There were several ways for this series to play out, even after game five. Obviously, one of these teams was going to win. But underneath each of those headings (Kings win, Kings lose) were different stories, some of them sadder than others. For example, Kings win game six, freaks out the city of Vancouver, but lose game seven in OT. Or, Kings get their asses handed to them in game six, just like in game five. But this particular sad story, the one I just turned off with a minute left, feels especially horrible, because it turned out not to be the story of Jonathan Quick bouncing back.
Instead, he took us out of the last two games. I'm not going to say he lost them for us. We might have lost them anyway. But his sub-Quick play in the last two games just made the whole thing moot. In game five, the game became a blow-out when it could have stayed close. In game six, he crapped out on one goal and lost sight of the puck on the other. And that's it. We can go over all the squandered chances, the brilliant Luongo saves, the whatever else the Kings skaters did, but the Kings did enough to win in this game, and should have won.
Or shouldn't have. Because you also have to have goaltending.
Whenever someone says it's the goalie's fault, or the fault of whoever made the bonehead play (Dan Boyle), they're usually wrong. The scapegoat is the convenient target, not the cause. And even in this case, I don't think Quick deserves all of the blame. But right now (and I could change my mind tomorrow), I think he's earned half of it. Okay, benefit of the doubt. We'll call it 1/3.
He co-killed us in games five and six. That's largely on him.
These are Quick's numbers in two data sets. The first is the post-Olympic slump, the one where Quick was not tired then it turned out he was tired, and wasn't having concentration issues, but then admitted he was, and the baby, and the 72 games, and and and but but but. The second is the Vancouver series.
Now, remember, we were told that it was madness to question Quick's ability to perform in the playoffs, given his slump through the last 16 games. Quick is the man. Quick is rested. Quick is ready to go. Quick has focus. Quick is excited. Quick is resilient. And fans were told to stop asking about Jonathan Bernier because he wasn't coming up because Quick has earned it and he's our guy and you dance with them what brung you, etc. ETC..
We were, in essence, told that Quick would be the old Quick against Vancouver, not the post-Olympic Quick. Was he?
GAA: (last 16) 2.70; (playoffs) 3.50.
SV%: (last 16) .898; (playoffs) .883.
win/loss: (last 16) 4-7-5; (playoffs) 2-4.
So, no. The Quick of the playoffs played exactly like the post-Olympic Quick. It's mean, I guess, to point out his numbers are even a little worse; he was looking at the Sedins for 360 minutes, after all. But still: there was no return to form. None.
I had written previously that, if Quick were to falter in the first two games and the Kings found themselves down 2-0, I wouldn't be surprised to see Bernier. But some very smart commenter (whose identity I will now look up) said, no, what's going to happen is, Quick will play great and then okay and then good and then okay and then bad and it'll stay close enough that it'll make sense to keep letting him have one more game to turn it around. Genius. He was so right. I thought at the time, oh I hope that doesn't happen.
But it did.
This makes me want to cry. I feel physically ill. Because I like Jonathan Quick. I like his style. I like his personality. I like seeing his face in there when they show him through his mask. And it's horrible that he didn't get to follow the plot that was so easy for all of us to imagine; you know, the one where he steals game six and the Kings end up winning the series, and Quick is one of the big stories of the playoffs, instead of a footnote.
I'm almost afraid to look at the comments section over on LAKingsInsider. I'm sure half the posters are demanding Murray be fired for sticking with Quick and demanding an immediate trade, etc. etc.. I'm not almost afraid, take out the almost. But really I don't think this playoff series (or the last 22 games he's played in total) mean anything in the long-term for Quick, other than, AS I SAID A MILLION TIMES THIS SEASON, maybe they shouldn't have ridden him so hard. Maybe they should have brought in a solid back-up as soon as Ersberg faltered (back in November). I am going to assume that Lombardi would have done this if there was someone available.
I'm sure in September it will be Quick and Bernier, Bernier and Quick, and since I have been waiting for that day for a long time, I am at least happy about that. And it's on days like these that I thank the hockey gods that Lombardi is the Kings' GM, because tonight he's probably saying some version of "well, the kid didn't do it this time, but everyone has to play through adversity, etc.." [insert joke about this quote being too short.] He's NOT saying, "Quick sucks he's on the next bus to wherever Cloutier is." Which I'm sure I could find verbatim on the boards tonight.
Anyway, 1/3 to Quick.
1/6 to Lombardi for not getting us the crusty stay-at-home defenseman it turns out we needed pretty badly. Or at least, it seems to me. Another 1/6 to Lombardi for not giving Quick a back-up who could lighten his workload. So Lombardi gets a 1/3 in total.
1/3 to the top six. Kopitar, Brown, Williams, Smyth, Stoll, Frolov. They needed to bury those chances (the ones that ended up on Luongo's highlight reel). I'm not saying any of these guys sucked, except Williams in game one and a little in game five. Everyone had great moments. But they get 1/3 because they get paid the big bucks to score the big goals in the big games. They didn't. Like Uncle Ben said, with great power comes great responsibility.
Handzus, Simmonds and Richardson, Doughty and Johnson, they were spectacular, I thought. Johnson played like we've all imagined him playing. Parse should have gotten in more games; he almost had one tonight. You know he's Kontos, really. He would have done it. And there's no point in picking on Randy Jones. He should not have been put in that position. He made a great save in game four, that could have been a game-changer had we not fallen apart. But he was relied on for big minutes, and that was a tactical mistake. Not that Murray had a choice. (see Lombardi's 1/3.)
Tell you what though. The guys who get the blame for not getting it done in this series are the same ones that got us to the playoffs in the first place, so really how mad can anyone be? And I think it's kind of funny that I feel like the Kings choked, because weren't they playing a supposedly better team?
**** it. Play the series again, it turns out any which way. We could have lost in four (OT in game two goes the other way) or won in five (puck goes another inch or two behinid Luongo in OT, game one), or anything in between. For a few bucks, we can now watch the rest of our future (Bernier, Moller, Loktionov, Voynov, Muzzin, the Professor and Mary Anne) in the AHL playoffs, and the Barrie Colts (Kyle Clifford) and Calgary Hitmen (Martin Jones, Brandon Kozun) in their respective CHL playoffs brackets. And Brayden Schenn will play in the Memorial Cup in a few weeks (the Wheat Kings are the host team). So there's a lot to look forward to. I mean, in addition to Chicago losing to Pittsburgh in the finals and Hossa checking himself into the booby hatch.