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Quick’s gaffe and heroic Harding highlight opening night of playoff action

Jonathan Quick already has a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs' top performer. Now he has another honour, the not-quite-as-coveted Patrick Roy Give It Away Lifetime Achievement Award.

You remember Roy. Fabulous goaltender. Could stop a thousand pucks fired at the speed of fright but couldn't stickhandle just the one. Thought he was Larry Robinson when he had the passing skills of Gilles Lupien.

Quick did the full Roy Tuesday night in the Los Angeles Kings' first playoff game since they won the Stanley Cup last year. He dominated the St. Louis Blues through regulation time. He kept his team in it until Justin Williams scored with 39 seconds left in the third period to force overtime.

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At that point, the Kings were rejuvenated; the Blues wobbling. When St. Louis defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk took a double minor for high sticking in overtime, it looked as though L.A. was ready to flex its experience and assume control.

Then Quick got sloppy with a St. Louis dump-in, had the puck taken away by the Blues' Alex Steen and could only watch as Steen stuffed it into an empty net. A shorthanded, OT winner in a game Quick almost stole before giving it away.

All that did, aside from delighting a packed house in St. Louis, was make eliminating the Blues from the postseason a lot more difficult. Their confidence could have taken a beating had L.A. found a way to win. As St. Louis head coach Ken Hitchock said afterwards, "Waking up (Wednesday) would have been a challenge had we not won today."

But the Blues took a 2-1 decision, and they did it by putting a dent in L.A.'s goaltending armour.

In case the Kings have forgotten, their man Quick had his puck misadventures in the 2012 final, too. He provided several scoring opportunities for the New Jersey Devils in Game 1, then coughed up a hairball in a Game 5 loss. Maybe the coaching staff needs to have a chat with Quick – "Jonathan, just stop the puck. Don't play with it."

It couldn't hurt.

Still with goaltending …

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Much was made of Josh Harding's remarkable showing in net for the Minnesota Wild and rightly so. Even though Minnesota lost 2-1 in OT to the Chicago Blackhawks, Harding was the star of the show after being rushed between the pipes to replace the injured Niklas Backstrom.

Harding was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis last September and has had issues with the medication he's been taking. He played in only five games during the regular season. And with Backstrom out, it meant the Wild had to play Harding knowing they had no available backup. Turned out they didn't need one.

What makes Harding's story even more impressive is the fact he's also come back from reconstructive knee surgery that cost him the entire 2010-2011 season. With Backstrom sidelined who knows how long with "a lower body injury," the Wild have no choice but to stick with Harding. At the very least, they know their guy is a battler and that counts for a lot.

Reviled, Reformed, Returning

Raffi Torres has given the San Jose Sharks everything they've asked for, from third-line scoring to full-on tenacity. The question is whether Torres will go too far and give the Sharks what they don't need – reckless play and punk-head penalties.

Before he joined the Sharks, Torres was best known for laying out opponents like so many cold mackerels. It was only last April that he drew a 25-game suspension (later reduced to 21-games) from the NHL for his hit on Chicago's Marian Hossa, who was totally unaware and without the puck when he was crushed by Torres, then a member of the Phoenix Coyotes.

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Since being acquired by the Sharks at the 2013 trade deadline, Torres has operated within the rulebook. In 11 games, he scored two goals and four assists and has had just four minutes in penalties. He's even gone on record saying he has more respect for his rivals now than he ever did before.

The true test of his reclamation comes Wednesday night when the Sharks face the Vancouver Canucks, who fed off Torres' emotional work (not to mention a dangerous hit on Chicago's Brent Seabrook) and reached the Stanley Cup final two years ago. The Canucks tried to reacquire Torres at last month's trade deadline. Now he's coming after them. "I want to be able to contribute offensively and do more than run around and be an idiot," he said earlier this season.

Now is the perfect time to prove it.

Last Take

The news broke during Tuesday's game between the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox: Toronto pitching prospect and former Blue Jays' draft pick Jake Eliopoulos was dead at 21. There were no details or explanations, just a conformation from Eliopoulos' younger sister and another from the Blue Jays' organization.

Eliopoulos had twice been drafted by Toronto and was a second-round pick in 2009. He chose school over baseball and was drafted a year later by the Los Angeles Dodgers and then again by the Jays. His story was more compelling than his statistics. Eliopoulos was born in the Ukraine and later adopted by Jim Eliopoulos, the former catcher for Canada's baseball team at the 1984 Summer Olympics. The father taught his son how to throw and catch in the backyard of their Toronto home.

On May 23 last year, Jake wrote online: "3 years ago I was the 68th overall pick in the MLB Draft. Today, I am working construction and going to Seneca College …. what a story it's going to be when I make it."

Sadly, he never got that chance.

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About the Author
Sports writer

Allan Maki is a national news reporter and sports writer based in Calgary. More


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