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.

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After bouncing around, Brett Connolly aims to find his game with the Capitals

After bouncing around, Brett Connolly aims to find his game with the Capitals

In the six years since Tampa Bay selected Brett Connolly with the sixth overall pick, the big winger’s numbers haven’t matched his draft status.

In fact, he hasn’t put up more than 25 points in a season.

But as he gets going with the Capitals — his third NHL team in two years — Connolly sounds optimistic that this will be the season he turns potential into offensive production.

“I think the style that they play here is going to play well into my hands,” Connolly said Saturday. “That’s kind of my game — skating, shooting, making plays. So far, so good. I like the way they play, their systems and their style. I think it’s a matter of putting it together consistently, and if I can do that, then I can have a good year, open their eyes and help this team win.”

The Capitals hope to tap into the upside Connolly was unable to show in Tampa and Boston. The Bruins did not extend the 24-year-old a qualifying offer this summer after he notched nine goals and 16 assists in 71 games last season. A few days later, Washington signed Connolly to a one-year, $850,000 contract on July 1.

“There were a lot guys this year that didn’t get [qualifying offers],” Connolly said. “I think the market in the league was a little bit deflated this year. It’s all a business. …I thought I was [going to be qualified], but things change. What are you going to do? I was fortunate Washington called right away and I didn’t really have to worry about it too much in the summer. As I said before, it was a no brainer. No matter what the money looks like, it’s the opportunity.”    

Associate coach Todd Reirden sees the deal being beneficial for the player and the team, which needs more offense from its bottom six forwards.

“We feel as an organization that he’s a guy [whose] game is on the rise," Reirden said. "We feel like we’re getting him at a good time. Sometimes players go through some difficult times and struggles and you can get real fortunate as an organization to pick this guy and get a bit of a gem. …Our system of play is designed for a player of his ability.”

Connolly said he hasn’t been told exactly where the coaches see him fitting into the lineup. But the next week is critical for him; with preseason games on Monday and Tuesday and four top-six forwards out due to the World Cup, it’s likely he’ll pick up some of those prime minutes at even strength and on the power play.

“He’s going to get an opportunity to show us what he can do,” Reirden said.  

Said Connolly: “My play is going [to determine] where I’m going to play. Just be a little bit more offensive, I think. They talked about the third line and [needing] the bottom six guys chipping in a little more. I’m a guy who can step into the power play and use my shot and chip in offensively. It’s just a matter of being good defensively.”

Connolly didn’t gloss over the fact that he hasn’t lived up to the hype. But he also made sure to use the word “yet” when asked about it.

“When you’re drafted high, there’s expectations,” he said. “Maybe it hasn’t happened yet. But I’m still very confident in my abilities. There’s been some good times. There’s been some not so good times. It’s just a matter of putting it together.”

MORE CAPITALS: NISKANEN, OSHIE AND CARLSON SET TO RETURN NEXT WEEK

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Nats get another chance to clinch NL East title in Pittsburgh

Nats get another chance to clinch NL East title in Pittsburgh

Nats (89-64) vs. Pirates (77-76) at PNC Park

With the magic number to clinch a division title still at two, the Nationals will again try to punch their ticket to the postseason Saturday night at PNC Park. Like Friday night, they'll need to defeat the Pirates and hope for a New York Mets loss to the Philadelphia Phillies in order to secure the NL East championship. 

The Nats will send Joe Ross (7-5, 3.48 ERA) to the mound for his second start since he returned from the disabled list. He was limited to just three innings in his previous outing, so it will be important to see how far he gets stretched out against the Pirates. After all, the Nats are in desperate need to identify their third starter for the playoffs, and Ross has a good shot of being that guy if he proves he's capable down the stretch. 

The lineup will be the same as Friday night's, with Daniel Murphy shut down for the weekend with a left buttocks strain. Stephen Drew will take over at second base. 

First pitch: 7:05 p.m.
TV: MASN
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - Joe Ross vs. Pirates - Ivan Nova

NATS 

CF Trea Turner
LF Jayson Werth
RF Bryce Harper
3B Anthony Rendon
C Wilson Ramos
2B Stephen Drew
1B Ryan Zimmerman
SS Danny Espinosa
RHP Joe Ross

PIRATES

TBA

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