“No one else can be Jonathan Quick.” Joonas Korpisalo brings his style to the Kings

When the Kings acquired Joonas Korpisalo from Columbus on March 1, the red-bearded Finnish goaltender was given a warm welcome and an unenviable assignment: replacing Jonathan Quick, the backbone of the franchise’s two Stanley Cup championships and still commanding the gratitude of the fans. despite the obvious slippage in his game for that.

Korpisalo, who traded defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov to the Kings in exchange for Quick and first- and third-round picks, has responded calmly. Playing behind a defense bolstered by Gavrikov’s size and intelligence, Korpisalo is bringing stability to an area the Kings had to improve in order to have any hope of making a long playoff run. He has stopped 78 of 84 shots in winning his first three starts with his new team, a surefire way to make new friends.

No one is looking to forget Quick. That won’t happen.

Not even Quick Lite. It doesn’t have to be.

“I’m just trying to be me, you know? No one else can be Jonathan Quick. Here he is a living legend. So no one can replace that guy. No one,” said Korpisalo after the team practiced in El Segundo on Wednesday. “I’m trying to be me and not represent anybody, but bring it here and do the things I do best.”

Quick, who was flipped to Vegas by Columbus, has had a tremendous turnaround with the Golden Knights, going 4-0 with a 2.22 goals-against average and .930 save percentage in his first four starts. He was nowhere near that level with the Kings, compiling a 3.50 goals-against average and .876 save percentage in 31 games this season. That would not be enough.

Pheonix Copley kept the Kings afloat while Quick struggled and Cal Petersen lost, but he has no NHL playoff experience. Korpisalo has played in nine postseason games, all with the 2019-20 Blue Jackets, and has a 1.90 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage. It is likely that this will be enough to name Korpisalo the starter for the playoffs.

So far, though, Korpisalo has alternated starts with Copley, and it will be Copley’s turn Thursday in the third game of the Kings’ seven-game homestand against Columbus. Coach Todd McLellan said the coach debated breaking that pattern to pit Korpisalo against his former team, but decided to leave the good stuff alone. It would make for a nice story — Gavrikov joked that he was looking forward to facing “everyone,” but continuing the team’s recent strong run was on McLellan’s mind.

“I don’t think it will change. We’re going to keep doing what we do,” McLellan said. “There’s no point or need to be really sentimental.

“I know it’s Korpi’s former team. But Copley will play. It’s the rotation we’ve done. We don’t have to change anything. And with that we go. We are in a good place now. We want to be in a good place.”

Korpisalo, who is eligible for unrestricted free agency after the season, has made a painless transition to Los Angeles, save for getting stuck in traffic Tuesday when it became an hour-long drive from the South Bay to Arena. “It’s something else,” he said. “I lived in Columbus (down the road), so I rode every day. … It’s a lot different. But you get used to it pretty quickly.”

The adjustments on the ice have gone well. “The guys are doing a great job of letting me see the puck all the time. That helps my game a lot,” he said.

Defenseman Drew Doughty, left, and goalie Joonas Korpisalo have been smiling a lot since Korpisalo was traded to the Kings on March 1.

(Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

Adaptations go both ways. After so many years of hearing Quick’s voice and knowing Quick’s preferences in different situations, defensive end Drew Doughty finds it strange to hear and see someone else at the door.

“I’m so used to knowing exactly what Quickie wanted to do and I know what he was going to do,” Doughty said. “So it’s definitely an adjustment, but I think the adjustment has gone very well. Korpisalo is a very good goalkeeper. good boy We have a lot of confidence in our two goalkeepers at the moment. Both are playing well. It will be interesting to see if one of them takes over or what happens next. I do not know.

“It’s different not being here with Quickie, but as sad and disappointing as it is, we have to move on. That’s the bottom line.”

Defenseman Sean Walker said he developed a rapport with Quick and how Quick would handle the puck. This is now being developed with Korpisalo.

“He plays calmly and also calms us down a lot. He’ll make those big saves, freeze the puck when needed. It’s been great so far. His numbers show that,” Walker said. “It’s been great to have him around.”

Korpisalo spoke highly of Colon, who was selected in the third round in 2012. He expected to feel “a little weird” seeing his former teammates, even if he didn’t have to face them.

“Eight years in a club is a long time. I was lucky enough to spend many years in a club. I don’t think too many guys do that in this league,” he said. “Great memories. Incidents Everyone always supported the team there. It’s a great place and great memories for me and great people.”

Jonathan Quick is not the second, Joonas Korpisalo is the first. The Kings are betting it will be enough. They can’t be wrong.

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