Neither Jonathan Quick nor Cal Petersen has played well enough to take the reigns on the number one job. Is that a problem?
Seeing how Petersen was only 27 and most goalies have had their careers explode at that age, the Kings wanted to see Petersen take on the starting role for the next three seasons. The Iowa native was only getting better with age, and after a season where the Kings struggled while he put up a .911 save percentage, the management group saw him as their future starter.
Since LA was still paying veteran goaltender Jonathan Quick, $5.8 million until 2022-23, Todd McLellan and the coaching staff believed that Quick would still get his share of games. At the start of the season, the two goaltenders split time, but eventually, it was the veteran who began performing like his prime self, earning the starting role for the majority of the first half of the year. The Kings were winning, and Quick was elite. His dominance was so tremendous, that even today, we can still see him on the top of the GSAx leaderboard across the NHL.
While the start of the season was easier to depict for the Kings knowing that Quick was the starter, it started to worry some people that the man with the hefty extension wasn’t performing to expectation.
As that was slowly surfacing, Quick had a bad game. That bad game turned into a bad week, which changed to a bad stretch. That bad stretch became a bad month, and it’s been growing since. Noticeably, the 36-year-old hasn’t been playing at the level that he had been earlier on in the season. He was letting in bad goals, and he was even getting pulled from time to time.
The Jonathan Quick that we saw at the start of the season was gone.
Luckily, Petersen had found his rhythm and began to play like his 2020-21 self. He stole games for the Kings occasionally and was the reason why the Kings had won so many games while the rest of the team was having issues with finishing. It finally seemed like Petersen was back. Then the inconsistency became conspicuous. Petersen would have a game where he makes 40 saves and the team would go home winners, but the following game, Cal would let up some of the avertable goals we’ve seen all year, and the Kings would lose.
Consistency has been a huge concern for both goaltenders this season, and it’s worrisome about how long this tandem would hold up. We’ve seen both goalies capable of playing at an elite level, so why has it not been happening?
From the outside looking in, we can’t actually tell. The Kings aren’t at that point where the offensive skill can put this team over the top, placing a lot of pressure on the goaltending to perform every night. When you have inconsistent and mediocre goaltending, you won’t go far.
Cal Petersen has proven to us that he truly is capable of playing at that top-notch style of hockey– just not this season.
From the player card above, we visualize that Petersen’s had a steep fall in WAR percentile from last year. When his WAR was sitting in the 85% range last season he was helping the Kings win games and he was legitimately one of the most underrated goalies in the entire league. He’d proven that he was worth his contract extension.
This year, his WAR has fallen down to a smidge under 30%, which isn’t good. For a goalie that was supposed to take over as the starter and even improve throughout, it’s been a huge fall. Although this season hasn’t been nearly as good as we all hoped it would be, Petersen’s cumulative WAR percentile still remains at 73% due to the season prior.
Petersen’s RAPM chart suggests that while the team has struggled, his performance hasn’t necessarily been helping out, either. While these charts assist us in depicting how a goaltender plays regardless of how the rest of the team has performed, you can’t help but wonder why Petersen hasn’t been the same player that we saw last season.
Here we have the comparison between both seasons. We can already tell that 2021-22 doesn’t even come near to 2020-21 Cal Petersen. In every aspect, from WAR to dFSv%, last season’s Petersen was dominant while this year he’s struggled.
He’s seemed to struggle in almost every aspect. Whatever is going on, it’s hurt the LA Kings a lot more than it should have.
Petersen’s been quite successful this year with high danger saves, which is visually true seeing how he’s often making some sort of flashy save.
Other than that, he’s been playing like a backup goalie. He’s had issues with medium danger saves, which isn’t something you want to see from your future starting goaltender. It’s ironic how he’s so talented in clutch situations, but suffers in medium and low danger chances.
What we’ve seen from Petersen hasn’t been enough. Given, that he’s only 27 and he’ll surely have some sort of bounce back– whether it’s in the playoffs or next season.
All that said, Quick can’t be excused, either.
A lot of his statistics are inflated from his successful start to his 2021-22 campaign as mentioned earlier, so take his numbers with a grain of salt.
Quick had so much success in goals saved above expected at 5-on-5, and high danger saves from all situations. While all the green is beautiful to see, he’s still suffered from his rebound control in all situations and his medium danger saves.
For a goalie, rebound control is arguably the most crucial thing to have.
Especially since the Kings have notoriously been poor defending the front of their own net, having serviceable rebound control is key. Quick has failed to do that this year.
Quick has had a bounce-back this season, shown by how his WAR has shot up to 74%. Though. it’s still being dragged down because of his previous years. Credit where credit is due, though, he’s been better for what it’s worth.
Has it been enough? Not in the slightest. From both goalies, we haven’t seen enough to prove that the LA Kings truly have an elite starting goaltender. That’s why Quick and Petersen have split the crease this season. Both goalies have had their ups and downs, but it isn’t consistent. Nor is it good enough to last in the playoffs, if the Kings qualify.
It would be nice to see one of the goalies become that number one for the rest of the season and find their groove, but we’ve seen nothing to suggest that’s coming. The shakiness has made us wonder how this tandem will hold up next year as well.
Whatever the outcome is, we may see some sort of goaltending change come into play this summer. With nearly $11 million committed to the goaltending position next season, a team with playoff aspirations cannot have the inconsistency between the pipes that the LA King have had this year.
(Main photo credit: Alex Cave / Hockey Royalty)