Quick takes road less traveled to Cup Finals

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Quick takes road less traveled to Cup Finals

NEWARK, NJ Jonathan Quick grew up in a big hockey townrelatively speaking, of course.

Connecticut isnt exactly known as a hockey hotbed within the New England region. Massachusetts has traditionally cranked out the most hockey players from the five states and Rhode Island has had some very good ones that have kept the Providence College hockey program alive through the years.

But Quick is used to playing with and against Massachusetts kids and Rhode Island homeboys that constantly win the bragging rights arguments about who has the best hockey.

Hockey was a pretty big deal in my town. I guess it depends on where you go in the state to see how big hockey is, said Quick, a native of Milford, CT. Some parts were big and some not so big. We have a pretty good tradition and some of my high school teammates are pretty excited. Some are Devils fans, though, so Im not sure if theyre on my side. Well find out when its over.

I think Massachusetts still has the best players around. I was lucky enough to be on a pretty good travel team and we played a lot of those guys. Then I ended up going to college at UMass and played with a lot of the guys that grew up in that area. Hockey is hockey no matter where you grew up.

Plenty of the usual suspects from Massachusetts are familiar faces from Quicks past. He played against both Keith Yandle and Corey Schneider in high school while at Avon Old Farms, and has developed a rivalry with Schneider where theyve played against each other in prep school, Division I college hockey, the AHL and the Stanley Cup playoffs along the way.

But the Kings goaltender has the ultimate trump card: hes the one thats still playing hockey right now and hes the odds on favorite for the Conn Smythe Trophy with no more than six games left in the season.

With all due apologies and respect to Darien, Connecticuts favorite son, Ryan Shannon, Quick is the best player from the Nutmeg State currently drawing a paycheck in the NHL, and hes shown it throughout the playoffs.

That shouldnt be something that Chris Clark, Colin Wilson or Max Pacioretty or the other 25 players to ever hail from Connecticut should feel upset about either.

While everybody talks about Martin Brodeur in reverential tones normally for players that are no longer active, Quick is the goalie thats feared, loathed and respected by the opposition.

I think hes much more controlled than he used to be. He used to always try to make the amazing saves. He was relying a lot more on his athletic ability, said New Jersey defenseman Peter Harrold, who played against Quick in Hockey East and with him while both players were coming up through the Kings organization. Hes become a much more cerebral goaltender now that can use his athleticism when he needs it. Hes obviously one of the best goaltenders in the world and I assume that hes only going to get better.

Back in college maybe you would have said that Corey Schneider would be an NHL star someday. I dont know that you would have said that about Quick. Guys grow at different rates at different times, but hes proven a lot of people wrong. Hes having a hell of a year.

The former UMass superstar showed flashes of his bright future while out at Amherst. He led the Minutemen to their first NCAA tournament appearance and left the school as the best goaltender in the history of the schools hockey program.

So how different is he from the goaltender that arrived straight from the bucolic Amherst campus to work with LA goalie coach Bill Ranford? Oh, if you would have seen him five years agotheres been a big change, said Ranford. He was probably just like the way I played early in my career. He was all reflex and all athleticism. Hes learned a lot and calmed his game down. Hes generated a really good technical package, but when he needs to get athletic I dont think theres anybody thats better.

Its that versatility to go from quiet, calm puck-blocker to scrambling playmaker in desperate times that separates the average from the great, and its a balance that is difficult to master. But the 26-year-old Quick has done it while lifting up every hockey program hes come into contact with.

He put UMass hockey on the map, and now hes doing the same with the LA Kings as they search for their first Stanley Cup championship.

Dont let the quiet delivery from Quick and the media day hoodie fool you, either. Quick knows exactly whats on the line for his Kings, and just how far theyve come in the four years hes been backstopping in LaLa Land.

Obviously you have dreams watching Mike Richter play and saying to yourself Oh, I want to do that one day. Everybody has those. Youre just playing for whatever team youre on at the time and doing good things for them while trying to win, said Quick. Then you find you could make it to the next level, and then you start going level to level. It never really kicks in until youre there and you start playing well at that level.

Its an exciting time for us and an exciting time for the fans. Its been 19 years since we were last in the Cup Finals and its been 45 years as an organization without winning one. So its exciting to win it for them.

Quick leads all playoff goaltenders with 13 wins, a .946 save percentage and a 1.49 goals against average, and hes been every bit as good as the numbers would suggest. Hell have to continue that if the Kings are going to finish off a devastating run through the postseason as the eighth seed in the Western Conference. But theres no reason to think Quick will suddenly turn into a puddle staring at Brodeur the legend at the other end of the ice, and every reason to think hell be another example of a hot goaltender serving as the main ingredient in winning the Stanley Cup.

Not bad for a kid from that hockey hotbed of Connecticut, eh?

Saturday, Aug. 27: Adding toughness Habs' priority

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Saturday, Aug. 27: Adding toughness Habs' priority

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, after a busy morning celebrating my 3-year-old’s birthday at the trampoline park. Yee-ha.

*PHT writer Joey Alfieri says that adding toughness was a big offseason priority for the Montreal Canadiens.

*There’s at least one big fan of the Edmonton Oilers trade that brought defenseman Adam Larsson from the New Jersey Devils, and that fan’s name is Mark Letestu.

*Here’s everything you need to know about the Ice Guardians movie premiering this fall that takes a long, balanced look at the NHL enforcers.

*Roberto Luongo has an alibi for the robbery in Winnipeg with one suspect getting away in goalie equipment, and it’s funny as you would expect it to be.

*CSN Washington takes a look at the New York Rangers in their season previews for the Metro Division.

*I’m not entirely sure whether this “RIP Harambe” thing is genuine or meant to be ironic by the largely millenial group that seem so enamored with it, but I think it’s just stupid. I think the same with the crying Jordan meme…also stupid.

*For something completely different: a look at how Triumph the Insult Comic Dog learned how to poop on Trump’s politics.

 

Countdown to camp: Danton Heinen

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Countdown to camp: Danton Heinen

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From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2016-17 Bruins. Today: Danton Heinen.

Danton Heinen exploded into a high-profile prospect for the Bruins after finishing among the NCAA’s top scoring players a couple of years ago as a freshman along with a couple of guys named Jack Eichel and Dylan Larkin. 

Since then, Heinen has continued to produce offense at the University of Denver and continued to create offense that leads to points. Now, the 21-year-old Heinen will be entering the professional arena for his first full season with the Bruins and he’ll be attempting to transition from the prospect phase to a regular gig in the NHL. That’s the challenge for a talented player who appears headed into a very good opportunity in NHL training camp.

 

What happened last year

Heinen was every bit as explosive in his second season for Denver as he was in his brilliant freshman campaign. He improved on his scoring with 20 goals and 48 points in 41 games. Then Heinen signed with the Bruins at the end of his sophomore season and played in a couple of pro games in the AHL with Providence as a tune-up for this first full pro campaign with the Bruins organization. Heinen finished with two assists and a plus-1 rating in four games with the P-Bruins and showed the coaches in Providence that he was ready to play and produce with more talented players. If Heinen surprised a little bit as a breakout freshman two years ago, his sophomore follow-up in Denver last season proved to everybody that he wasn’t a fluke.

 

Questions to be answered this season

The real question surrounding Heinen is about his ceiling as an NHL player and just how good he can become as a player with the skills and playmaking abilities to be a top-six forward. He’s proven he can dominate at the collegiate level while admittedly playing with some pretty good teammates at Denver. Heinen showed at the end of the season in Providence that the pro scene might not be much different for him. At this point, Heinen simply needs to go out and prove it against the best players in the world and show that his speed, playmaking and hockey sense are all elite in the AHL or NHL. Heinen’s biggest obstacle might be his size. He'll need to survive as a targeted skill player despite not being much more than the 6-feet, 180-pound range for a forward. It’s about average for a playmaking wing in the NHL, but the hits and attention will be at a much more intense level than anything he faced in the NCAA world.

 

What they're saying

“He’s the type of player that he can play with good players because he’s got high hockey IQ and he’s got really good skill. I think anywhere you put him, he’s smart enough to figure it out. I think you’ll notice him during training camp. It will definitely be up to him, but I think he’ll push some guys.” –Bruins assistant coach Jay Pandolfo on Heinen during last month’s development camp where Heinen soared as a performer.

 
Outlook

While Heinen still has some things he’ll need to prove before he’s a regular contributor for the Bruins, he comes into the Boston fold as an experienced player following two very good seasons at the college level. So, Heinen should be a little closer to plug-and-play for Claude Julien than some of the other young players that have come through the system in the past couple of years. Heinen will still need to flash in camp while being handed a big spot to perform with high-end veterans Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Brad Marchand potentially off playing in the World Cup of Hockey. Heinen also has a much greater chance of winning an NHL job sooner rather than later after the Bruins lost out on the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes and still have a top-six forward opening that somebody is going to fill. Heinen and Frank Vatrano are the two biggest favorites to fill that position, which became vacant when Loui Eriksson departed for Vancouver. Whichever winger loses that battle should be also be a strong candidate for a role on the third line, as well, barring any late veteran signings by the B’s. That set of circumstances leaves a very good situation for Heinen to potentially walk into with the Black and Gold, but he'll still have to show he’s fully capable of seizing his good fortune and good timing.