In a town where it's all about having the right look or the famous face -- or both -- the leading man of this Hollywood hockey story is the one person whose face isn't visible at all during the action.
Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick was already on pace to register Stanley Cup records for goals-against average and save percentage when the scene shifted from New Jersey to Los Angeles. Then in a madhouse packed with diehards plus celebs making face time at the hottest club in town, Quick continued to author one of hockey's most amazing post-season runs Monday by blanking the Devils in Game 3 of the Finals.
His third shutout of the playoffs has the Kings on the verge on their first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history. His name will be up in lights, but aside from the deep-purple Kings cognescenti who know actually the difference between Miracle On Ice and the Miracle on Manchester, how many Angelinos can pick him out of a lineup?
"He's been our rock," winger Justin Williams said.
The Kings created a suitably dramatic scenario to allow their masked man to be their superhero. They giftwrapped six power plays for the Devils, including 59 seconds worth of a two-man advantage late in the first period. Quick then made some difficult short-range stops early in the second period, establishing himself again as the difference maker.
And the difference in the series has been miniscule. Two overtime games, and Game 3 was a one-goal affair until late in the second period. The Kings eventually broke through to enjoy breathing room for the first time in this series. While the Kings doled out the expected platitudes of team work and focus and effort, nobody was wasting their breath about Quick's latest exploits.
"He is the backbone of our team," captain Dustin Brown said.
But the puck insanity that has gripped the LA sports scene hasn't really had an effect on Quick. NHL players in markets where puck is not king understand the dynamic of being able to float under the radar, to do grocery shopping in relative peace. Quick said the recognition factor hasn't jumped as far as he can notice.
"Time to time, nothing too big," he said, and sounding not the least bit insulted considering how often the do-you-know-who-I-am-card is played in this town. "I'm in my house a lot of the time. Maybe the other guys get it. But not me."
Brown might get more attention than most in Los Angeles, as he is a homegrown draft pick who is team captain and has played for the U.S. in the Olympics. But he isn't much for the star-power factor either.
As expected with the Cup Finals in Los Angeles for the first time since Wayne Gretzky's magical ride in 1993, the celebrity wattage was dialed up. Alyssa Milano, Matthew Perry, David Boreanaz, LL Cool J, David Beckham, Tom Arnold and self-help guru Tony Robbins were among those spotted. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol repped the Lakers. And perhaps thematically appropriate, Al (Do You Believe In Miracles?) Michaels was there as well.
"I'm not really concerned whether those guys are here or not," Brown said. "As a player, I'm focused on the game on the ice. Considering the town we play for, you're going to see people like that come out. That's part of playing in LA. This town -- you gotta win to be anybody in this town. Right now the hockey team is winning so it's a hockey town."
And there was plenty of hockey glitterati on hand as well with Gretzky dropping the ceremonial first puck and hanging out Mark Messier, and Sidney Crosby spotted in the stands. And those are the types of names the Kings are interested in.
Here are a few more: Tim Thomas, Mike Richter and Tom Barrasso. Quick can join that the list of American goaltenders to anchor a Stanley Cup championship. But you'll pardon him, if he's not ready to appreciate the broader picture. Shift-by-shift focus has gotten the Kings to the point, so they'll stick with that mentality.
"We came in today looking to win one game and we were able to do that," Quick said. "We are just looking to win one game on Wednesday."
That would be the Hollywood ending, and maybe Quick can soak in the spotlight ... without his head gear.
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