Jonathan Quick key to Kings hopes in Stanley Cup final

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LOS ANGELES – In most of the pre-Stanley Cup final analyses, the New York Rangers have had a clear advantage in one area of the game. Almost everyone who had handicapped this series acknowledges that going into the final, Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers has been superior to Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings.

Part of that is the hockey world has grown accustomed to holding Quick to such a high standard, one that he’s clearly not meeting so far in these playoffs. In 2012 when Quick was almost impenetrable and won the Conn Smythe Trophy, he compiled a mind-boggling .946 save percentage and did not allow more than three goals in a single one of the 20 games he played. In this year’s playoffs, Quick’s save percentage is 40 points lower than it was in 2012 and he has been victimized for four or more goals seven times in 21 games.

It’s not just the number of goals, but it’s the way they’re being scored. The Chicago Blackhawks seemed to almost be shooting at his pads purposely to force rebounds and there have been a number of bizarre goals scored on Quick from bad angles. He even allowed a wraparound goal in the Western Conference final against the Blackhawks, something we almost never see from a goaltender who gets from post to post faster than any other in the league.

The Kings received a small scare when Quick was stung by a Kyle Clifford shot toward the end of practice on Tuesday. After taking the shot, Quick went to the bench and left the ice slowly afterward. But both Quick and coach Darryl Sutter said the goalie would be fine to go for Game 1 Wednesday night.

As far as Quick’s up-and-down play is concerned, Sutter is not the least bit worried. And he has reason for such confidence. In each series, Quick has made at least one save that has completely turned the series around in the Kings favor. And despite his less-than-sterling statistical line in this post season, he’s 7-0 in elimination games and 3-0 in Game 7.

In fact, in games in which the Kings have faced elimination, Quick has been every bit as good as he was two years ago. He has a 1.68 goals-against average in those seven games with a .947 save percentage.

“He’s been fabulous,” Sutter said of Quick. “Not just looking at this year’s playoffs, I look at the whole body of work. I tell Jonathan all the time, ‘You pick a goalie in one game, I want Jonathan Quick.’ “

NOTES: Even though Robyn Regehr declared himself healthy, the Kings are leaning heavily toward not using him in Game 1. Regehr hasn’t played since May 3 and while he’ll likely see duty in the final, it won’t be in Game 1…Speaking of defensemen, this series will have the two best of the playoffs in Drew Doughty on the Kings side and Ryan McDonagh for the Rangers. McDonagh has been terrific at both ends of the ice for the Rangers and will have to continue that play for the Rangers in the final. “He is the Rangers’ Doughty,” Sutter said. “I’m sure they’re talking about Drew and we’re talking about Ryan McDonagh.”