American goalie named MVP of NHL playoffs

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American goalie named MVP of NHL playoffs

From Comcast SportsNet
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Jonathan Quick and Martin Brodeur hugged and exchanged a few private words in the Stanley Cup finals handshake line. Brodeur was welcoming Quick to the club. The Los Angeles Kings' quiet goalie is an NHL champion and one of hockey's elite puck-stoppers after a postseason that even Brodeur never matched. Quick won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP on Monday night after yielding just 29 goals in the Kings' 20 playoff games on the way to their first title. Quick allowed a mere seven goals in six games in the finals, capping a breakthrough season for the Vezina Trophy finalist who kept the Kings competitive while they were the NHL's lowest-scoring team for much of the regular season. "I congratulated him," Brodeur said. "I said he deserved the honor of winning the Stanley Cup and being the goalie to win the Stanley Cup. It's always kind of nice for young players to relate. I tried to tell him it was important to enjoy this, because you never know when you're going to get back. I'm 40, and I was able to get back there and not win it. But there's a big (summer) ahead of him, that's for sure." Quick is severely allergic to praise, and he directed everything back at the teammates who made him a champion. But his playoff performance has marked him as one of the world's best, and the Kings' fans will never forget it. "I think it's all about competing," Quick said. "You have to compete, always. That's something this organization preaches, and it makes us all feel so good to be on top now." Quick then thoroughly dominated the playoffs, posting three shutouts and leading the league in pretty much every statistical category among goalies who started at least four games. He was largely impenetrable in the finals, stopping 125 of 132 shots -- and two of New Jersey's seven goals against him deflected off Quick's teammate, Slava Voynov. Quick is the second straight goalie to win the award, but had better numbers than Boston's Tim Thomas last season. They might be the best in NHL history. With a 1.41 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage in the postseason, Quick even set NHL records for goalies who played at least 15 postseason games. Quick's stats slid under Chris Osgood's 1.51 GAA for Detroit in 2008 and Jean-Sebastien Giguere's .945 save percentage for Anaheim in 2003. "It's outstanding," Quick said. "I couldn't be more proud of this group. We had to fight for everything. Nothing was given to us." Brodeur allowed just one goal apiece in regulation in four of the six finals games, but couldn't match Quick's numbers. Quick is sometimes compared to the three-time champion, another star puck-stopper who doesn't adhere to one particular school or style. Quick also had plenty to say to Brodeur. "I told him the game won't be the same if he retires," Quick said. "It was an honor just playing against him at this stage." Brodeur could only smile. "He wanted to make sure I don't retire," he said. "I guess he likes beating me." The Conn Smythe is a fitting finish for the 26-year-old Quick, who had 35 wins, a 1.95 goals-against average, a .929 save percentage and a franchise-record 10 shutouts despite playing for the NHL's second lowest-scoring team. Quick has been the Kings' best player and backbone all season, frequently carrying them through long stretches of mediocre skating and shooting. His stellar effort was the main reason the Kings were even close to playoff position in late February, when the lowest-scoring team at the time finally awoke its slumbering offense by trading for power forward Jeff Carter, who scored two goals in the finale. Quick earned his first All-Star berth for his steady excellence despite a stunning number of 1-0, 2-0 and 2-1 losses this season. With an offense generating consistent goals since March, he has been nearly unbeatable, going 28-8-2 since Feb. 25. While some will note the remarkably low scoring totals across the NHL playoffs when evaluating Quick's records, others will cite Quick as one of the main reasons for it. Quick has better numbers than any goalie in recent playoff history -- and Quick looks nothing like most of the NHL's best netminders. He disdains the butterfly for his own unique style, and he played it to perfection this spring. Most hockey minds' best comparison is Hall of Famer Terry Sawchuk, whose low-to-the-ice style is the closest thing to Quick's agile, flexible puck-stopping strategy. He plays low and wide while his peers generally stand tall, using his aggression, anticipation and pure hustle to stop pucks. Quick's teammates know he's locked in when he's crouching nearly parallel to the ice to watch the puck through his opponents' legs. He calls it "less style, more compete," and he praises the technique adjustments of Kings goaltending coach Bill Ranford, another Conn Smythe winner with Edmonton in 1990. Quick's success has been a product of determination, because nobody expected spectacular things out of the kid from Hamden, Conn., who grew up idolizing the Rangers' Mike Richter. One of his earliest hockey memories is being at home with friends in 1994 when Richter backstopped New York to its first title in 54 years.

Durant gets taste of competition, plays 1-on-1 with Warriors coach

Durant gets taste of competition, plays 1-on-1 with Warriors coach

For the first time in a month, Kevin Durant got a taste of competition. Well, sort of.

Durant on Wednesday went through one-on-one sessions with Warriors assistant coach Willie Green, who is two years removed from a 12-year career as a guard in the NBA.

“He played full-court one-on-one, played some half-court one-on-one to start and then they stepped it up,” coach Steve Kerr told reporters prior to the Warriors-Spurs game in San Antonio. “Willie said it was a good workout.”

Durant and Green played five games of half-court ball and one with the full court. The active player, for the record, won all six games.

“Kevin got him pretty good, so it’s a good sign,” Kerr said before flashing a bit of humor. “If Willie had beaten him, I would have been very concerned.”

An even better sign for the Warriors is that only one man walked away feeling the burn of competition.

“Willie said he was really sore,” Kerr said. “Not Kevin. Willie.”

Durant has been out since sustaining a medial collateral ligament sprain and bone bruise to his left knee on Feb. 28 at Washington. Though there have been no setbacks in his rehab, there is no firm timetable for his return.

“It’s impossible to predict that stuff,” Kerr said. “But it would be nice for him to get a couple games in at the end of the regular season.”

The Warriors plan to re-evaluate Durant next week, after which they expect to plot out his return. There is optimism that he could be back in time to play two or three regular season games in preparation for the postseason, which begins April 15.

 

Anonymous poll: Is Sharks defenseman Burns still Norris frontrunner?

Anonymous poll: Is Sharks defenseman Burns still Norris frontrunner?

Throughout much of his dominant 2016-17 season, the words “Norris Trophy lock” have often preceded Brent Burns’ name. 

The 32-year-old has led all NHL blueliners in scoring for the past three months, building upon a strong second half last season in which he helped lead the Sharks to their first ever Stanley Cup Final, and solidifying himself as one of the best defensemen in the game.

In 76 games, Burns has 28 goals – 11 more than any other defenseman – and 45 assists for 73 points and a plus-17 rating. At one point on Feb. 19, he had 14 more points than Erik Karlsson, who was second among NHL defensemen.

But Burns went cold earlier this month. During one stretch, he went nine out of 10 games without finding the scoresheet, and finally snapped a 16-game goal drought with an overtime winner on Tuesday against the Rangers.

Meanwhile, Karlsson has been heating up. A two-time Norris Trophy winner in 2012 and 2015, the Senators defenseman has 13 points in his last 14 games. As of Wednesday morning, Karlsson was just five points behind Burns in scoring, with 15 goals and 53 assists for 68 points and a plus-seven rating.

There’s talk Karlsson could take home a third Norris, snatching it out of Burns’ grasp.

But, probably not.

In an anonymous poll among 21 PHWA members, most of whom get a vote for the Norris Trophy at the conclusion of the regular season, Burns’ designation as the frontrunner seems fairly safe with just six games to go in the regular season.

Of the writers polled, including a broad swath from across North America, 14 told CSN they would likely vote for Burns as the league’s best defensemen if the season ended Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. Three were leaning towards Burns, while only four said they would give it to Karlsson.

One writer polled had Burns first, Tampa Bay’s Viktor Hedman second, and Karlsson third.

Of course, 21 votes is just a small sample size of the PHWA membership. Last season, 183 writers took part in voting for the Norris, according to the final tally. Burns finished third in voting, well behind winner Drew Doughty, while Karlsson was second.

Still, as long as Burns stays in front of Karlsson in the scoring race, it appears he remains in line to become the first Sharks defenseman ever to earn a Norris Trophy.