LOS ANGELES - If there is anyone on the Kings who is familiar with their opponent in the Stanley Cup Final, it is Jonathan Quick. The goalie has been watching them for 20 years. In fact, he had some buddies over to his house in Connecticut to watch Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup Final.
"It was spring, almost summertime, so I think we were eating ice pops," said the player who was 8 at the time. "I just remember, being a Ranger fan, it was a very exciting time. I was young so I was new to it, but you knew a bit about the history at that point and how long it had been for them since their last Stanley Cup."
He learned more when he was a teenager at Avon Old Farms School and saw the photo of famous alumnus Brian Leetch (Class of '86), who had gone on to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the 1994 postseason. "Our coach had coached him so he would talk to guys about him," Quick said Tuesday at Staples Center, a day before Game 1 against Leetch's old team.
These days, there is a photo of Quick in an honored spot at Avon because he became the small school's second Conn Smythe winner two years ago. "I think the odds of that aren't very high," he said.
Quick still has not met Leetch, although they have spoken on the phone and texted. Nor has he met his childhood Rangers heroes Mike Richter and John Vanbiesbrouck. All of them instilled in Quick a hockey spirit that has helped him lead the Kings through three Game 7s this postseason.
He has remained unfazed, even when a weird bounce put the Blackhawks ahead 2-0 on Sunday night.
"I don't think that goal was any different than any I gave up all season. You try to approach every game the same, whether it's Game 7 or a game in December," he said. "Because you prepare for those games as hard as you do, it gives you a little advantage this time of the year."
In that vein, he refused to be bothered by a hard, high shot that clipped him near the end of practice Tuesday despite the fact he left the ice right after that. He said he wasn't injured, adding, "I was on my way out anyway." When he was asked where it made contact, he said, "Somewhere between my head and my knees."
So he deflected the question as if it were a wrister. That's Quick. "Even if there's a tough deflection goal and there's nothing he can do, he doesn't seem to get rattled. He just gets ready for the next faceoff," said Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who played with Quick on the U.S. Olympic team. "He realizes it's the next save that's important."
Among those who might be here to watch Quick's next save is his brother-in-law, the former Islander Matt Moulson. But you didn't hear it from the goalie. "Matty? I left all the tickets in the hands of my wife . . . " Quick said. "I know what I have to do over the next few weeks and I'm trying to stay away from all that other stuff as much as I can."