Mike Richards breaks down all that makes Anze Kopitar such a standout player

Mike Richards had plenty to say when asked Tuesday how difficult it is to play the sort of exceptional two-way game fellow Kings forward Anze Kopitar has played during a season in which he was named a Selke Trophy finalist.

“To play like ‘Kopi’, there’s maybe two, three guys in the world that can,” Richards said. “I’d say it’s pretty hard. But it just seems like every time he’s on the ice, he calms everything down, whether it’s just a point in the game where it’s hectic out there, we’re running around. He steps on the ice, he seems to have that calming influence on everybody, just the way he plays.

“He’s a big, strong guy. He has skill. He’s really got it all. Then you put the emphasis that he does on playing on the defensive side on the puck, that really makes a special player. What he can do on the ice, take over games. …

“After a couple of games ago, where Johnny (Chicago captain Jonathan Toews) had his game, played really well, ‘Kopi’ was right there with him, too. He can elevate. It’s really fun to watch those two go at it against each other. To see the skill level that he has. …

“I think Darryl (Sutter, Kings coach,) has helped him a lot, putting a little more emphasis on that defensive side. If he played in the Eastern Conference on a team that didn’t stress defense as much as us, he could easily be a 100-point guy. He sacrifices that to be a two-way player and play on both sides of the puck.

“We see it every day, so we kind of get spoiled. But I think a couple years ago when we won the Cup, it was kind of his coming out party, and everybody now realizes how good he is.”

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Drew Doughty’s play reminds Anze Kopitar of former Wings D-man Nicklas Lidstrom

Jill Painter will have much more on this subject in her column for the Los Angeles News Group, but here’s what two of Drew Doughty’s Kings teammates are saying about him in comparison to the now-retired Nicklas Lidstrom of Detroit:

Kings center Anze Kopitar (after a 6-2 victory in Game 2 on Wednesday’s: “I’ve been saying this for a couple of years now, but he’s our Nick Lidstrom. We all know what he did in Detroit for many, many years. I think Drew likes the big stage. He likes these types of games. He gets very emotional. He just brings his game to the next level at this time of the year and in these types of games.”

Kings captain Dustin Brown (after Friday’s practice): “I can’t speak for ‘Kopi’, but the way I look at that is Drew has a long way to go to be a Nick Lidstrom. But I think he has the impact on our team comparable to the impact that Lidstrom had on Detroit. Their skill sets are similar but I think Drew has a long way to go to be that player. But his impact on our team has a similar effect. I think there’s been a big growth spurt from him from that (leadership) standpoint in the last year and half. Just being more vocal and saying certain things at the right time. … He’s kind of coming into his own as an off-ice kind of guy with his personality and the way he’s matured. He’s getting to that time where he’s taken more of a role.”

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Kings take Game 2 from Blackhawks and Anze Kopitar bests Jonathan Toews

The matchup of top-line centers in the Western Conference finals is one of the most intriguing of the series. Anze Kopitar of the Kings got the better of the Chicago Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews in a 6-2 victory in Game 2 on Wednesday. That’s to say, Kopitar helped to keep Toews off the score sheet after Toews did the same to him in Game 1 on Sunday. The push in Game 2 benefited the Kings. Toews had a goal in Game 1 and helped to keep Kopitar scoreless.

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Jonathan ‘Captain Serious’ Toews talks about matching up with Anze Kopitar

Here’s what Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews said Tuesday of matching up with fellow Selke Trophy finalist Anze Kopitar of the Kings:

“He’s not easy to play against. He’s good on draws. He’s tough to defend, especially in the offensive zone. He’s big and strong and protects the puck well. I think he’s got good vision and knows where to find his linemates even if he’s got his back to the play. You’ve got to try to get on those pucks early and get your stick on him before he can get position on you. The best way to really play defense against him is to try to keep him in his own zone. But easier said than done, I guess.

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Keys to the KIngs-Blackhawks Western Conference finals series (Part 1)

Fatigue could be a significant factor in Game 1 of the series, what with the Kings playing Game 7 against the Ducks on Friday night in Anaheim, traveling on Saturday and then facing off against the Blackhawks on Sunday afternoon in Chicago. The Kings will play twice in less than 48 hours, a tight turnaround. The rest of the series looks less taxing. Game 2 on Wednesday follows two days of rest and preparation. Game 3 at Staples Center also follows two days of rest and preparation.

Goaltending continues to be the Kings’ biggest and most consistent advantage over most teams. Jonathan Quick has played his biggest and most consistent games during the Kings’ elimination games during the playoffs. He is 6-0 with a 1.33 goals-against average, a .957 save percentage and one shutout in six games in which the Kings had to win or be eliminated from the playoffs. That’s pressure netminding and Quick has come through with strong performances against the Ducks and Sharks.

Special teams. Oh, wait, you thought this was about power plays and penalty killing? No, the Kings and Blackhawks are very special teams in every sense of the words. They are meeting in the conference finals for the second consecutive season, the first repeat appearances by the same teams in the Western Conference finals since the Dallas Stars defeated the Colorado Avalanche in 1999 and 2000. In fact, the Kings are back for their third straight West finals appearance.

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Kings forward Marian Gaborik talks about his chemistry with center Anze Kopitar

Marian Gaborik and Anze Kopitar each had a hand in all three of the Kings’ goals during their 3-2 victory Saturday over the Ducks. They’ve clicked together like Lego blocks ever since the Kings acquired Gaborik from the Columbus Blue Jackets in March. The trade raised more than a few eyebrows because there were reasons to wonder how the offensive-minded Gaborik might fit with a defense-first team.

So far, so good.

Gaborik declined to take any credit for his game-winning goal, however.

“I think whoever would have been there, in my spot, he would have gotten it, too,” Gaborik said. “I think we did a good job on the forecheck and in the corner.”

 

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Keys to the Kings-Ducks series (Part 1: centers, goaltenders and special teams)

Keys to the series (part 1)

1. Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf is a finalist for the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s MVP. Kings center Anze Kopitar is a finalist for the Selke Trophy as the league’s top defensive forward. If there’s a better matchup between opposing series in these playoffs, we’d sure like to see it. Getzlaf had seven points, including three goals, in the first round. Kopitar had 10 points, including four goals.

2. Goaltending is always a key whenever the Kings play. Jonathan Quick is their best and most accomplished player, having won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs. His series-shifting glove save on the San Jose Sharks’ Patrick Marleau in Game 7 reminded everyone of his otherworldly skills. The Ducks are expected to start Jonas Hiller in Game 1.

3. Special teams play could swing the series in one direction or the other. The Ducks took control of their first-round series against Dallas by scoring four power-play goals in Game 5. They have the potential to make the Kings pay for their overly aggressive play. The Kings’ penalty-kill was superb in their first-round win over the Sharks, especially in Games 6 and 7, and enabled them to rally.

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Kings experience in Game 7s is limited

For all their recent playoff experience, the Kings’ track record in Game 7s is rather limited. Defenseman Robyn Regehr has played in the most Game 7s with five listed on his resume. Several other key players, including center Anze Kopitar, team captain Dustin Brown, center Jarret Stoll and goaltender Jonathan Quick, have played in only one winner-take-all game.

The Kings’ Game 7 experience is rather thin as a franchise, too. They have played in only eight Game 7s in their history, winning four and losing four. They won their most recent Game 7, taking a 2-1 victory from the San Jose Sharks in the decisive game of their second-round series last spring. The Kings and Sharks face off again in Game 7 of their first-round series on Wednesday in San Jose’s SAP Center.

The opening faceoff is at 7 p.m.

 

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Darryl Sutter attributes Anze Kopitar’s improvement to play in the postseason

Here’s some of what Kings coach Darryl Sutter said Saturday morning about center Anze Kopitar, a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy:

“First off, you look at playoff experience. He plays in many situations and plays many minutes. You learn to manage the game better. It all comes with experience. With ‘Kopi’, a big part of it has been the Kings being successful. He broke his ankle (near the end of the regular season in 2011) and probably learned a lot by watching it (the Kings’ first-round loss to the San Jose Sharks). Then he takes the next step by going deep in the playoffs.”

 

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