What the data says about Rangers backup goalie Jonathan Quick

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Chris Drury headed into free agency last month with a few needs, but none more crucial than filling the backup goalie spot. In his first two seasons as general manager he had the luxury of merely needing someone to pop in for the occasional start behind Igor Shesterkin, who emerged as one of the top goaltenders in the world in 2021-22. Alexandar Georgiev bristled in the backup role that season and was dealt to the Avalanche just before the 2022 draft, leaving Drury to find a more proper veteran backup to make 23-28 starts last season.

The Rangers went with Jaroslav Halak, who had a rough start to his Rangers stint but finished up with solid backup numbers: A .903 save percentage and 7.87 goals saved above expectation (stat courtesy Clear Sight Hockey), which ranked 19th out of all 106 goalies who made an NHL appearance last season. Even turning 38 in May, Halak proved to be adept at making every third or fourth start behind Shesterkin.

Drury decided to go in another direction, toward a goalie who is a surefire Hall of Famer when he hangs up the pads. Jonathan Quick won two Stanley Cups with the Kings, the last in 2014, and established himself as one of the great goalies in the game in the 2010s. Last season was a struggle and the Kings rather unceremoniously dumped him prior to the trade deadline in a deal for Blue Jackets goalie Joonas Korpisalo, needing to trade Quick to make the salary cap situation work but alienating the greatest goalie in Kings franchise history.

“Up until five months ago I thought I was retiring as a King,” Quick said during his introductory conference call as a Ranger last month. “I thought I was going to finish my career here (in Los Angeles), raise my family here. It didn’t work out that way, so we’ll make the most of it.”

Quick made the most of his move away from L.A., with Columbus wheeling him to Vegas for nothing before the deadline. He made nine regular-season starts for the Golden Knights and posted decent numbers, then served as backup and support system for Adin Hill as the unheralded goalie led the Knights to a Stanley Cup.

It’s a great story and Quick returning to the northeast, where he rooted for the Rangers as a kid, furthers the story even more.

But the data tells a different story that this is a fairly big risk, even for a goalie who only needs to make 25 or so starts. Quick turns 38 in January and he must reverse a fairly steady decline over the last five seasons to be a productive part of a Rangers team that has a new coach, a bunch of high-end players, and now a host of veteran additions to boost what the organization feels is a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.

Looking back through Clear Sight’s data over the past five seasons you’ll find six instances where a goalie allowed 20 or more goals above expectation. As you can see in the chart below detailing Quick’s xGA since 2018-19, the three-time Cup champion has had two of those seasons, including last season’s minus-27.24 xG differential, the worst such number for a goalie since Clear Sight began charting data.

Here’s a look at Quick’s xGA numbers, year over year, since 2018-19:

Jonathan Quick last 5 seasons

Season Chances against Exp. Goals Against Goals Against Goal Differential Rank

2022-23

939

99.76

127

-27.24

106 (out of 106)

2021-22

1080

116.31

116

0.31

48 (out of 119)

2020-21

484

53.8

58

-4.2

74 (out of 98)

2019-20

1069

113.68

117

-3.32

62 (out of 87)

2018-19

1177

125.38

149

-23.62

93 (out of 93)

It’s encouraging that he turned around from a horrific 2018-19 a horrific year for the Kings, who finished 30th in the 31-team league with 71 points and posted acceptable numbers each of the next three seasons. But last season was bad for Quick even as the Kings were a decent team, finishing with 104 points while getting very little from any of their goalies.

Quick has struggled in particular with what Clear Sight categorizes as slot-line plays, scoring chances generated by passing the puck across the middle of the ice in the offensive zone. It’s become the most dangerous scoring chance in the league over the past few seasons as shooters have identified how much weaker a goalie gets when he has to rotate side to side and reset his position.

Quick went from 14th among 118 NHL goalies in 2021-22, with a 4.3 xG differential on slot-line plays, to 100th out of 104 goalies last season at minus-4.48 xG differential last season. In his lousy 2018-19, Quick was 89th out of 91 goalies at minus-8.39 xG differential on sl0t-line plays; his overall xG differential in 2019-20 was decent, but he was again bad on the slot-line chances, finishing 83rd out of 86 goalies at minus-8.1 xG differential.

Halak, who remains unsigned, was fourth among all goalies last season on slot-line plays. Here’s a chart on Quick, Halak and three other veteran goalies who were UFAs this summer and how they fared on slot-line plays in 2022-23:

Expected goals (slot-line plays), 22-23

Goalie Team Chances against Exp. Goals against Goals against Differential Rank (out of 104)

Jaroslav Halak

NYR

55

16.09

8

8.09

4th

Cam Talbot

OTT

61

16.94

12

4.94

10th

Martin Jones

SEA

97

29.47

25

4.47

12th

Lauren Brossoit

VGK

22

6.63

5

1.63

30th

Jonathan Quick

LAK/VGK

63

20.52

25

-4.48

100th

There are certainly intangibles that Quick brings that the others do not. He laughed off a suggestion in his conference call that he could focus on being a mentor to Shesterkin, who’s already pretty accomplished; players from the Kings and Golden Knights rave about Quick as a teammate and he will be a more positive presence in the room than Georgiev, who made some enemies with his behavior, and Halak, who was never known as a cheerful presence in his decade-plus in the league.

But backup goalie is not a cheerleader job. The difference between playing well enough to win 10 of 24 starts, as Halak did last season, and giving up too many goals that should be stopped to win five of 24 starts could be the difference between hosting a first-round series and missing the playoffs. The Rangers have Louis Domingue under contract and he has filled a No. 2/No. 3 goalie slot for years, plus they have young goalie prospect Dylan Garand, who shined in the AHL playoffs for Hartford last season.

We’ll see if Quick, who has not worked with a goalie coach in the offseason during his career, can turn it around at 37 working under Benoit Allaire. The Rangers clearly feel that Quick’s first season as a true backup will allow him the proper rest and practice time to make his 25 starts productive. They have more than you think riding on it.

(Photo: Jerome Miron / USA TODAY Sports)





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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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