VANCOUVER, Canada — As the last line of defense for a team with the NHL's second-worst offense, Jonathan Quick had no safety net while guarding the Kings' net so ferociously and without complaint.
There's not enough time before the Kings' playoff opener Wednesday at Vancouver's Rogers Arena to list everything the unflappable Quick accomplished this season. Though the Kings fell to eighth and drew an unenviable matchup with the top-seeded Canucks, they would not be here at all if not for Quick.
The odds are against them in most areas except goaltending, but that's the great equalizer and their greatest hope of upsetting the NHL's top team.
The pages of Stanley Cup history are filled with stories of goalies who carried teams to the finals or rose above their limitations to play like never before — and, sometimes, never again.
Ken Dryden of the Montreal Canadiens had only six games of NHL experience before he won the Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the 1971 playoffs. He was voted the rookie of the year in 1972 and won the Cup six times in an eight-season, Hall-of-Fame career. Patrick Roy won the Conn Smythe three times, twice with Montreal and once with Colorado. Boston's Tim Thomas, who didn't break into the NHL until he was 32, last year became the oldest Conn Smythe winner at 37.
Ron Hextall was the MVP in 1987 with the runner-up Philadelphia Flyers and Jean-Sebastien Giguere of the Ducks joined him in 2003 as a rare honoree on the losing finalist. Goalies have won the Conn Smythe 14 of 46 seasons; of the five times a member of the losing team won it, that winner was a goalie four times.
"I think sometimes there's a little too much focus on one individual because if everybody else doesn't do their job, that individual doesn't have a chance to do his," said Hextall, now the Kings' assistant general manager.
"If everybody doesn't kick in what they kick in, we don't go beyond the first round in '87. It was a collective team effort."
In the Kings' case, it's impossible to focus too much on Quick.
Earlier this season, goaltending coach Bill Ranford, the 1990 playoff MVP with Edmonton, said he advised Quick to ignore the team's lack of scoring and narrow his world to one shot, then the next and the one after that. Looking at the big picture could have been overwhelming.
That approach succeeded for Quick, who led the NHL with 10 shutouts, ranked second in goals-against average (1.95) and fifth in save percentage (.929). He won't change now.
"The intensity is going to be higher and the pace will be a little bit quicker. Fans will be that much more energetic. At the end of the day, though, it's the same job that I've had all year and the past 15 years," Quick said Tuesday.
"I've got to stop the puck, I've got to help with breakouts, I've got to talk, I've got to do everything I've learned over the years. That's all you're focused on going into the game: what you need to bring to the table individually and as a team collectively. We've just got to play our game."
This will be his third playoff experience, after first-round losses to Vancouver and San Jose. He's 4-8 with a 3.32 goals-against average and .900 save percentage.
More will be expected of him and the Kings this time, and Quick said he's better prepared for the intensity.
"When you find yourself in situations, it's having confidence in yourself and knowing you've been there before," he said. "The only way you could get that feeling is from being in situations like this."
Through the years the Kings have figured in Stanley Cup lore mostly as an oddity. Tuesday was the 30th anniversary of the "Miracle on Manchester," in which they erased a 5-0 deficit after two periods against the mighty Edmonton Oilers and won, 6-5, in overtime. In 1989, center Chris Kontos set a league record with six power-play goals in a series against Edmonton but never again did much of note. Their 1993 finals appearance made history but in a bad way.
Will they be a curiosity again, or champions? The answer surely depends on Quick.