lundqvist had been particularly good in the first two games, each alternating soft goals with fantastic saves—but it's always seemed like Quick was making the crucial ones. (Stops on breakaways from Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider, without which it would have been 2-0 Rangers, spring to mind.)
Last night, Lundqvist was fine. He made just 12 saves, and the three goals he allowed were flukes: deflections, bounces, unsaveable all. "It's really tough," Lundqvist said. "At some point, you are going to need some puck luck, and we don't have any right now. It feels like they have all of it."
But Quick was excellent. His personal highlight reel—the Kings' seemingly inevitable Stanley Cup DVD—gets these two unreal stick saves on Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard:
The thing is, those two saves are probably poor representations of Quick's night. Anything that absurd can be mostly chalked up to luck (and the positioning and instincts to even have the opportunity to get lucky, sure, but still mostly luck).
No, the highest praise for Quick is that you rarely had to pay attention to him. Bad goaltending is usually self-sabotage, and Quick—all too prone to it this postseason—never gave the Rangers a chance they didn't have to earn. "I think that was his best game of the playoffs," Drew Doughty said. His rebound control was good, his puck-handling was good, everything about his game tonight was great."
It's a truism at this point, but you don't need a great goaltender to win a Stanley Cup. You need one who can be great when circumstances require it, and with an offense like Los Angeles's, Quick isn't called upon that often. He's on target for the lowest save percentage of any Cup-winning goalie since 1990. But he's been just solid enough ("He gave us a chance," said Anze Kopitar. "That's all we ask from him."), with the occasional flair for the spectacular—his 32-save night was the first Cup Final shutout at Madison Square Garden in 42 years, and only the second shutout from a visiting goalie ever.
Quick won't win his second Conn Smythe, but if the Kings can close this out tomorrow, it will still be a personal triumph. Quick grew up in Connecticut a huge Rangers fan, but has never played at MSG other than a between-periods "mites on ice" appearance at age 12. On his bedroom wall was a poster of his boyhood idol and goalie role model Mike Richter, on Garden ice, crowding around the Stanley Cup. Twenty years later, Quick is 60 minutes away from doing the same.