22 April 2016: Los Angeles Kings Goalie Jonathan Quick (32) [5348] makes a save and watches as the puck is deflected into the air during game 5 of the first round of the NHL Western Conference playoffs between the San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire)
Los Angeles Kings

Backup goaltender could be of heightened importance for Kings

Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire

The Los Angeles Kings and good goaltending have become almost synonymous with one another and Jonathan Quick is a big reason for that.

Quick has been nothing short of a workhorse for the Kings during their run as an elite team over the past several seasons.

Dating back to the 2011-12 season when the franchise won its first Stanley Cup, the Connecticut native has appeared in 295 regular season contests. He started 292 of those, and posted a 156-96-39 record with a 2.16 goals against average, a 0.918 save percentage and 28 shutouts, including a career-high 10 in 2011-12.

He’s been just as much of a workhorse in the postseason as he has during the regular season. Again, dating back to L.A.’s first Cup run in 2011-12, Quick has made 69 playoff appearances, has started them all, and has a record of 42-27 with a solid 2.08 GAA, a 0.925 save percentage and eight shutouts. His efforts during the 2011-12 postseason earned him Conn Smythe Trophy honors.

In summary, Quick has been an elite backstop over the past several seasons, posting big-time numbers and playing big-time minutes.

But while it’s worked out great for both the goaltender and the team, could Quick’s milage start to become a concern this season?

Even with the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season and an injury-shorted 2013-14 season factored in, Quick has played in a combined 364 regular season and postseason games dating back to the beginning of Los Angeles’ 2011-12 campaign. That’s an average of almost 73 games a season, a tall order even for a workhorse like Quick.

And it’s quite possible that his minutes could become a bigger factor this season. Quick is one of three goaltenders (Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop and New Jersey’s Cory Schneider being the other two) representing Team USA at next month’s World Cup of Hockey in Toronto.

While he’ll be sharing the USA net with two other very capable goaltenders, the early start to the season and possibility that Quick will be logging minutes in some very important games at a time of year when he’s usually in a light conditioning mode could make for a very long season for the goaltender, especially if he and his Kings teammates once again make a deep run in the playoffs.

13 April 2016: Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff (37) waves to the fans as a star of game during the third period. The Pittsburgh Penguins won Game One 5-2 against the New York Rangers in the First Round of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

13 April 2016: Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff (37) waves to the fans as a star of game during the third period. Photographer: Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire

And this why the backup goaltender position could take on a heightened importance for the Kings this season.

That by no means is to say the backup position has been ignored by General Manager Dean Lombardi and his staff. You never want a big drop-off from your starter to your backup and you always need to have a reliable backup ready to go if your starter ever goes down with injury.

This has been reflected in L.A.’s roster over the last several seasons with the likes of Jonathan Bernier, Jhonas Enroth and Martin Jones, the current San Jose Sharks starter who made 18 starts and won 12 games while Quick was nursing a groin injury during the 2013-14 season.

But with the potential for a long season in the cards for Quick this season, the organization might need someone to actually take on some of his workload, to potentially be called upon more than just occasionally.

Enter Jeff Zatkoff. The former third round (74th overall) selection by the Kings returned to the organization he started with when he inked a two-year deal this offseason with an annual cap hit of $900,000.

The Detroit native has appeared in 35 career regular season contests, has started 29 of those, and has a record of 16-14-3 with a 2.66 GAA, 0.915 save percentage and one shutout.

The emergence of Matt Murray in Pittsburgh essentially left Zatkoff as the odd goaltender out as he takes over the backup role from Enroth, who is currently an unrestricted free agent after expressing unhappiness about his playing time in LA at the conclusion of last season.

While this is an important opportunity for Zatkoff to regain a backup spot in the NHL, it’s also an important move for the Kings that can get lost among the shuffle of bigger names.

Properly managing Jonathan Quick’s milage and the fatigue factor with a strong backup could pay big dividends for the team down the stretch.

Backup goaltender could be of heightened importance for Kings
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