It’s the showdown that’s been four years coming. Canada and the United States battle for North American supremacy today but more importantly, they battle for a spot in the gold-medal game. Canada wants to repeat as champions while Team USA is on a mission for their first Olympic gold in 34 years. But the team by team scenario makes things a little more interesting, especially when it comes to the Los Angeles Kings.
Thanks in large part to the ridiculous east-coast bias, the Kings receive very little attention during the NHL season. But now with certain members of the silver-and-black making their respective marks of Sochi, it’s impossible not to pay attention to those representing the Los Angeles Kings.
Anze Kopitar helped Slovenia make a decent run in the tournament, Jeff Carter scored a natural hat-trick and Slava Voynov let his feelings be known about his Russians losing in controversial fashion to the United States last weekend. But two the Kings who have stood out the most in these Games have been Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick.
While news of Team Canada’s offensive futility has been front-and-center, Drew Doughty stands above the fray as he currently the leading goal-scorer for the Canadians. As for Jonathan Quick, he has proven to the world how solid of a netminder is and, contrary to what TSN’s Jamie McLennan suggested, did not have to change his over-aggressive style for the big ice surface. The Russians may still be whining about Quick keeping his style status quo but let’s leave that for another day – specifically never again.
In said Russia game last Saturday, while he wasn’t able to stop Pavel Datsyuk, who scored twice, Quick shut the door on the likes of Ovechkin and Malkin and, like in Los Angeles, made saves that Kings fans would barely flinch at. Personally speaking, if it had been most other netminders in the same situation, I believe said saves would have been sure goals instead. But for Jonathan Quick, there’s something different. Fans in Los Angeles knew it for years, fans across North America discovered that during the spring of 2012 and now in 2014, the rest of the world is seeing it. Few players have an answer for Quick, except perhaps…
If anyone knows what makes USA’s No. 32 tick, it would be his Los Angeles teammate. In these Games, Doughty has found the right positions to tee up and blast the puck. While being paired with another elite defenseman in Shea Weber certainly has helped his success rate, Drew Doughty knows where to shoot on Quick, what move he will make if an opposing player makes a certain move himself. Away from the ice, claiming this would make any teammate salivate. Putting this into practice on the ice, however, is a different story.
While he won gold four years ago in Vancouver, Drew Doughty’s contribution to Team Canada was limited. But now a bit older and wiser, Doughty isn’t content on simply being a member of a gold-medal winning squad but leading his team to the top of the mountain instead. As for Quick, while he did win silver four years ago, he was Team USA’s third-stringer. In other words, he didn’t dress much less play. But since 2010, Jonathan Quick has jumped leaps and bounds to become the goaltender that he is today.
Since Vancouver, Quick has consistently proved his skeptics wrong. After playing 72 games during the 2009-10 season, many said the 28-year-old would burn out the next season. He only got better. They said the same thing after he near-singlehandedly led the second-worst offense in hockey into the playoffs in 2012. Once the playoffs started, Quick would have nothing left, especially against the President’s Trophy winners, the Vancouver Canucks. Again, No. 32 silenced his critics not only beating the Canucks but putting up the greatest playoff numbers for a netminder since some guy named Terry Sawchuk did over a half-century earlier. In addition to his Stanley Cup victory, Quick was (to the surprise of no one) named the winner of the Conn Smythe as the playoffs’ Most valuable Player. Then signing a long-term deal and then returning from back surgery, the former and especially the latter certainly would have slow down Quick’s career. Again, not so.
Now, Jonathan Quick is on a mission to add to his already-impressive resume but leading his country to Olympic gold. But Drew Doughty (and Jeff Carter) may have something to say about their teammate reaching such a feat. We will just have to see.
No matter what the circumstance, any matchup between Team Canada and the United States proves to be the cream of the crop on the international hockey stage. The storyline involving those representing the Los Angeles Kings just makes the build up even better – assuming that is even possible.