The Los Angeles Kings currently trail the Vegas Golden Knights 3-0 in their Stanley Cup Playoff series. This is following a 3-2 loss at home that saw LA give up two goals in under thirty seconds. While LA has been missing key pieces in Jake Muzzin and Drew Doughty for parts of this series, they have been very outplayed overall. If the LA Kings wish to fight back into this series, Anze Kopitar is going to have to take the reigns like he did all season.
Through the regular season, Anze Kopitar found his game after a poor 2016-17 year that saw him net just 52 points. In 2017-18, the superstar centre had 92 points in 82 games played and generated some Hart Trophy nomination talk. Kopitar was a monster by all accounts, scoring 31 more points than the next person on the team, Dustin Brown.
Kopitar also had a 52.14CF% and a 49.13xGF% this season. Both of these stats were positive, relative to his team. He controlled play very well and did this against top competition. Kopitar also only started in the offensive zone 46% of the time. This means that he saw his fair share of defensive zone draws, which makes it more impressive that he put up great numbers. Kopitar was a star all year for the Kings, so what about this post-season?
First Three Games – Points
Obviously, three games is nowhere near a big enough sample size to predict future play, which is not what is happening here. Looking at this series so far is judging how Kopitar has played, not what his future play may be. Starting off with basic numbers, Kopitar does not look like it has been a problem. He has one goal and one assist for two points in three games. Normally, this wouldn’t be bad either. The problem is that his goal came with 1:30 left of the third period in Game 3 that only cut the Vegas lead to 3-2. It ultimately was too little, too late.
In just over 60 minutes of 5v5 ice time over three games, Kopitar has taken four shots. This four shots per hour at 5v5 is down from the season average of 6.3. While two extra shots do not seem like much, they can make all the difference. This hasn’t been a huge problem as Anze Kopitar is also a great passer, and his linemate Dustin Brown has seven shots. Alex Iaffalo also has three. However, it may be in the Kings best interest to get Kopitar to start shooting more.
The Kings have not been able to score at all this series. They have found the back of the net just three times in 11 periods of play. With Kopitar having points on two of those, you may ask, why does he need to be the one to step up? Ideally, he doesn’t have to do it all by himself, but given this is how they got here, it would only be fitting for Kopitar to take the reigns and kickstart this offence. His basic points compared to the team has been good, but his overall play has not.
First Three Games – Play
Anze Kopitar and his line have been caved in at 5v5 this series by the first line of Vegas. While Vegas does have maybe the most talked-about first lines in hockey this year, with William Karlsson, Jon Marchessault and Reilly Smith, Kopitar and the Kings need to contain it if they wish to win. This line has run all over the Kings, as that line boasts a 65.96CF% at 5v5. This means that Vegas has taken 66% of the shot attempts while those three are on the ice.
Kopitar’s line of Dustin Brown, Alex Iafallo and himself has posted just a 35CF% together. This is concerning as Kopitar played most of Games 1 and 3 with this line. When Tanner Pearson jumped on that line for most of game two, they suddenly became a 53CF% team. Overall these playoffs, Kopitar is a 41.27CF% player, which ranks 12th on the team. Obviously, Corsi is not everything, however, it can show how a player has struggled or succeeded. This clearly isn’t Kopitar’s normal level of play. He will need to find it again for the Kings to have a chance of coming back.
A coaching change may need to try Pearson on his line permanently, as something has to click. The Kings need Kopitar to start the offence up and slow down the deadly first line of the Golden Knights.
He Needs Help
Asking Kopitar to do this all alone would not be fair. So far, Doughty and Jonathan Quick are two of the big players to show up. The Kings and Kopitar need more help than that. While Quick has been amazing, the team hasn’t been able to reward him. Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson and Adrian Kempe have all been solid, but haven’t been able to find the back of the net. Some scoring support would go a long way in helping Kopitar and the first line control Vegas.
Along with this, guys like Trevor Lewis and Jeff Carter need to improve their play as well. Lewis is sitting at a 32 CF%, which is just unacceptable. Carter is at a slightly better, but still bad 40%. Jeff Carter is going to be another key piece if the Kings want to battle their way back into this series.
Overall, everyone is going to have to improve. The Kings have been outworked for a lot of this series. While missing some big guys has not helped the Kings, they need others to step up. He shouldn’t have to do it all, but if the Kings want a chance in coming back, Anze Kopitar needs to lead the way.
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