COMMENTARY | It was during an overall mundane, run-of-the-mill, Ryan Miller-dominated shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres on November 12 that most Los Angeles Kings fans assumed the worst for the 2013-2014 edition of the Los Angeles Kings.
With little action on his side of the ice, Kings star goaltender Jonathan Quick stiffened up and would leave the game in the waning moments of overtime with a serious groin injury -- an injury in which he is finally reportedly close to returning from.
After that fateful loss to the Sabers, which put the Kings at 11-6-1 in the wildly competitive Western Conference, the Kings knew they would be without their best player (in addition to the injuries to Jeff Carter, Jarret Stoll, Matt Greene and Kyle Clifford at the time) and would have to start mostly untested goaltenders while trying to remain in the thick of the playoff scrum. The season was turning out to be more depressing than Yutaka Fukufuji's NHL career.
Cue backup goaltenders Ben Scrivens and Martin Jones. Since that would-be disastrous event for the Los Angeles Kings, Scrivens and Jones have led the Kings to a 25-12-4 record, good enough for fifth in the Western Conference, and, regardless of the fact that the team has dropped four straight, have gone an incredible 14-6-3 in Quick's stead. With a downright bruising, league-leading-1.98-goals-allowed-per-game defense ahead of them led by Drew Doughty, Slava Voynov, Matt Greene and Co., Scrivens and Jones have more than held their own.
After first appearing to be a throw-in in the Jonathan Bernier/Matt Frattin (who has been utterly disastrous) swap with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Scrivens has been among the most consistent goaltenders in the league.
Among eligible goaltenders, Scrivens leads the league with a .936 save percentage and is third in the league with a 1.84 goals against average in his 15 starts. He is also tied for second in the league with three shutouts. He also went to Yale, is nicknamed "The Professor," and has an exceptionally entertaining Twitter account.
As for Jones (nicknamed "Joner"), the undrafted backup's backup who previously had no NHL experience before being called up on November 13, he has now quite literally made history. Since making his first start in a 3-2 shootout win against the Anaheim Ducks on December 3 in which he gloriously stopped all nine shots of the shootout round (I was there. I can attest to its glory), he won his next seven to tie an NHL record.
With three shutouts, a 1.29 goals against average, and a .955 save percentage, his exceptionally strong play will certainly cause Kings general manager Dean Lombardi to lose some sleep over what to do with him when Quick returns, which according to the LA Times, could be early-January.
The logical option would be to return Jones to the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League and slot Scrivens back into the backup role behind Quick. But with Scrivens set to become an unrestricted free agent after the season, maybe Lombardi will look to deal Scrivens while he is worth the most in the free-agent market to shore up the fourth line and let Jones develop at the NHL level behind Quick.
Whatever the decision is, the Kings have a problem that most teams would pay top dollar for. After decades of weak goaltending (aside from a few choice years from Rogie Vachon, Kelly Hrudey, and Felix Potvin), the Kings are certainly reaping the rewards of strong drafting and trading (Quick and Scrivens) and excellent player development (Jones), thanks mostly to Lombardi and goaltending coach Bill Ranford.
There is no doubt that Quick will regain his starting role when he returns from the injured reserve, but until then, Scrivens and Jones have shown that they are more than capable of carrying the load in the meantime.
And as for whether or not Quick should start for Team USA at the Olympics? Nah. Let's go with the first guy mentioned in the article.
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