Goaltending is becoming harder and harder to predict in the NHL. There was once a time when every team had a clear starter and backups who filled in the gaps. It would not be uncommon for the starter to serve in 60 or more games.
But times have changed and so too has goaltending in the NHL. Now, with the exception of maybe half the teams in the league, platoons are more commonplace. For the last few years, the Los Angeles Kings in particular have looked as though they may be transitioning to a platoon in the net.
The question for both this season and moving forward is simple. Will incumbent Jonathan Quick remain the man in Los Angeles or can Cal Petersen, one of the best NHL players from Iowa of all time, finally live up to his potential? Let’s take a deeper look at the situation on the net.
After the LA Kings lost to the Seattle Kraken in the season opener this question is once again in the headlines.
— LA Kings (@LAKings) October 14, 2022
Heading into the start of the 2021-22 season, many speculated that Petersen would finally gain control over the starting position in Los Angeles. Moreover, it was widely expected that he would become not only the goaltender of the now but of the future as well.
That said, Petersen never really managed to grab the reins. He struggled to find consistency while Quick managed to show some of his old form. Quick managed to maintain his higher level of play throughout the season and figures to be a key component to the young upstart Kings.
Petersen struggled to find consistency, at least enough where he had to force the Kings hand. He would have two solid games and then struggle over the next couple of games. Those stretches did nothing to help him gain confidence when pushing for the starting job.
He would finish out the season with a solid 20-14-2 record, though his goals against average were bloated (2.89) and his save percentage sunk below .900 (.895). Still, the expectations are high for the 27-year-old native of Iowa. Especially considering he is entering the first year of a three-year, $15 million deal.
— LA Kings (@LAKings) March 18, 2022
The Quick Problem
For the better part of 15 years, Quick has been the man in the nets for the Kings. He has started 60 or more games 6 times, including a whopping 72 during the 2014-15 season.
He has battled through injury at times, but it is hard to overlook the fact that he is a 2-time Stanley Cup champion as well as a Conn Smythe Trophy winner in 2012 as playoff MVP.
But the simple fact of the matter is that he is getting up there in age. He will turn 37 midway through the season and the Kings rightfully have their sights on the future as well as the present.
Given injury struggles and a decline in performance starting back in 2018-19, it only makes sense that the Kings would have another option tapped for the future – Petersen, in this case.
— LA Kings (@LAKings) February 25, 2020
Quick Should Start
So, Quick had a resurgence in 2021-22. Yes, he split time with Petersen, getting 46 starts throughout the year. But his 23-13-9 record, .910 save percentage, and 2.59 goals against average were all better than his marks the previous three seasons.
Quick got the bulk of the starts down the stretch and was a catalyst in the team reaching the playoffs, for the first time in four years. The pressure remains for Quick, but he will need to show that his rejuvenation was not a one-year wonder.
⭐️⭐️⭐️ @JonathanQuick32 went 3-0-0 (1.33 GAA, .940 SV%), to lift the @LAKings (43-27-10, 96 points) to a perfect week as they pursue the playoffs. He reached 20 wins for the 9th time, a feat achieved by 5 other U.S.-born goalies in NHL history.#NHLStats: https://t.co/1xJCWF8JnM pic.twitter.com/RbbafEjYis
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) April 25, 2022
What Does the Future Look Like for Petersen?
The million-dollar question – or $15 million as it were – is what Petersen’s future looks like for the Kings. Given his $5 million cap hit average over the life of the deal means that he can’t be just another backup headed into his next several seasons.
The talent is there for Petersen. He has performed at every level, playing far above his 5th-round draft status. He won at Notre Dame, putting up better-than-average stats during three seasons as a starter there. He performed well for the most part in the AHL despite a mediocre record, and he has shown flashes in his brief time in the NHL.
Given that his first full season saw a disappointing return, there are reasonable expectations of concern. That said, he has the past to look back upon and show that there is still hope.
Petersen will continue to get around half the starts for the Kings, at least until Quick shows a major decline. It is hard for a team like the Kings – young and full of potential – to take the reins away from Quick when he is performing well.
Still, there will be every opportunity for Petersen to take control of the nets in Los Angeles. He has a lot to live up to but there is still confidence in his ability to do just that.
Cal Petersen expected to get his first start of the season tonight 👀 pic.twitter.com/V5unRRFDjl
— LA Kings (@LAKings) January 19, 2021