Marian Gaborik had this to say about his comfort level after joining Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and the rest of the Kings after a March 5 trade from the Columbus Blue Jackets: “The guys welcomed me warmly. Right away, I felt comfortable. That’s very important, to feel comfortable. To play along with ‘Kopi,’ he’s a great player … and then ‘Brownie,’ the way we clicked so quickly, it was great.”
Anze Kopitar, the Kings’ top-line center, finished second in voting to Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins in voting for the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the forward who excels at the defensive aspects of the game. Bergeron received 1,283 points, including 112 first-place votes. Kopitar had 840 points, including 20 first-place votes. Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks was third with 624 points, including two first-place votes. Full disclosure: I voted Kopitar first and Bergeron second.
Here’s my ballot, cast in the middle of April:
Hart Trophy: Sidney Crosby, PIT, Ryan Getzlaf, ANA, Claude Giroux, PHI, Semyon Varlamov, COL, Jonathan Toews, CHI.
Norris Trophy: Drew Doughty, LAK, Shea Weber, NSH. Duncan Keith, CHI, Ryan Suter, MIN, Zdeno Chara, BOS.
Calder Torphy: Nathan MacKinnon, COL, Jacob Trouba, WPG, Hampus Lindholm, ANA, Ondrej Palat, TBL, Frederik Andersen, ANA.
Byng Trophy: Ryan O’Reilly, COL, Matt Duchene, COL, Patrick Marleau, SJS, Tyler Seguin, DAL, David Krejci, BOS.
Selke Trophy: Anze Kopitar, LAK, Patrice Bergeron, BOS, David Backes, STL, Jonathan Toews, CHI, Andrew Cogliano, ANA.
Las Vegas bookmakers Bovada don’t like the chances of Kings center Anze Kopitar winning the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the NHL’s best defensive forward when the league announces its awards Tuesday. Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins is a 2/7 favorite to win the award, with Kopitar next at 11/4 and Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks third at 15/1.
The mood wasn’t as dour or defeatist as one might have expected after the Kings fell behind the San Jose Sharks three games to none following a 4-3 overtime loss in Game 3 on April 22 at Staples Center. The Kings refused to hold a pity party despite their dire situation.
“It’s pretty self-explanatory,” Kings center Anze Kopitar said calmly after the game. “We’re down 3-0. Every piece to this puzzle is going to have to give it their all. We’re going to have to come out and throw everything we have at them and see what happens.”
If there was one turning point for the Kings, one significant moment above all the rest in their road to the Stanley Cup championship, then this was it. If their defiance, their unwillingness to bend to the pressure or to accept defeat was rooted in one statement, then this was it.
Marian Gaborik slipped effortlessly into the Kings’ lineup after a March 5 trade from the Columbus Blue Jackets. He clicked almost instantly with center Anze Kopitar and began producing at nearly a point-per-game pace.
Gaborik scored 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) in 19 regular-season games and he had 21 points, including a playoff-leading 13 goals, in 24 contests before the Kings faced the New York Rangers in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday.
Now the question is how quickly will the Kings move to re-sign the 32-year-old Slovakian?The price could be steep since Gaborik’s last contract, a five-year deal he signed with the Rangers before the 2009-10 season, paid him an average of $7.5 million per season.
Gaborik certainly has proved to be worth every penny of a pro-rated deal that required Columbus to pick up 50 percent of his salary for the final one-quarter of 2013-14 after Kings general manager Dean Lombardi acquired him for Matt Frattin and two draft picks at the deadline.
“You want to be a complete army,” Lombardi said.
The Kings needed scoring.
They went into the playoffs as the lowest-scoring team of the 16 postseason qualifiers, averaging a meager total of 2.42. Thanks in part to Gaborik, they upped their average to a playoff-leading 3.50 going into Game 4 of the Final at Madison Square Garden.
Best of all, as far as the Kings are concerned, Gaborik and Kopitar have formed the dynamic scoring combination that was glaringly absent in what was a popgun offense before the trade. They have played together since Gaborik joined the team for a March 6 game against Winnipeg.
“Darryl stuck with us every since he got with us,” Kopitar said, referring to Kings coach Darryl Sutter. “It is a process, but it seemed like we clicked fairly good and fairly fast. Now it’s time to really bring it, obviously. He’s a big-time player.
“I’m sure it’s hard to come to a different team with different systems and different styles of play. You have to fit in really quick, and I just think everybody helping him out, you try to be in his ear, but at the same time you kind of want to lay off and have him do his thing. I think he’s done a really good job.”
Here’s a cool look from The New York Times at Manhattan Beach, hometown of many Kings players and staff: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/07/sports/hockey/la-kings-work-on-ice-but-most-live-on-the-beach.html?ref=sports&_r=0
Kings center Anze Kopitar and winger Dustin Brown each said Friday he was unhappy with his play during a 3-2 overtime victory over the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday. That was news to Kings coach Darryl Sutter, who had this to say when asked about Kopitar’s comment:
“I think ‘Kopi’ busts his ass every night, for lack of a better word. Somebody brought it up yesterday and it wasn’t ‘Kopi.’ “Kopi’ played more minutes, big minutes, than anybody on our team. In crucial situations he does it, so … He never has a bad game.”
Here’s what Kings center Anze Kopitar said Thursday when he heard Wayne Gretzky said Wednesday that he was the third-best player in the world behind Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks:
“I’ll take any compliment from that guy. Even if he said I was the fifth in the rankings, I would have taken it. It’s obviously very nice to hear things about that. I’ve heard it for the first time right now. I didn’t really pay attention to anything after last night. It’s nice to hear it. Can’t really get caught up in that stuff.”
For all the skill and speed the Rangers displayed in getting this far, it appears they can’t keep up with the Kings’ top line of Anze Kopitar, Marian Gaborik and Dustin Brown or That 70s Line of Jeff Carter, Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli. Kopitar is the leading scorer in the playoffs with 24 points, including 19 assists. Gaborik leads the playoffs with 12 goals. Carter has 22 points, including 13 assists. Justin Williams has snared headlines with his peerless Game 7 play (seven goals, seven assists and a 7-0 record in seven career Game 7s), but he’s been pretty good in the other ones, too. He has seven goals and 11 assists in the playoffs. Martin St. Louis (six goals, seven assists) and Derek Stephan (five goals, eight assists) lead the Rangers with 13 points apiece. A key to the series will be how the Rangers contend with the Kings’ ability to maintain possession of the puck. Chasing it isn’t fun. Ask the Sharks, Ducks and Blackhawks about that.