Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Nothing can erase the memory of a
disappointing regular season quicker than excelling come playoff time.
Not that Los Angeles goaltender Jonathan Quick was a letdown this season for
the Kings, who are back in the Western Conference finals for a second straight
year. But the 27-year-old set the bar pretty high after his amazing 2011-12
campaign and there were times this season when it looked like the netminder
may struggle under the weight of expectations.
Take his season debut on Jan. 19 against the Chicago Blackhawks, who just
happen to be Quick's next playoff opponent. Fresh off a Conn Smythe Trophy
as the playoff MVP, Quick gave up five goals in a 5-2 setback as the
Blackhawks spoiled the Kings' raising of their first-ever championship banner.
Now it is Quick who will look to disappoint a Blackhawks team that came into
the postseason as the top seed in the Western Conference and heavy favorites
to win the Cup.
Quick won 35 games and notched 10 shutouts in the regular season for Los
Angeles a season ago, then went 16-4 in the playoffs with a 1.41 goals against
average. The American-born goaltender's numbers were not as good this season,
but still solid: 18-13-4 with a 2.45 GAA in 37 games but with only one
Whether by design or not, Kings head coach Darryl Sutter gave backup
goaltender Jonathan Bernier more work in 2013, with the 24-year-old appearing
in 14 games in the lockout-shortened season compared to 16 the campaign
But Quick has quickly morphed into playoff form, going 8-5 with three shutouts
and a 1.50 GAA in 13 games. And the Kings have needed him to be good because
they are struggling to score goals this postseason.
"Obviously, we've become fans like the rest of the people in the building and
people watching on TV," Kings forward Dustin Penner said recently of Quick.
"We get kind of spoiled and get used to it. He does it in practice too. He
never gives up on a puck. We also expect those saves during the game because
we see them so often during practice."
While top Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty noted the Kings would like to
take some of the pressure off Quick, there is no doubt the netminder is ready
to shine for the remainder of the postseason.
Here are three other players -- one from each remaining team -- to keep an eye
on in the conference finals.
JONATHAN TOEWS, C, CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
Like Quick, Toews is a former Conn Smythe Trophy winner. But unlike the player
he will be taking his shots against, Toews has underperformed for a majority
of the postseason.
Toews averaged a point per game during the regular season, notching 23 goals
and 48 points in 47 games. He recorded 29 points in 22 playoff games in
helping Chicago claim the Stanley Cup in 2010.
This postseason, the 25-year-old captain has logged only one goal and six
points in 12 games and the frustrated winger took three costly penalties in a
Game 4 loss to the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference semifinals that
gave the Blackhawks a 3-1 series deficit.
However, he responded with a goal in Game 5 and notched two assists to help
the Blackhawks force a seventh game with the Red Wings, which Chicago won 2-1
in overtime. While Toews didn't score in that series-clincher, he logged over
20 minutes of ice time and won 60 percent of his face-offs.
Even with his subpar numbers, the Kings should have plenty of focus on Toews.
TOMAS VOKOUN, G, PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
It's a no-brainer that the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris
Letang will be contributors if the Pittsburgh Penguins are to defeat the
Boston Bruins and reach the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since their
last Cup victory in 2009.
But if that happens, it appears as if it will be with Vokoun and not Marc-Andre
Fleury leading the way in net.
Fleury put up solid numbers when the Penguins knocked off the Detroit Red
Wings in the 2009 Cup Finals, but his career postseason stats don't scream
success and things finally caught up to the former No. 1 overall draft pick
Fleury allowed 14 goals and had just a 3.40 GAA and .891 save percentage as
the Penguins split their first four games with the New York Islanders in the
opening round. And after the 28-year-old had been torched for 26 goals in six
games of a first-round exit at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers the
previous season, Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma made the gutsy move and
went to Vokoun in net.
It paid off.
The 36-year-old Vokoun has gone 6-1 with a 1.85 GAA and .941 save percentage
since replacing Fleury, helping the Penguins finish off the Islanders before a
five-game series win over the Ottawa Senators.
"He never gets too rattled, never gets too excited. He's pretty even-keeled,"
defenseman Brooks Orpik told his club's website of Vokoun. "Being a veteran, I
think a lot of guys look to him to see how he carries himself ... Even in the
games, when things aren't going his way, he moves on pretty quick. It doesn't
carry over to the next game."
With the Penguins not having much of an issue versus the Senators, it is
unknown how quickly Bylsma would go back to Fleury if Vokoun struggles, but
for now the 36-year-old is thriving in his first deep playoff run.
JAROMIR JAGR, F, BOSTON BRUINS
The days of Jagr shouldering the load like Alec Baldwin at a family reunion are
long gone, but he still has enough left in the tank to deal his former Penguins
club a painful blow.
Jagr, of course, began his NHL career after Pittsburgh took him fifth overall
in the 1990 draft and spent his first 11 seasons with the Penguins. He helped
the club capture back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1991 and '92 and is second to
only Mario Lemieux on the club's all-time playoff scoring list in goals,
assists and points.
The 41-year-old leads all active players with 193 career playoff points over
192 games with 78 goals and 115 points, but has just four assists in this
Still, the Bruins acquired Jagr at the trade deadline from the Dallas Stars
for his leadership and veteran knowledge, only furthering the depth of a
Boston franchise that was Stanley Cup winners as recent as 2011.
"He doesn't need to be the Jagr of 20 years ago or 15 years ago," Bruins head
coach Claude Julien said. "He needs to be the Jags that we have right now."
That is a talented forward who should be extra motivated against the club for
which he laid the foundation of his future Hall of Fame career.
The Sports Network