Kings’ Anze Kopitar, and his line, aren’t making points
The numbers are far too low for players who jointly led the NHL in playoff scoring last year.
Kings center Anze Kopitar has one goal in his last 11 games, and linemate Dustin Brown has scored once in the last seven.
“I think it"s pretty fair to say, as a line, we’re collectively in a slump,” Brown said Monday.
That was in answer to a question about Kopitar’s slump, and Kings Coach Darryl Sutter fielded more questions about his struggling center.
“I’m sure he’s frustrated,” Sutter said. “We spend a lot of time together talking about stuff, working on stuff, trying to find little areas that he can do differently or do better. I don’t lose any sleep over Kopi.
“He’s not a guy that takes shortcuts. He does everything he can to do well.”
In mid-March, Sutter said that Kopitar was the best all-around center-man he has ever coached. Of late, there has been a school of thought Kopitar is playing with some physical ailment. But almost no one would admit to such a thing at this time of year.
Sutter was asked what Kopitar could be doing better or differently.
“I think it’s pretty evident,” Sutter said. “When Kopi has the puck, he’s a top player in the league. When he doesn’t have the puck, he’s a good checker.
“That means he could have the puck more. Quite honestly, he can support the puck better. Certainly who he plays with can feel privileged that they’re playing with a top player. They should be doing everything they can to play with him.”
With a big body and a good shot, Chicago winger Bryan Bickell looked toward a past and present opponent to pattern his game.
“You look at [Dustin] Penner, he’s a similar player to me,” Bickell said of the Kings forward. “He’s a bigger guy that has good puck possession; he’s got a great shot. Looking at when he was in Edmonton, I kind of patterned myself a similar style. But, you know, I’m not Penner. It’s my own game. I just need to bring it every night.”
Said Penner, who joined the Kings in 2011 via a trade with the Oilers: “[Bickell’s] improved over the last three, four years. I remember him when he broke in, I was in Edmonton. You need big bodies and competitors in the playoffs. That’s what he has brought to their team.”
Twice during the Blackhawks’ postseason run, their penalty killers have left the ice after yielding a power-play goal.
When Tyler Toffoli scored for the Kings with just over a minute remaining Sunday night, it ended a string of 26 consecutive power plays killed off by the Blackhawks at home. It also dropped their success rate killing penalties overall to a still-remarkable 95.7% (45 for 47).
“It’s helped us win hockey games,” defenseman Brent Seabrook said. “We definitely take pride in our PK, whether it’s blocking shots or taking a hit to get the puck out of the zone. [Goaltender Corey] Crawford has been outstanding on it and our forwards have been doing an unbelievable job of pushing into tough areas.”
Said Coach Joel Quenneville: “The PK has done a great job all year as far as pressuring up ice, denying entries, clearing when you can, blocking shots, goaltender making key saves and the tandems working well together.”
During the first two games of the series, Chicago center Patrick Sharp has preferred not to talk much about Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick.
“It’s nothing against Quick,” said Sharp, who had a goal in Game 1 and two assists in Game 2, both won by the Blackhawks. “No disrespect to him. He’s one of the top goalies in the world. He’s tough to play against.
“But as a shooter, a guy that’s trying to score on him, the more I talk about how good he is, it makes it tougher for me. It wasn’t meant to disrespect him. Trust me, I think he’s a good goalie.”
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