Jonathan Quick is a lot of things to a lot of people. He's a scrambler. He's flexible. He's athletic. He's elite. He's awful. He's somewhere in the between. He's the best big-game goalie in the league. He's the worst goalie the Kings have run out in the last 3 seasons. He's somehow all of those things at once and none of those things at all.
The one thing Jonathan Quick has definitively been this year is inconsistent. However you rate goalies, however you judge their play, whatever characteristics you base their credentials on, none of it really matters in this regard. Jonathan Quick has not been a steady goaltender in the 2014/15 campaign.
Of course, most goalies are inconsistent. There are times when they don't track the puck well. There are times when the shots they see are just a little bit better for any variety of reasons. There are times when those pucks that trickled through before suddenly stop finding daylight. Sometimes the post bails you out more often than other times.
Wild variance in goaltending numbers - especially goaltending numbers broken down into tiny samples - is entirely normal. Except for the absolute best performers in a given season, most goalies are going to have stretches when they cannot stop a beachball. Let's take a look at the difference between the best and worst months from different goalies this season (minimum 41 games this season and 7 games in a month):
Best and worst months for goalies, 2014/15
|Goalie||Best Month||Worst Month||Difference|
*Eddie Lack only has 2 months with 7+ GP and posted identical save percentages.
Even in a notoriously wild bunch, Jonathan Quick's uneven season is nearly unparalleled. The average difference from the best to worst month in this group is .037. Quick nearly doubles that number at .064, which is the second-highest of the group.
Let's look at the rest of his body of work. He had one excellent month at .928, one poor month at .901, and two average months at .915 and .918. His good and bad months are above and below average in nearly equal measures. The average we're working from in this exercise is the average of the goalies in the sample, which works out to a .917 SV%. Not much use in comparing Quick to goalies that wouldn't ever bother replacing him (Tyler Bunz would be dragging down the sample, y'all).
With Quick being an average goalie over the whole of the rest of his season, what would happen if we gave him an average best (.935) and worst (.898) month? In his best month, Jonathan Quick saved 295 out of 313 shots. To bring him down to a .935 SV%, he would have had to allow 2.3 more goals. In his worst month, he saved 195 out of 222 shots. To work up to an .898 SV%, he would have had to make 4.4 more saves. The difference works out to 2.1 goals.
The next thing we need to find out here is how many goals are worth a point in the standings. Thankfully, Broad Street Hockey has already done the legwork for us:
That black trendline is the best you can do if asked to draw a straight line through or near the data points (it's called a linear regression, and yes, that'll be on the quiz). Excel tells us that the equation for the line is y = 0.3415x + 91.447, which means that on average, a team with a goal differential of 0 will finish the season with 91 or 92 points, and that every extra goal is worth about 0.34 points. Since 0.34 is about 1/3, we'll say three goals is roughly a point and six goals is roughly a win. It's that simple.
So 3 goals is roughly a point, and if Jonathan Quick had been even average levels of steady, he would have allowed at least 2 fewer goals. We're working in the margins here, but that's exactly where the Kings are living. It's well within the realm of possibility that 2 goals could've made a difference, even if the difference was just 1 extra point.
In this alternate universe where Quick is fractionally more steady (or less terrible one month), the Kings are still in control of their own destiny. They would be in the playoffs with a regulation win over the Flames and any type of win over the Sharks. The margins are that small.
Though other factors carry much more responsibility for the precarious position the Kings find themselves in, Jonathan Quick's mercurial season may have just enough of an impact on things to change the Kings' fortunes.