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June 11, 2012
In a coast-to-coast series brimming with U.S.-born stars, no Yankee—no player, period—has shone as brightly as the Kings' soft-spoken goaltender, Jonathan Quick
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June 11, 2012

Jonathan And The Americans

In a coast-to-coast series brimming with U.S.-born stars, no Yankee—no player, period—has shone as brightly as the Kings' soft-spoken goaltender, Jonathan Quick

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But the Stanley Cup of the USA is less about how many Americans than how they play. Throughout hockey there has been a stigma attached to purportedly entitled Yanks chasing a 35-pound trophy donated by a titled Brit. The Americans on the Kings and the Devils know it. "You can throw around reputations and say some [American] guys are cocky, some guys don't work. But those generalizations ... I think some are unwarranted," says New Jersey defenseman Peter Harrold, who was raised in Kirtland Hills, Ohio. "My parents put 300,000 miles on two or three different cars. They spent a lot of time driving me around because you didn't have too much competition around Cleveland. You don't go out there and half-ass it. If you're going to do that, [your parents] aren't going to spend the time. It's a lesson learned pretty early by a lot of American hockey players."

Brown and Parise, potential Conn Smythe candidates behind Quick (and perhaps high-wire L.A. defenseman Drew Doughty—from London, Ont.—who skated end to end, and through three Devils, in Game 2 to score a goal of utter brilliance), are among the modern exemplars. They possess fourth-line work ethics and, especially in Parise's case, first-line skills. "All you have to do is watch Zach for 30 seconds. You know he expects nothing for free," says New Jersey defenseman Andy Greene (Trenton, Mich.). "Brown looks the same way to me. They don't have the why-did-you-hit-me look when they get hit." Brown and Parise each had seven goals through Game 2, tied for his team's lead.

"Parise just does it right," Lombardi says. "You never see him put himself above his team. The competitiveness is off the charts, especially for a smaller guy around the crease. Like [Brown], the game is high level, but it's not one that rings Me-Me-Me. Their games are loud, but they're not loud, you know?"

Like Lombardi's goalie.

The quiet American arrived for Media Day inside Newark's Prudential Center on the eve of the Stanley Cup finals wearing the mandated team-issued hoodie, but he also had a Kings cap tugged low with the hood covering the cap. Islanders left wing Matt Moulson, Quick's brother-in-law, called it "a typical Quickie look [that reflects] a laid-back goalie," although as a sartorial statement it was distinctly Unabomber chic. Said Los Angeles winger Dustin Penner, "He's channeling his inner Eminem."

Quick is a merciless battler whether the arena seats 20,000 or 16 for dinner. Last summer near the end of a Sunday family meal at his in-laws' house, Quick's wife, Jaclyn, challenged her husband to a game of ministicks (essentially indoor hockey, with players on their knees using miniature plastic sticks). There is no video review in Greenwich, Conn., homes, unlike the NHL system in Game 1 that espied a prone Parise shoving the puck past Quick like a man playing bar shuffleboard—the apparent third-period goal was disallowed—so there is no verification. But according to Moulson, Jaclyn thinks Quick bodychecked her, which actually makes her a victim of goaltender interference, while he thinks she should have been called for diving.

On the ice Quick just looks different from other goalies. His low stance obscures the bottom of the net while his adroitness safeguards the upper portion. More remarkably he seems less to skate than to scuttle, crablike, from post to post. The Kings call him Gumby. "He's gone through a big change," says Bill Ranford, his goalie coach. "Five years ago he was all reflex. Now he's the total package. I think you're seeing that with a lot of goalies. There's some reflex, some butterfly." And yes, he is quick. In Game 2 the Devils, who mustered 33 shots, had to settle for scraps, getting their only goal from fourth-liner Ryan Carter (White Bear Lake, Minn.), who redirected a bouncer from the high slot off a Marek Zidlicky shot.

Quick hails from the New Haven suburb of Hamden, which because of a Native American legend about a nearby mountain ridge is nicknamed the Land of the Sleeping Giant. He is no giant at 6'1" and 223 pounds, but he often is sleeping. The only thing Quick does not do with alacrity is wake up. Even though he admitted he did not fall into his normal dead-to-the-world nap before Game 1 because of Cup jitters, he is a big league snoozer. (Honest-to-goodness Los Angeles team joke: "How many alarm clocks does it take to wake up a goalie?") In fact Quick once slept so soundly while playing for the Kings' AHL affiliate in 2007--08 that he was demoted to a lower minor league.

Putting himself into precisely the kind of situation that has tarnished the reputation of American players, Quick, staying in a hotel at the time, missed a scheduled meeting with a coach despite efforts of teammates like Kevin Westgarth, now a Kings enforcer, who tried to rouse him via cellphone and through hotel operators. Los Angeles decided Quick could catch his z's for a while on the long rides from Reading, Pa., in the bus-friendly ECHL. Kings assistant G.M. Ron Hextall, a former goalie, calls it "a life lesson."

"To the kid's credit he took it," says Hextall. "He worked his butt off and became a better player. If you can't take disappointment, authority and the lessons you need to learn in this game, there's probably a bigger problem than just not playing well. If you can't handle those things, something's not going to click. The most important thing is, he has mental toughness. You can see the competitiveness, but he's not bothered by a bad goal or a bad period. He's unflappable, like the guy at the other end [of the ice] in this [series]." Indeed Brodeur, who was beaten by Jeff Carter in overtime of Game 2 when the Los Angeles winger ignored open point men and found the goalie leaning to his left, offered the equivalent of a Gallic shrug.

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