CHICAGO — Jonathan Quick didn’t win an Olympic medal this year. Corey Crawford didn’t even get to try. Each goalie would be happier to lift the silver Stanley Cup over his head than wear gold around his neck.
Of all the subplots in this Western Conference final, the most compelling might be between the two quiet guys who stand 178 feet from each other on the ice. The Kings’ Quick and the Chicago Blackhawks’ Crawford are two of the best goalies in the NHL, and the gap between them seems to be narrowing.
Crawford will attempt to build off a strong Game 1 victory, and continue his stellar postseason, when the Blackhawks face the Kings in Game 2 on Wednesday night at United Center.
“They have a lot of other terrific players over there, so maybe (Crawford) goes under the radar a little bit,” Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell said Tuesday. “Everyone knows about their skill players up front and on the back end. (Crawford) sits in the back seat, and I think he’s OK with that. It takes pressure off him.”
By now, everyone knows about Quick. No unused superlatives remain to describe Quick, the MVP of the Kings’ 2012 Stanley Cup run, who deserves to be squarely in the best-goalie-in-the-world conversation.
Crawford? Not long ago, his own fans weren’t sure about him. Team Canada was sure, sure it didn’t need him. Crawford stayed home when Carey Price, Roberto Luongo and Mike Smith made the Olympic roster.
Canada did just fine with Price in goal and won gold in February. But based on the six-month regular season, and not a two-week tournament, the Montreal-born Crawford might now be the best goalie from up north.
“My confidence has always been there,” Crawford said. “The first thing is being prepared, having that preparation to play. … (Then) it’s knowing the other team, their tendencies. After that, it’s just going out there and playing.”
Crawford took over in Chicago in 2011, shortly after the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup. Two uneven seasons followed, in which team followers wondered if Chicago needed an upgrade in goal. Crawford quieted critics last season, when he put up stellar numbers and led the Blackhawks to another Cup.
It’s been more of the same this season. Crawford had a 2.26 goals-against average, third-best among goalies who played at least 55 games. His 1.90 average has been best among all playoff goalies.
Suddenly, Quick has been reduced to “the other goalie” status, through no fault of his own.
Yes, Quick looked shaky early in the first round against San Jose, when he allowed 16 goals in the first three games, but since then, Quick has allowed 23 goals in 12 games.
The Blackhawks beat Quick three times in Game1, but also benefited from two deflections and a three-on-one rush. Quick made only 17 saves, compared to Crawford’s 25, but Quick also stopped a handful of quality Chicago scoring chances and prevented the game from getting out of hand.
Quick rarely does interviews, but doesn’t seem to be rattled after the hectic Game 1. History shows Quick isn’t the type to let one rough game carry over.
“Quickie is pretty hard on himself,” Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. “He takes the blame for every single goal. If we lose, he’s going to be upset after the game. He’s very emotional. He’s so competitive that he never gives up. He wants to win so bad, but the next day he’s calm, cool and collected like usual.”
Sutter previously hinted Quick raises his level of play when the Kings face a top goalie, as though he feels the need to rise to the challenge. Crawford said Quick’s presence doesn’t mean anything to him.
“No, unless he skates down the ice and starts dangling (the puck) around our guys,” Crawford said jokingly. “I mean, I’m focused on their players. It really doesn’t affect my game, whatever goes on on the other end.”
The Kings made one minor line change in practice Tuesday, as winger Kyle Clifford moved up to the third line with Jarret Stoll and Justin Williams, while Trevor Lewis dropped to the fourth line with Dwight King and Mike Richards. Chicago winger Andrew Shaw, who has missed the past six games because of a lower-body injury, practiced but it’s not known if he will play in Game 2.
LIVE LONG, PROSPER
It’s been an unusual trip for the Kings, who flew to Chicago just a few hours after they eliminated the Ducks, then changed hotels after Game 1 because of conventions in the crowded downtown area.
It’s not as odd as last year, though, when a Star Trek convention took place at the Kings’ Chicago hotel.
“At least that was in my age group,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said jokingly. “A lot of our players didn’t know who those guys walking around in the blue tights were. That’s what happens in the playoffs.”
DOING IT ALL
The Kings know they need to do a better job in Game 2 against Chicago center Jonathan Toews, who had a dominant two-way game and also won 11 of 18 faceoffs. Toews is a scoring threat and, along with the Kings’ Anze Kopitar, is a finalist for the Selke Trophy, given to the league’s best defensive forward.
“I think (Toews) has more heart than a lot of players,” Doughty said, “and that’s what separates him from other players. Skill-wise, he’s got it all.”