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While everybody talks about Martin Brodeur in reverential tones normally for players that are no longer active, Quick is the goalie thats feared, loathed and respected by the opposition.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

Hayes knows he's a good player, wants to silence the critics

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Hayes knows he's a good player, wants to silence the critics

BOSTON, Mass. – There’s a long way to go toward a complete resurrection from last season’s misdeeds, but Jimmy Hayes made a nice little statement that he’s learned some lessons in Boston’s preseason debut. The Bruins lost the game, 3-2, in the shootout to the Columbus Blue Jackets, but Hayes scored one of the two goals for the Black and Gold as one of the few veterans in a very youthful lineup for Boston.

The Hayes goal was a nice give-and-go with Jake DeBrusk at the end of a nice transition play in the second period, and was the highlight of a night playing on the right wing with DeBrusk and center Austin Czarnik. The score and a team-high four shots on net for Hayes represent a good start for what he hopes is a gigantic rebound season after last year’s disappointment.

Clearly Hayes heard some of the unflattering chatter about him on sports talk radio and otherwise last season, and may even understand how his difficult season in his home city of Boston -- whether he actively expressed it to him or not -- might have been a factor in his buddy Jimmy Vesey ultimately choosing New York over Boston.

It appears the former Boston College standout is looking to change the conversation in Boston. 

“Yeah, sure am. I’ve got a lot to come out here and…[there were] a lot of comments about myself, but I know I’m a good player. I got to this level for a reason,” said Hayes, who dropped from 19 goals and 35 points with the Panthers to 13 goals, 29 points and a career-worst minus-12 for the Bruins last season.

“To be able to play at the NHL level and continue to play at that level on a consistent basis is what I expect out of myself. I do it for myself and our teammates, and to help our team win. I’ll continue moving forward.

“It’s funny being the old guy on the line. It’s nice to see those young guys and see how excited they are, and how excited I am to get back out there. That’s what I said to the guys, they still have the jitters and they still have them for the first preseason game. It shows that these guys want it and it’s been a lot of fun skating with those guys. They’ve got a lot of speed and to keep pushing the pace. Trying to keep up with them has been a lot of fun.”

There is still a long way to go for the 26-year-old winger, and his willingness to stick around the danger areas on Monday night was a welcomed one for a Bruins team that needs his 6-foot-6 body in front of the net. Hayes paid the price with stitches and a fat lip after taking a Dalton Prout high-stick to the mouth in front of the Columbus net that went uncalled on a Bruins PP at the end of the second period.

That’s all part of the big man’s game on the ice, however. It’s also the kind of battle and determined fight that Hayes will need to show much more consistently in his second season with the hometown Bruins if he’s truly looking to bounce-back from last year’s mediocre performance. 

Carlo 'arguably the best' defenseman for Bruins in preseason opener

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Carlo 'arguably the best' defenseman for Bruins in preseason opener

BOSTON – On a night when many of Boston’s young players stepped up nicely, perhaps none did more so than 19-year-old defenseman Brandon Carlo. The youngster was in a top pair role with John-Michael Liles against a decent Columbus Blue Jackets lineup that included Sam Gagner, Alexander Wennberg, Seth Jones, Brandon Saad and Sonny Milano, and had almost no miscues in his 20:16 of ice time.

Better than that, Carlo notched an assist on the game-tying score in the third period when his right point shot made it through traffic for Danton Heinen to redirect it past Curtis McElhinney from the slot. That left Carlo with an assist, a plus-1 rating and three shots on net in 20:16 of ice time to go along with some heavy battling around the net whenever Blue Jackets players tried to get too close.

“Arguably our best D, if not our best D. [He showed] real good decision-making, and his gaps are good. I can really only think of one time in the third period he kind of threw a puck away in the middle of a change, and ended up on his wrong side,” said Bruins assistant coach Bruce Cassidy. “It wasn’t a bad turnover, but it was just one that he could have made a little bit of a better decision.

“He didn’t handle the puck much in the game, that’s pretty good. He jumped up the ice, got his shot through when it was there, matched up well with whoever he was put out there [against], pushed back in front of our net. [There were] a lot of good things.”

It’s a big training camp for Carlo, who is more than likely earmarked for Providence unless he can utilize a stellar training camp performance to push over one of the seven veteran Bruins D-men with NHL contracts. That means potentially displacing Joe Morrow as the seventh defensemen on the roster, or forcing the Bruins to possibly deal Adam McQuaid or Kevan Miller if the Bruins feel he is ready for the day-to-day NHL grind.

The preseason opener was a good start that the 2015 second round pick was excited about, but things will certainly get more challenging for Carlo as the Bruins get deeper into this training camp.

“I just want to keep the same mentality, same energy. Show a little bit more physicality. I felt like I did that, but definitely could close a little quicker in a few instances overall. I just want to keep building on every game,” said Carlo. “There are some very strong guys on the puck in this league and throughout this game they had those guys out there definitely. Overall, you just have to compete just as hard as them.

“You’re dealing with NHL guys out there. [The Blue Jackets] had some pretty good guys in their lineup tonight and everyone is competing for jobs on both sides…so the speed was phenomenal. I loved it.”

The Bruins loved what they saw of Carlo in a pretty big opportunity right out of the gate this preseason, and now the teenager has set the bar if he wants to keep pushing with a hockey club that needs to upgrade their defense with strong, young players.