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Blackhawks know it's tough to make Quick work of Kings goalie

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Shoot high. Take him out wide. Fire cross-slot one-timers.

It's easy to say how to beat Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick. It's quite another thing to actually pull it off.

"He never gives up on the puck, he keeps battling through it and he keeps fighting for that second shot," Blackhawks winger Viktor Stalberg said. "Sometimes guys think they have an empty net, but somehow he finds a way back there. ... I don't think many pucks are going to beat him cleanly. I don't think we've seen too many highlight-reel goals."

No, when the Kings are on the ice, it's been almost all highlight-reel saves -- Quick darting from side to side, leaping after loose pucks, snatching one-timers from out of nowhere. His oft-replayed sprawling, flat-on-the-ice glove save on a second-effort lunge off a shot by San Jose's Joe Pavelski with 5:04 left in Game 7 on Tuesday night might have saved the series for the Kings.

Quick won the Conn Smythe for backstopping the Kings' march to the Stanley Cup as the eighth seed last spring. He's been every bit as good this postseason, overcoming a shaky start against the St. Louis Blues to post a 1.50 goals-against average and stop 94.8 percent of the shots he's faced. His aggressive style of goaltending -- he comes way out of the net to challenge shooters and cut off angles -- makes him seem vulnerable, but his incredible lateral quickness allows him to recover in time to make remarkable save after remarkable save.

"He goes after everything, never gives up, covers the bottom of the net so well," said Quick's counterpart, Hawks goaltender Corey Crawford.

It doesn't hurt that the Kings are a stout defensive team with a knack for blocking shots, clogging passing lanes and taking away those side-to-side one-timers -- "the correct play" against Quick, according to Marian Hossa -- that are the best way to beat an aggressive goalie.

It took the Hawks five games to finally solve Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard, crashing the net and getting ugly goals on the doorstep while mounting their comeback from a 3-1 series deficit in the Western Conference semifinal. Quick, however, is exceptional at finding the puck in those goalmouth scrums. The trick is to shoot high on him (if Pavelski had managed that, the Sharks might be in Chicago right now instead of the Kings). Again, easier said than done when the Kings defensemen are taking away time and space, and Quick is locked in on the puck.

"From just watching the last series, he is low -- he likes to almost look through guys' legs for the puck," Stalberg said. "So that's an area where he might be beat."

The Hawks hadn't yet watched video of Quick as of Friday's practice at Johnny's IceHouse West. The plan was to break down film in the morning before Saturday afternoon's Western Conference final opener. But the Hawks are hockey fans, too, and watched plenty of the Kings-Sharks series on TV. They know exactly what they're up against.

Yes, the Hawks scored 12 goals on Quick in three regular-season games this year, two of them wins. But there's something about the playoffs that turns Quick superhuman. And nobody in the last two seasons has managed to find his Kryptonite.

"It seems like you say it against every goalie, but you want to get traffic, you want to make sure he's not seeing the puck, and when you do get those second opportunities, try to elevate the puck into the upper half of the net," Patrick Kane said. "He's a great goaltender, he's been playing very well in the playoffs for a couple years now, and he seems to get better and better. We definitely have our work cut out for us."

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Mark Lazerus was honored nationally by the Associated Press Sports Editors for three straight years at the Post-Tribune, was named one of the top three columnists in Indiana for three straight years and has won more than 20 statewide writing awards. He has covered Notre Dame for Sun-Times Media, and now covers the Blackhawks.

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Lazerus published on May 31, 2013 2:05 PM.

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