Jones Off to Quick Start

Jonathan Quick is out. That’s the bad news. Martin Jones is impossible to beat. That’s the good news. The goalie of the moment, Jones, has never, ever, lost an NHL game? OK, so he’s played in only six, but with a perfect record and numbers that look like this coming into Tuesday–.99 GAA and .967 save percentage—he’s holding up his end of the backup-backup deal.

Who knew, when Bernier left, that the team would be playing without him or Quick at midway through the season? Nobody. Who would have thought that the Kings would be OK in that circumstance? Only the Kings’ management, which has, somehow, managed to build incredible goaltending depth for itself.

Here’s the detail on LA’s netminders as of now.

Jonathan Quick has something they call a “grade two” groin injury. He is skating in equipment at the Kings’ practice facility and has been doing so since last week, when the rest of the team was on the road. But he is not going to come back until he is absolutely pain-free, according to Coach Sutter, and that, speculation says, might be sometime around Christmas. The Kings, if you’re unfamiliar with the team’s schedule, play at home until the 23rd, when Dallas is in town. Then they go on the road for three games in four days leading up to the new year. That’s the 28th in Nashville, the 30th in Chicago, and the 31st in Dallas. They finish against the Blues in St. Louis on January 2nd.

Ben Scrivens, as is well known, came over from Toronto in the Bernier trade. He started the season as the backup to Quick, playing in a couple of brief relief appearances and then a win and a loss over the course of the team’s first dozen and a half games. He then started every game between mid-November and early December, amassing six wins, a loss, and four OT losses. He then had a slight injury and relinquished the net to Jones. He thus got to 7-2-4 before watching Jones take to the nets. Scrivens’ next played on the 15th of December against Chicago, facing forty shots and losing after letting in three goals.

For that, or despite it, he was on the bench again Tuesday in favor of Jones. Interesting stat on him: in his first two NHL games, he faced 28 and 16 shots. What does that tell you? That the team is tightening up defensively in front of him perhaps. But get this—the number went to 31, then twice to 39 as he carried on his rookie romp. On Tuesday against Edmonton, he stopped 24 shots, which was all of them.

On the help he has been getting, he commented after Tuesday’s game. “I’ve said it a hundred times. These guys have been unbelievable in front of me. The way they clear the net. There were a couple of plays in the first and second period that a lot of people wouldn’t notice where they made unbelievable plays in front of the net.”

For his start, he was named the NHL’s second star of the week last week. He went on a run, speaking of shots, where he faced 109 against Montreal, Toronto, and Ottawa. He let in just three goals. One of those games was a shutout (against the Habs), a pair to the one he’d had at home against the Isles the game before. Tuesday night makes the third, as the team beat the Oilers, 3-0.

What does Jones look like in net? Much the same as the prototype of today’s goalie. That is, lanky tall, athletic, flexible. You almost can’t tell him from Quick or Scrivens at a glance from the cheap seats. But once he gets moving in the nets, his style varies subtly from theirs.

He has a somewhat peculiar ready posture when the play is far from him. He stands upright, then kind of half crouches and leans his lower back against the crossbar. Often, he is standing upright. On chances, he holds his catching glove high. He goes to his knees to make most saves, as do so many netminders these days, and that’s where he differs from Quick somewhat. Where Quick is lightning on his splits and side-to-side movement, Jones appears to use a more set method which favors positioning over explosive movement.

He tends to hold his glove hand quite high, and he keeps his blocker hand in very tight to his body. To set for shots, he spreads his feet very wide. Sometimes, he has to reset them closer together. He stays up for a long while, then follows the shot down. When the puck comes, he often shrugs it off, pushing it up and out away from the net. He’s the typical product of genetics plus coaching which allows the modern goalie to make the saves using his equipment and perfect body positioning.

Where did he come from? Calgary. North Vancouver. One was home, one where he played his Junior hockey, with the Hitmen. He was undrafted when the Kings signed him in 2008, and promptly registered a record of 45-5-4 that year. He backed that up by going 36-11-1 the next season. He then put in three campaigns for the Kings in the AHL, posting almost even records in wins and losses over the past two years after having a very good first season.

Kings fans got behind him in his first game, played in Anaheim, which is often one-third full of LA fans when the two teams play. He went through sixty-four minutes allowing just two goals, and then faced nine rounds of shootout before finally taking the win.

Coach Sutter downplayed the contribution Jones has made early, saying, “As I’ve said before, we’re a tired hockey team, and our goalies shouldn’t be tired. So . . . they don’t have to play every game.”

Dustin Brown was more effusive in his praise. “The way our goaltending is playing shows the depth of the whole [organization]. Part of it is their preparation and their readiness. It’s a big hole with Quicky went out, but part of it has been that Drew [Doughty] has really elevated his game since [then]. When you have a defenseman who can control the pace of the game, it really helps.”

“The numbers are pretty amazing, but he’s come in and made the saves he needs to. I thought the shutout tonight was one of his harder ones. He made some really good saves for us,” Brown added.

Jones is taking the typical rookie attitude of keeping low key. “It’s my job to work hard in practice and to be ready when I’m called upon,” he said, adding, “At the end of the day, I need to keep my game in order and be ready to play.” Other than that, he didn’t say much. I tried to tempt him to it by asking what they call him in the room as a reflection to what the players call Scrivens, which is “Professor.” He said there’s nothing. “I’m not sure. I don’t have a good answer for that. Nothing like the professor. That’s a good one.”

On his game, he commented that he works on a lot of little things. When asked what those are, he said, “There’s a lot. Just little things. Not changing my game a whole lot to come up here, but just picking up the speed of everything. The game’s quicker. The shots are quicker.” I tried once more, but again he said, “Just cleaning up a lot of little details, rebounds.”

Aha! Finally, one thing. But he would not go further. Is there some kind of rule in the goalie union handbook? Is he trying to fly under the notice of opponents? Who knows. He did sum up his situation simply. “Just to make sure I’m at the top of it [his game].” The numbers say it best. After Tuesday’s shutout, Jones has a .82 GAA and a .972 save percentage. He is the only goalie in Kings’ history to win his first six game with the team.

Notes

Kyle Clifford, Willie Mitchell, and Daniel Carcillo were not in the LA Kings lineup on Tuesday night. Having Clifford out of the lineup gives the chance to a guy like Matt Frattin, drawing back in on the fourth line along with Linden Vey and Jordan Nolan. And Fraser’s being absent allows the Kings to dress Trevor Lewis, who came back from injury just at the time Fraser went out. Lewis found himself with Tyler Toffoli and Mike Richards, an offensive line of great potential.

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