One of the primary questions surrounding the Kings in the early part of this season was, “What’s wrong with Anze Kopitar?” Through the first 38 games of the season, Kopitar had 10 goals and 19 assists, pedestrian numbers at best. Were the pressures of his new contract and/or being named an alternate captain getting to Kopitar?
Throughout the struggles, Terry Murray said he wasn’t worried about Kopitar, and perhaps now Murray’s patience is being rewarded. In his 17 games in February and March, Kopitar has 11 goals and eight assists, and he has scored a goal in four consecutive games heading into tonight’s big game against Vancouver.
Here are Murray’s thoughts on Kopitar’s turnaround…
Question: Throughout the season, when Kopitar’s offensive numbers weren’t there, you praised his work ethic and defense. Were you always confident that his offensive game would come around, and how has that situation evolved?
MURRAY: “Kind of as I expected from the beginning of the year. Everybody knows the talent level and skill level that he has, that he is a point producer and a playmaker, and that never leaves a player. I’ve seen this many, many times over the years in this business, where you come in and change the focus of a team and a player. As a result of that, you take a step back in other areas, but it only is a matter of time before it starts to come back around again. It’s as expected that good things would start to happen on the numbers side of it.”
Question: Is it just that he feels more comfortable, that the defensive side becomes instinctive and then he can go back to feeling comfortable on offense?
MURRAY: “I think it’s just a matter of implementing everything. The offensive part of the game is such a special part of the game. If you retool and you’re trying to get the focal point on the defensive part of the game, there’s that timing issue and there’s a matter of trying to sort it out as you play the game. I don’t know baseball that well, but I would think that with a hitter, if you’re asking them to make a change in bat speed or bat angle, or some area that concerns that, to improve it in the long run, you’re going to go through a dip. That’s all this was with Kopi and the offensive players. They really want to buy in. The thing that I’ve really been proud with him is that, from the first day of the camp, when we talked about the defensive part of the game, he has been really conscientious and working hard on bringing that to his game. He’s becoming a real complete player, and that’s how it has to be in order to become a champion.”