It goes without saying that it’s early, thus any recitation of stats has to be taken with a grain of salt. One bad game can skew the numbers quickly, and the statistical leaders are likely to swap positions all season long. However, when you’re two-time Stanley Cup champion Jonathan Quick, Vezina voters listen.
Ok, so maybe not literally, since the Kings’ star goaltender doesn’t actually say all that much. He lets his glove, equipment, agility and reflexes speak for themselves. Jonathan Quick is widely recognized as one of the top goaltenders in the NHL, and has been for years. On the surface, some might find that puzzling, given his solid-yet-unspectacular .916 career save percentage. That being said, his performance in big games and trophy case crammed with hardware speak volumes.
Quick came close to winning the Vezina in 2012Fresh off his first Stanley Cup championship and after winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player during the 2012 playoffs, Quick narrowly lost out in the Vezina voting to the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist. That season, he finished fifth in wins (35) and third in save percentage (.929), posting a league-high ten shutouts.
Asked about whether or not the so-called ‘east coast bias’ cost him the Vezina, Quick said diplomatically, “At the end of the day you have to play well enough to earn the attention.”
Other close calls
Although 2011-12 was his Quick’s finest season from a statistical perspective, he had gained respect as one of the league’s best back in 2009-10 when he made his first All Star team en route to a team-record 39 wins. The Connecticut native posted a 2.24 G.A.A., 35 wins and a .919 save percentage the following season, ending up eighth in the Vezina voting.
This past year, Quick not only led his team to their second Cup in three seasons, but finished fifth in the Vezina race. Tuukka Rask ultimately collected the hardware, beating out co-finalists Semyon Varlamov and Ben Bishop. However, it’s now a new season, with another chance to grab the top prize.
A good compilation of some of Quick’s best career saves can be seen below:
The Kings are off to a strong start
Without question, playing on a good team is essential to a goalie’s chances of winning the Vezina. The Kings are not only one of the league’s elite, but have (so far) avoided the dreaded ‘Stanley Cup hangover’, bolting out of the gates with a 5-1-1 record.
Given that individual hardware is inexorably tied to on-ice team success, Quick’s odds of winning the Vezina continue to rise with the Kings’ position in the standings. Right now, they stand second in the Pacific, just behind the crosstown rival Ducks.
Is this the year Quick wins the Vezina?
We’ve already established that it’s early. Way early. But so far, the numbers speak for themselves.Tied for fourth in wins (4), and second in shutouts (2). Third in G.A.A. amongst netminders with four or more games played (1.54), and second in save percentage (.958). Quick is seeing the puck as well as ever, picking up his second shutout of the young season by blanking the Buffalo Sabres 2-0. With win, he surpassed Rogatien Vachon for the franchise record in career shutouts with 33. He also holds the team record for wins (180), playoff wins (45) and playoff shutouts (9).
The discussion may be subjective (and more than a little academic right now), but Quick is in a better position to win the Vezina this season than at any previous point in his career. Although the suspension of defenseman Slava Voynov will challenge the defense, the Kings still have an enviable corps of blueliners, led by 24-year old franchise defenseman Drew Doughty. Moreover, head coach Darryl Sutter’s defense-first system has generally been successful at limiting the opponents’ shots, keeping the team in games and allowing Quick to avoid being under siege.
At just 28, Jonathan Quick is arguably just now entering the prime of his career. His back appears to be in good shape, with no reports of the types of issues that slowed him in 2012 and again in 2013. “Obviously, you’ve got things to do to take care of your body,” he said after a 2-1 victory over Minnesota. “That’s kind of what you’re thinking about now. You play 82 just to try to get a chance to play some more games, so you’ve got to be good about [preparing yourself].”
Keep an eye on Quick for the Vezina this year. He came within an eyelash in 2012, and has to be considered a favorite — perhaps the favorite — this time around.
What do you think? Who are the most likely goaltenders to compete for the Vezina Trophy this year? Post your answers below, or send me a note @McLaughlinWalt if you prefer.
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.