LOS ANGELES -- The first game between the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks this season, which produced a combined 11 goals, was not one for the ages. In fact, it probably aged Kings goalies Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier, who replaced Quick after five-plus minutes, and even Jonas Hiller of the Ducks.
But the goalie not in that game on Feb. 2, avoiding a bit of shot-by-shot torture in the crease, has taken the NHL by storm since then. Newcomer Viktor Fasth, who won his first eight starts, has helped the Ducks ascend to No. 2 in the Western Conference.
"He's just provided us with stability and he probably doesn't even know it," defenseman Sheldon Souray said Sunday. "I've been around goalies who are so intense that you can't walk by them and touch their pads or they look up and snarl.
"He's just a regular guy and I've found the best goalies I've ever played with have been like that. Marty Brodeur is a guy who sits and has his Sprites between periods and he's looking around and nothing's going to faze him. You can tell that's the same with these two guys."
Monday night's game between the Kings and Ducks is expected to feature a headline writer's dream: Quick vs. Fasth. (Insert your puns now.)
Internal competition has benefited the goalies in Anaheim and Los Angeles. It just took a little longer with the Kings this season.
Bernier has won his last three starts, and Quick two of his last three. Kings Coach Darryl Sutter scans the NHL statistics on a daily basis and noted that the Kings had moved up to ninth in goals-against average.
"Two things: No. 1, it's really good competition for young guys," Sutter said. "You have to prove yourself over a period of time and not over one season. That's really important. Jonathan Bernier made it clear he wanted to play as a No. 1, right? But you have to perform as that. The second part of it is the schedule. We were sort of in a box at the start, with a short camp, Quick coming off surgery, and Bernier not being very sharp.
"So we were sort of in a box and we were saying, 'What are we going to do -- let one guy play and get hot, and suffer, which is kind of what we did."
Sutter said that there was a "good meeting" with the goalies after the loss at Anaheim and he made it clear that there was "no way" both goalies could have off nights in the same game.
Anaheim is prospering with contributions from its third and fourth lines. Case in point: third-line center Saku Koivu had 14 points in his first 15 games, his best start to a season since 2006-07.
Not bad for a 38-year-old.
Koivu noted that there were mixed feelings over watching the Kings win the Stanley Cup in June.
"You're happy for them and you're not happy for them," he said. "The first game we played them this year here you can just sense that intensity ... those are fun games. They reminded me of what we had in Montreal with Toronto or Boston."
(Staff writer Helene Elliott contributed to this report.)
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