As the curtains peeled back, revealing the opening of training camp, head coach Darryl Sutter let it be known just exactly how important Jonathan Quick is to his team – “Number one goalies in this league are hard to come by and they’re the best players on their teams. That’s the reason the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup last year, was because their goalie was the best player.”
So, coming off a Conn Smythe performance in the playoffs last spring and with a long-term contract extension in hand, only two questions surround Quick coming into the season – how is his surgically repaired back and how many games will he play?
“I’m assuming, around the league, they’ll play in 90 – 100% of the games,” Sutter said of his expectations for a number one goalie in the upcoming 48-game NHL season.
“If they want me in net, I’m going want to be in net,” was the mindset Quick told us he was working under.
But, what exactly does all of this mean in the real world? Back-to-back games, three games in four nights, travel, etc. – that’s all going to be a little different this season in a compressed schedule environment.
Many of the players have certainly never experienced this situation before. But, Sutter has. He’s the only coach left in the NHL who was around during the last lockout-shortened season.
Just don’t look for many comparisons though.
“The game has changed a lot in terms of the rules, how many teams there are and now you have shootouts,” explained Sutter.
And Quick thinks that’s the wrinkle that’s going to cause pure chaos this season.
“A few years ago in an 82-game season the shootouts probably got us into the playoffs,” Quick explained. “Last year, they almost knocked us out of the playoffs. So, those extra points here and there are going to be very important.”
General consensus is that teams in the Western Conference – where the standings have been uber tight the last few seasons – need to come out of the gates strong and can’t afford a five-game losing streak at any point.
So, Quick is happy that Sutter has been pushing the players all week.
“Darryl’s practices are up-tempo and he makes it challenging on the goalies, which is good because you need that,” he said. “You need to get that jump. You need to get that speed – because that’s what it’s going to be like when the games start.”
Has he been doing anything extra this week to prepare for the first game?
“We’ve talked about getting some more end-zone, 5-on-5, 5-on-4 (sessions),” said Quick. “Just more situational type stuff that you’d see in games, so you can get those reads and you know you’re, as a goalie, getting that ice awareness…as opposed to just a drill where it’s one or two shooters…you (want to) make a save and follow the puck after you make a save. You’ve got to be aware of everyone else on the ice.”
With just a few practices remaining, everybody’s been looking for updates on how Quick’s back is holding up,
“I feel good,” has been his most common answer when asked essentially the same question 100 different ways.
Everybody will know for sure come Saturday afternoon.
After all he’s been through since having surgery though, Quick is probably hoping that first game doesn’t come down to one of those shootouts.
Even though he loves to play, 60 minutes just might be enough for Saturday.
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