Does Jonathan Quick's youth help or hinder his heavy workload?
The physical and emotional readiness of goaltender Jonathan Quick has become an issue for the Kings. He was rested for two games last week to work on his technique and give him a mental break, but he’s winless since his return after an overtime loss to the Ducks on Saturday and a no-decision against the Ducks on Tuesday in which he gave up three goals on eight shots and had to watch the Kings’ rally from the bench.
Quick was scheduled to start against the Coyotes on Thursday at Staples Center, his seventh attempt at winning his 40th game of the season. He has two no-decisions, three regulation losses and an overtime loss since his last win, March 22 against Colorado.
Coach Terry Murray has been adamant that Quick is his No. 1 goalie and that Quick is fine with a heavy workload. But a look at the NHL’s 10 busiest goalies finds that Quick, who has gone from 2,494 minutes on ice last season to 4,128:52 before Thursday’s game, is the youngest goalie in that group. Which makes it reasonable to wonder if, as he finishes his first full NHL season, he has had enough experience to smoothly handle this kind of jump.
The seven goalies who had exceeded 4,000 minutes before Thursday’s games were New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur, who’s almost 38; Colorado’s Craig Anderson, who’s almost 29; Quick, who was 24 in January; Calgary’s Miikka Kiprusoff, 33; the New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist, 28; San Jose’s Egveni Nabokov, 34, and Phoenix’s Ilya Bryzgalov, 29.
Ryan Miller, 29, of Buffalo is likely to pass 4,000. Roberto Luongo of Vancouver, who is 31, has passed 3,800. Tomas Vokoun, 33, of Florida has played more than 3,600 minutes.
Murray said Quick’s technique is fine but the goalie has had lapses in concentration. I asked whether that might be the result of not having experienced this before and not being familiar with how to pace himself, as an older and more experienced goalie might be.
“You learn how to play the game over a long period of time, you’re right. It’s experience. That’s learning how to do it, but you have to go through it sometime,” Murray said.
“All these guys that are great players in the game, especially at that position, have gone through the same issues and it becomes a mental toughness part of it. And also an understanding of ‘We have three games in four nights, this practice here today, maybe I just need to take it a little bit easier so I can conserve some energy.’
“Eating better. Resting properly -- all the off-ice part of it is as important as the on-ice part of it. Again, that’s part of the learning process that young players have to go through and this is a great opportunity for him to learn a lot about what it takes to be one of the premier goaltenders in the league and play a lot of minutes.”
At least the rest of his game is fine, Murray said.
“I think that to me, when I look back over a couple different times this year when I had meetings with him it was concentration, focus, let’s get it back, big games, got to get that re-focus,” Murray said. “Technically when you watch him play from behind the bench and review the video, everything’s fine. He’s in position, he’s there, he’s doing the right stuff as far as the mechanical part of the game.”
Murray has been effusive in his praise of rugged winger winger Raitis Ivanans, who has often been a liability this season but has played well since being placed on the left side with Brad Richardson and Rich Clune.
In the NHL scoring stats Ivanans is listed last among the 869 players who have played in at least one NHL game this season because he has yet to record a point. He has played the most games of any of those scoreless players, but Murray said he believes Ivanans’ lack of production might be due to being preoccupied with his role as an enforcer, because he sees good things from the Latvian winger in game-day skates and practices.
“He’s doing all of those things in his practice, in his three-on-three scrimmages that are helping him relax, having fun and learning how to play with teammates,” Murray said. “In a three-on-three little hockey game you have to pass the puck and go get open for somebody else to get it back again. I think this part of the development for him, even though he’s a veteran player, has really helped him show to me, the other night in Anaheim, that he’s still on the development side of things.
“The fact he didn’t score is not an issue for me. But he spent a lot of time in the offensive zone, stirred up loose pucks, was moving his feet, had some great scoring opportunities. When the line was on top of their game right from the very beginning and was a big part again of carrying us through a difficult stretch.”
Ivanans’ career-best was six goals and eight points in 2006-07. He had two goals last season.
“You watch him in practice -- my goodness,” Murray said. “He looks for skill areas to score goals and he’s able to do it. It’s a matter of relaxing. My conversation with him a couple weeks ago was ‘Raitis, I need you to play like you practice.’
“I think sometimes when he’s playing that role and it’s the hardest role in the game, you’re kind of expecting something bad to happen and you’re looking around so you don’t get jumped and your focus is off your game. He just needs to relax and go out and play, and if a fight happens, it happens. You can’t put yourself at the detriment of the team because of anticipating something bad that might not happen.”
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-- Helene Elliott