Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick makes a save during the first period against… (Harry How / Getty Images )
For perspective on the significance of Jonathan Quick's club-record shutout streak of 188 minutes and 10 seconds and historic three straight shutouts, consider this:
It was only four years ago that the Kings used seven goalies and couldn't find one reliable enough to prevent them from finishing 29th in a 30-team league. The previous season they threw an out-of-his-league Yutaka Fukufuji in net four times, apparently traumatizing him so badly that he never played another NHL game.
Another bit of context: Quick surpassed the previous shutout streak of 184:55 set by Rogie Vachon in 1975. That's 36 years and almost as many uniform variations ago.
Apart from Vachon's excellence in the 1970s, Kelly Hrudey's bandanna and acrobatics in the 1990s and a few good seasons by Felix Potvin a decade ago, the Kings have had little to boast about in the goaltending department. That goes a long way toward explaining why the banners in their El Segundo practice rink have faded with age and celebrate titles in a division (Smythe) and conference (Campbell) that no longer exist.
Quick, 25, has brought stability and excellence to a team that too often couldn't achieve basic goaltending competence. The Kings' acquisition of Mike Richards has created quality depth at center, and the poise of rookie defenseman Slava Voynov is sustaining them while Drew Doughty recovers from a shoulder injury, but Quick is the key to their ongoing progression into a Western Conference power.
"I think he's always been a great goalie. What he's done is no surprise to anyone in here," Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi said. "I think it's all just clicking for him now."
Quick, designated the NHL's top star last week, has reduced his goals-against average to 0.81 and raised his save percentage to .972. The Kings have a four-game winning streak and 5-1-1 record, which equals their best record seven games into any season.
While the Kings try to extend their streak Tuesday at Staples Center against the New Jersey Devils, Quick is scheduled to put his personal streak on hold and back up Jonathan Bernier. Kings Coach Terry Murray, who had said he would stay with the hot hand — and there's none hotter than Quick — instead chose to start Bernier in advance of a three-game, four-day trip. Quick's streak didn't influence the decision, Murray said Monday.
"It's the early part of the year and a lot of games coming up that are huge games for us, and he can't play all 82, though I say why not sometimes," Murray said.
Murray played Quick in 72 of 82 games in 2009-10, a prime cause of Quick's late-season fade. So though Quick was the logical choice to start Tuesday, he might benefit later from a respite now.
Quick, who said he trusted Murray to do what's best for the team, isn't preoccupied with his streak. But he has considered how he must react when it ends.
"I think the biggest thing is being prepared for when that does happen, that you don't feel a letdown or anything like that," he said. "It's a goal. It happens. You move forward and continue to try and win the game."
He said he hasn't made any technical changes and hasn't deviated from the fundamentals that goaltending coach Bill Ranford instills in every goalie in the organization.
"We've had the same kind of structure to our game in place as long as we've been working with them. We haven't gone off course in the past six years," Quick said. "There's nothing different about my game or, I feel, anybody's game that would be the reason for anything like this to happen."
He attributed his success to the Kings' solid defensive play. . Lanes are being cleared so he can see shots, and when he leaves rebounds, they've generally been swept away.
"I do feel good, but just in getting one shutout, so much goes into it. You need your team playing so well in front of you and you need to catch bounces and get lucky," he said. "The fact that as a team we were fortunate enough to get three in a row just talks about how great the whole team is playing together and how the bounces are just going your way right now."
The puck hasn't bounced this favorably for a Kings goaltender in a long time. Watching Quick provide consistency and set records is enough to give even the most justifiably cynical Kings fans more hope than they've had since Forum blue and gold were current colors, not vintage.