Published December 19, 2013
| Sports Network
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Losing a franchise goaltender for a month would send most NHL teams into a tailspin, but the Los Angeles Kings aren't most NHL teams.
With Jonathan Quick sidelined with a groin injury since mid-Novemeber, the Kings have somehow managed to thrive.
Being forced to rely on the tandem of Ben Scrivens and rookie Martin Jones between the pipes hasn't slowed L.A. down at all. In fact, the club's depth in net is once again the envy of the league.
The Kings are 12-2-3 since Quick went down to his injury on Nov. 12. At first it was Scrivens taking the lead, as the former Toronto netminder won the first four games with Quick on the shelf. However, when Scrivens began to stumble with four losses in five starts in late-November, Jones was there to pick up the slack.
And Jones, a 23-year-old undrafted free agent, has been nothing short of a revelation since making his NHL debut earlier this month.
Jones is off to a perfect 6-0-0 start to his career, becoming the first goalie in club history to win his first six games. The NHL record is not far off either, as two more wins without a loss would match Bob Froese's record. Froese went 8-0 to begin his career with the Philadelphia Flyers back in 1982-83.
And it's not just wins that are impressive because Jones has been spectacular in every way since bursting onto the scene from relative obscurity. He has faced 177 shots so far and only has allowed five pucks to cross the goal line, giving him a ridiculous .972 save percentage to go with a stingy 0.82 goals against average.
Oh yeah, and Jones is already tied for the NHL lead this season with three shutouts. The only other goalie to get three shutouts this season in fewer than 20 games is Scrivens, who has reached that number in 16 appearances.
To put Jones' start in even greater historical context, according to Elias Sports Bureau he is one of only three goalies in NHL history to post three shutouts over his first six starts. The most recent example of that feat prior to Jones came during the 1938-39 season, when Frank Brimsek did it for the Boston Bruins.
The fact that Kings general manager Dean Lombardi traded away Jonathan Bernier -- the club's No. 2 goaltender last season -- over the summer only makes L.A.'s depth in net even more impressive. Bernier, who dealt to the Leafs in the move that landed Scrivens, isn't doing bad in Toronto either, going 10-11-2 with a 2.53 GAA and a stout .925 save percentage.
Obviously, the Kings are doing something right when it comes to keeping the puck out of the net. Some folks give credit to the defense and head coach Darryl Sutter's system, while others think L.A. can attribute its success between the pipes to Lombardi and his staff's terrific scouting when it's time to identify goaltending talent.
Then again, maybe the fact that L.A. seems able to put just about anybody in net and have them turn into the second-coming of Jacques Plante is a testament to the team's goaltending coach Bill Ranford and his partner in crime Kim Dillabaugh, who is in charge of goalie development for the Kings.
Ranford, owner of 240 career wins as an NHL goaltender, isn't out their claiming credit for the success and he believes there is more than one reason L.A. seems to have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to goaltenders.
"It's a combination of both," Ranford recently told NHL.com. "You need your goalie to make the big saves at the right time, and you have to play solid defense. I think this group here, going back to the (former coach) Terry Murray days, has taken a lot of pride in their defense, and that hasn't changed."
It should come as no surprise that L.A. is leading all NHL teams in defense this season, surrendering a league-low 1.89 goals per game. That's a considerable improvement from last season's mark of 2.38 gpg and more in line with the 2.07 gpg the Kings allowed during the 2011-12 season, when L.A. won its one and only Stanley Cup title behind a Conn Smythe-winning performance from Quick.
The Kings allowed only 1.50 gpg in the 2012 postseason, as they became the first No. 8 seed in North American professional sports to win a championship.
Quick's play during the 2012 playoffs is what's keeping him entrenched as L.A.'s No. 1 netminder no matter how much success Jones and Scrivens have during his absence. The 10-year, $58 million contract Quick signed with the Kings in the summer of 2012, is another reason he'll be handed the reins when he's ready to return to game action sometime in January.
The only real questions for the Kings is who to keep as the backup once Quick returns. Unless Jones keeps playing lights-out right until its time to make a decision, it seems Scrivens' edge in experience will allow him to stay with the big club.
Whatever the Kings decide to do, there's a good chance it'll work out. After all, L.A. seems incapable of making a wrong move when it comes to choosing a goalie.