Business as usual for Quick, Kings
You might think that a young netminder who has stopped the last 83 shots he's faced en route to a franchise-record shutout streak might be, well, a little obsessed with keeping the streak going.
You might imagine that a netminder like the Los Angeles Kings' Jonathan Quick might be, well, a little self-satisfied.
You would, of course, be wrong to imagine those things.
In fact, Kings goaltending coach Bill Ranford said that during Quick's epic goalless streak (he has pitched three straight shutouts and allowed just three goals all season en route to a 4-0-1 record), the goalie has been spending extra time going over video because he didn't like the way he was approaching some elements during those games.
Quick will put his shutout streak on the line Thursday evening against the Stars in Dallas in an intriguing matchup of two teams that have been making early statements about their place in the Western Conference pecking order.
The Stars are a surprising 7-2-0 behind their own netminding monster, Kari Lehtonen, who is perfect at 7-0-0 with a .955 save percentage and 1.54 goals-against average. And people may still be waiting for the bubble to burst on a Dallas team that failed in Game 82 to make the playoffs last spring.
The Kings? That's a different story altogether. This season looms large, as great things are expected both internally and around the hockey world. The Kings have never won a Stanley Cup and have been to the Cup finals just once, in 1993, when Wayne Gretzky ruled the sport in California. Under current GM Dean Lombardi, though, the emergence of Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson as a core of elite players has upped the ante as far as Cup expectations are concerned.
After first-round defeats against the San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks in the past few postseasons, the question was whether the Kings had a goaltender capable of manning the pipes on such a journey.
Quick was in goal for all 12 Kings playoff games the past two seasons and turned in a 3.32 GAA and .900 save percentage. Those numbers won't get it done. In the offseason and through training camp, there was more than a hint that Kings coach Terry Murray was going to throw open the goaltending competition to include promising youngster Jonathan Bernier. That "competition" has quickly become a one-man race as Quick has dominated on the ice and impressed his teammates and goaltending coach, as well.
Ranford, who played in 647 NHL regular-season games and won two championships, has been working with Quick for five years now. No one has monitored Quick's evolution from superb athletic netminder to a more mature, technically sound goaltender more closely than Ranford.
The key for Quick has been putting himself in position to not just make the first, athletic stop, but to be positionally sound enough to make the second and third stop if need be, Ranford said.
"I think that's where he's really improved," Ranford said. "You don't want to take the athleticism away from the goalie [but rather marry the two skill sets]."
So far, so good for the 25-year-old goalie, who is married and now the father of a young daughter -- factors that may also have contributed to Quick's maturity on and off the ice.
Defenseman Rob Scuderi is in his third season with Quick and sees what he believes to be a natural evolution of a top-end netminder. Scuderi has seen something like this first-hand, having watched Marc-Andre Fleury evolve into a Cup winner in Pittsburgh, and isn't at all surprised at Quick's record-breaking run.
"He's always had the talent to do that kind of run, to go on this kind of streak," Scuderi told ESPN.com.
As for having to walk on eggshells around Quick during the shutout sequence, Scuderi said the netminder has been surprisingly loose. "I don't think he's too wrapped up in it," he said.
Scuderi and Ranford caution that the team's quick start (if you'll pardon the pun) doesn't necessarily guarantee long-term success, but is part of an ongoing process.
"I don't think you've seen our best hockey," Ranford said.
To be mentioned with the longtime kings of the conference, the Detroits and San Joses, the Kings can't be content with being "good" but must pursue "great," Ranford said.
Scuderi, meanwhile, figures that management has done its job in assembling the pieces for a successful season.
"The window is open," he said. "Now it's up to us to accomplish the mission."
Scott Burnside covers the NHL for ESPN.com.
Melrose's Take: Key To Stars' Start
Stay On Your Skates
Jonathan Quick has posted three straight shutouts, the first goalie to pull off the feat since Columbus' Steve Mason did it in December 2008. Brian Boucher had four consecutive shutouts for Phoenix in 2003-04.
Stats & Information
Points to watch for in Thursday's game:• According to Elias Sports Bureau, the only goalies to post four straight shutouts since the red line was instituted in 1943-44 are Bill Durnan (1948-49) and Brian Boucher (2003-04).
• The Kings are 7-1-1 in their past nine road games against the Stars.