The Kings forwards aren’t going to make things easy on the Hawks defense, their defense isn’t quite as solid as last year but still big and strong enough that Chicago forwards will have to fight for every chance. But it’s in the crease where the Kings have their biggest advantage over the Hawks. In both series prior to this, it could be said Crawford was just as good if not better than the opposing team’s netminder. That’s not the case here. Jonathan Quick is once again taking his a solid regular season and turning it into a phenomenal post-season. If you were worried about Howard being able to steal a series, you’ll probably want to hide under your coffee table when you watch Quick.
Now, that’s not to say that Quick is some unbeatable demigod. His regular season stats (.902SV% and 2.45GAA) were actually down quite a bit from the previous year (.929SV% and 1.95GAA). He only won 3 of his first 11 starts for the year and lost a few starts to Jonathan Bernier, who I’m not even really going to talk about in this preview.
The slow start could perhaps be due to rust buildup over the prolonged off-season but is more likely related to the surgery Quick underwent this summer to repair a herniated disc in his back. Quick would rebound throughout the year and firmly cement himself as the starter for the Kings. As the playoffs have gone on, last year’s Conn Smythe winner has only stepped up his game. And really, you’d have no where to go but up when you start off the playoffs like this.
After that boner, Quick has suddenly (definitely almost just wrote “quickly” there) become the force he was in last year’s Cup run. His .948sv% so far is two points better than where he ended last year… and that was already the highest anyone’s ever had in the postseason since people have been tracking that stat.
Quick plays an aggressive and strong style. He’s been actively coming out of his crease to challenge shooters and isn’t afraid to get physical and do his best to clear the crease on his own rather than waiting for his defensemen to come do it for him. If Bickell wants to try and get his ass in front of Quick’s face, he’s going to have to expect a few whacks to the back of his knees.
The key for Chicago shooters is going to be quite similar to what it was when Howard’s glove hand caught fire in the last series. Fast, hard shots, low to the ground and from angles all over the place. Quick is remarkably strong on his skates and has reflexes like a cat on PCP. Because of this, he cheats a bit and doesn’t always square off on shooters, trusting his skill to be able to get a glove or leg out in time rather than simply taking away angles.
If the Hawks are able to get shots low, Quick is vulnerable to giving up a big rebound and that’s where the Hawks are going to have to find ways to score. If they look to roof one over his glove, they’re only going to find disappointment. Don’t trust an open net either – somehow.. he’ll find a way to get there.
Quick could also have a bit of a weakness in his level of intensity. He’s not afraid to yell at officials or throw the puck at someone after a collision. When the game’s pressure is rising, so will Quick’s excitement. Most of the time, that means he’s able to find another level just to make a save. Sometimes though, it could mean he loses his net and hopes to simply make the highlight save. The Hawks still have enough players on this squad to know what it’s like to get inside the head of a netminder. If they can find a way to do what they did to Roberto Luongo, Quick is going to have a harder time staying even in his game… or he’ll just flip right out and reach an even higher level of play. Could be dangerous either way.
With a far less intimidating squad of skaters, the Sharks were still able to find plenty of chances against the Kings and it was Quick who was able to bail them out. The Hawks will find their opportunities, they’ll just have to capitalize them. He’s only given up more than 2 goals twice and has 3 shutouts to go along with it but he’s not unbeatable. Patience and persistance will be everything.