NEW YORK — The hero two years ago, Los Angeles Kings’ goaltender Jonathan Quick has played more of an anti-hero role in the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Goals through his legs or even off the skate of teammate Slava Voynov; he jumped San Jose Sharks’ captain Joe Thornton in one of his more entertaining moments and was out-played by a 20-year-old kid in Orange County.
But finally, on Monday night Quick was the Kings’ hero once again, playing the role he had played so many times before.
"I think that was his best game of the playoffs," said teammate Drew Doughty. "He played fantastic for us tonight. He made some big saves – saves he had no business making. His rebound control was good, his puckhandling was good, everything about his game tonight was great.
"He was a big reason why we won."
Quick stopped all 32 shots he faced in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final Monday night at Madison Square Garden. It was only his second shutout of the postseason, one that has been marred by poor statistics and a few poor performances.
‘Boring’ Kings stun Rangers to take 3-0 series lead READ MORE
But statistics don’t always tell the entire story. Quick won the games that mattered – all three Game 7s.
"His numbers are deceiving because he’s been making saves every series, every game that change the momentum of the game," said Kings captain Dustin Brown. "It’s hard to go through all the games but I thought he was awesome tonight either way. All I know is everyone’s talking about Quickie and he’s a big, big part of the reason we’re here because he is a goaltender that makes big saves at big times.
"At the end of the day, when we played tonight I think it’s an extension of him coming out."
Brown is correct: Often times, the way Quick goes, the way the team goes. It was looking to be one of those nights last Sunday in Chicago, when Quick was far from sharp in the first two periods but dazzling in the third and even more importantly, in overtime.
In Game 3, he was credited with an early save on Mats Zuccarello, kicking out a loose puck after it nearly went in and hit the far post. Quick’s stick save midway through the second period was influential in keeping the shutout intact. Test after test came for Quick, who looked to return to his Conn Smythe form.
Even more impressive, the fact that it was his first-ever NHL start at the Garden. Quick grew up in nearby Milford, Conn., considered himself a Rangers fan growing up and had made one previous appearance at the Garden: A peewee shootout between periods of a Blueshirts game when he was 12.
"To all you guys that said I never played here, I did play here once," he said, maybe only half-jokingly.
Quick didn’t wear a suit like the rest of his teammates for his postgame press conference, instead wearing sweatpants and a hoodie. He doesn’t really even like to talk to the media and during a postseason run that has at times been all things brilliant, dismal and mediocre, he’s liked postgame media scrums even less.
His teammates have been there to answer the tough questions. Never once have they backed down from their claim that Quick is the best goalie in the world.
"Look at the board when Quick makes crazy saves, I used to," Brown said. "The best example is playing at the Olympics and seeing other guys react to it. And I’m just sitting there because I’ve played with him long enough and he’s made enough of those saves you kind of expect him to do it."
Now up 3-0 in the Stanley Cup Final, he’s only bolstering their claims.