Jean-Sebastien Giguere carried the Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks to the Stanley Cup final in 2003. Seven years later, Montreal’s Jaroslav Halak willed the Canadiens to the third round. If there’s a goalie on one of this spring’s lower-seeded teams that can pull off what Giguere and Halak accomplished, it’s Jonathan Quick.
I don’t know if you can really put into words what Quick has meant to the Kings this season. A goalie that finishes a season with a 1.95 goals-against average in 69 starts shouldn’t end up with 35 wins. A goalie with a league-leading 10 shutouts and a .929 save percentage shouldn’t be backstopping a fringe playoff team.
There’s no way the Kings are a playoff team without Quick. He’s been forced to win 1-0 or 2-1 games when his team hasn’t given him any goal support.
“He’s been our MVP,” Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi told RLD last month. “I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone how good he’s playing this year. He’s been pretty dominant. His level of consistency has been pretty staggering.”
Quick should be in the Hart Trophy running. He has a good argument to overtake Henrik Lundqvist for the Vezina. And if he plays like he did throughout the regular season, the Kings have to think they have more than a decent chance against the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks.
If Quick is able to lead the Kings to a first-round upset of the Canucks, he’ll hear his name thrown around in the same breath as Giguere and Halak when it comes to historic playoff performances.
The situation Quick and the Kings find themselves in are similar to that of Giguere and Halak in 2003 and 2010, respectively. Seventh-seeded Anaheim and eighth-seeded Montreal were vast underdogs those years. No one was giving those teams much of a chance. They were facing teams that were Stanley Cup contenders, if not favorites. Some pundits are giving the Kings a chance, though – because of Quick.
When it comes to Stanley Cup playoff upsets, there always seems to be one common denominator for the lower seed: a clutch goaltender. Giguere and Halak took their games to unworldly heights, however.
In 2003 the defending champion Red Wings were swept away by Giguere and the then-Mighty Ducks. Giguere rose to the occasion in the series, making 165 saves on the 171 shots that came his way and sucking the confidence out of Detroit. Giguere did not stop there, going on to win the Conn Smythe and becoming the fifth member of a losing team to win the playoff MVP.
If the 2010 Canadiens had advanced to the Cup final, Halak may have become the sixth. He wasn’t as spectacular for as long a period of time as Giguere was, but Halak was Montreal’s MVP in their unexpected run to the conference final. He was the only reason why the Habs knocked off the Cup-contending Capitals and Penguins in succession.
Can Quick do what those two goalies did? Can he will the Kings to an upset of the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Canucks? The Vezina candidate does have a well-structured defense in front of him. The Kings also have a superb penalty kill and an offense that could potentially score a few more goals than people expect them to.
The ingredients are there for the eight seed in the West to give the Western Conference favorites some fits. But they aren’t going to be able to pull the upset if Quick doesn’t improve his career 3.32 GAA in the playoffs.
The Kings don’t lack talent by any means, but Quick is going to have to channel his inner Giguere or Halak to carry the Kings to the second round – and hope for a little bit of luck along the way.
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.