Well, it's all over but the victory lap. Jonathan Quick has made sure of that.
We've already pointed out that Quick hasn't been as essential to the Los Angeles Kings' dominant playoff run as he was to getting the low-scoring favorites into the playoffs to begin with, but in the last two games Quick has suffocated the New Jersey Devils and left them for dead.
The Devils scored 2.8 goals per game during the regular season. They've scored two through three games in the Stanley Cup Finals. They scored three goals per game during the first three rounds of the playoffs. They've beaten Quick just twice in 11 periods in the finals.
Overtime games in Games 1 and 2 could have gone either way, but Quick shut the door. The pivotal Game 3 -- the last realistic chance for the Devils to make this a series -- was still scoreless 25 minutes in. Then Quick made another pivotal save on Dale Clarkson, and the Kings went the other way and took the lead. Just 10 minutes later, they extended the lead before the second period was over, and you could see in Martin Brodeur's reaction a painful realization that the script was nearing completion.
The Devils actually played solidly in Game 2 and opened Game 3 like a team that could finally disrupt the Kings' 14-2 (now 15-2) merciless march through the playoffs. Instead, although Quick's dominant team hasn't needed epic goaltending performances through much of these playoffs, Quick stepped up to them in the last two games.
In GIF form, Quick is the crab with countless puck-stopping appendages, and poor Travis Zajac is the Devil who can't find a way past him no matter how golden the opportunity. Just when the Kings' even-strength play has cooled off a bit, Quick has stolen the spotlight and made sure none shall pass.
It was a frustrating sight for Devils fans, watching the team generate some dangerous chances -- chances that are precious against the Kings -- only to have stars like Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and Zajac held in check. Quick served as the true last, deflating line of defense.
Even before a Cup winner appeared clear, there has been a lot of scuttlebutt about who deserves the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP, and certainly Quick has mounted a candidacy this week. (Personally, I still rate Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty's candidacies more.)
But regardless of who wins it, this run to the Stanley Cup has been the perfect recipe for the Kings: Unsung heroes when they need them, star turns from Doughty and Kopitar at regular intervals, and -- just when the other team strengths leveled off -- game-savers from Quick to assure that the opponent is both discouraged and defeated even after its best efforts.
To be sure, the Devils gave it their best shot in a must-win Game 3. But Quick stopped all 22 of them.