With the calendar having crossed into December, the Kings now find themselves 15-8-1, three points in front of second-place San Jose (14-11-0). Arizona (13-12-1), Vancouver (9-10-8) and Anaheim (10-12-5) are four, five and six points behind respectively, with L.A. enjoying games in hand on each.
Curiously, the Canucks are shaping up to be this year’s version of last year’s Kings in one respect: losses after the first sixty minutes. Vancouver already has eight, with just one shootout win to their credit.
The forwards and defensemen
Most of the heavy lifting may have been completed, but we’re not quite finished yet. In this third and final installment, I take a stab at grading the goaltending.
As every fan above the age of five understands, goaltending is largely dependent upon the other players on the ice. If the team can’t keep the puck out of its own zone and/or repeatedly hangs the goalie out to dry, his statistics will suffer. Martin Brodeur’s career may have been near the finish line, but his worst save percentages were in his final two full seasons, neither of which saw the Devils sniff the playoffs.
Fortunately for the Kings, their defensive emphasis has benefited the goaltending. That said, how have Jonathan Quick and Jhonas Enroth fared?
Jonathan Quick: What more can be said about a goalie almost universally ranked within the top five in the league?
Quick is just that: quick. His lateral movement is among the fastest in the league. He is also aggressive, frequently stepping out to challenge the shooters. Is there a book on him? Per this NHL.com article from 2014, 47% of his goals surrendered that season were elevated, versus just 24% down low (the rest, of course, were in the middle).
Not typically within the top five in save percentage during the regular season, Jonathan Quick (12-7-1) is eleventh in the league in that category for goaltenders with at least 15 games played. His .918 mark is tied for second highest in his career, with 57.9% of his starts considered “quality starts” (the league average is 53%). To date, he has recorded one shutout.
Check out this game-saving snag against Edmonton in October:
By all accounts, Quick is having a very good year and is (as always) solidly anchoring the team’s goaltending. He doesn’t typically amass the regular-season stats necessary to seriously challenge for the Vezina, but the hardware he prefers to collect is substantially more meaningful.
Jhonas Enroth: Given the relatively small sample size, backup goaltenders are notoriously difficult to judge. With just five appearances under his belt so far, Enroth’s early numbers are doubtlessly skewed.
With that said, those early numbers have been beyond stellar. Enroth’s goals against is a microscopic 1.17, with a nearly perfect .962 save percentage. He’s given up just five goals on 133 shots against, providing a needed lift every time he’s been between the pipes. As a bonus, he’s an eloquent, articulate interview:
Clearly, there isn’t a snowball’s chance that Enroth (3-1) could ever hope to usurp Quick, who is signed through 2023-24 and is arguably the best goaltender in franchise history. He’s simply done exactly what a good backup is supposed to do by keeping his team in every game he’s played.
Overall, he’s played well above expectations.
Do you see anything you agree or disagree with? If so, feel free to post your thoughts below or send a message to @McLaughlinWalt.
Walter McLaughlin is a Los Angeles Kings correspondent for The Hockey Writers. He is an avid sports fan, having followed the Kings since living in L.A. in the mid-1970’s, as well as suffering through Seattle sports teams’ general futility. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Finance and has worked in community banking for over 25 years, specializing in SBA loans. He is married and has two daughters.