EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Anze Kopitar politely disagrees with the idea that the Los Angeles Kings’ top line has dominated the Anaheim Ducks’ best scorers in their second-round playoff series.
Since it’s Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau who suggested the idea, it’s clear Kopitar and his linemates are doing something right to put the Kings in control of the series so far.
Boudreau didn’t hesitate to spotlight the ineffectiveness of centre Ryan Getzlaf and longtime linemate Corey Perry after Los Angeles’ 3-1 victory in Game 2 on Monday night, putting the Kings up 2-0 heading home to Staples Center for Game 3 on Thursday.
Boudreau began the game matching up Getzlaf, Perry and Matt Beleskey against Kopitar, Marian Gaborik and captain Dustin Brown. By the third period, he was sending out his former Hart Trophy winner and current Hart finalist against anybody else.
“I did it because Kopitar’s line was dominating them,” Boudreau said. “When they’re dominating them, I could be stubborn and leave them out there all day, but we had to move something around to get away from it, and maybe his line could get something accomplished.”
Kopitar isn’t exactly enjoying a breakthrough season, given that he has been one of the NHL’s best centres for several years. Yet with a point in every post-season game and his first Selke Trophy nomination, Kopitar is clearly in top form as the Kings chase their second championship in three years.
And Kopitar has been playing against Getzlaf long enough to know he shouldn’t claim a shutdown victory just yet.
“I don’t know about dominating them,” Kopitar said Tuesday when told of Boudreau’s statement. “I think they were playing good, and they hemmed us in our zone for a little bit, too. We know as a line that we can play better, and we’re going to have to play better.”
Even when he raised the Stanley Cup as the playoffs’ co-scoring leader two years ago, Kopitar never got as much international attention as he did this winter. Kopitar is the Kings’ leading scorer for the seventh straight year, but he also led Slovenia to the quarterfinals of its first Olympic tournament before becoming a first-time finalist for the Selke as the league’s best defensive forward.
Kopitar began Tuesday as the leading scorer in the NHL post-season again, with four goals and 10 assists during his nine-game scoring streak.
“He’s been doing this for years, and this might be as good as I’ve ever seen him play,” Kings centre Mike Richards said.
Getzlaf knows the pressure is on him to match Kopitar’s effort when the series moves to downtown Los Angeles for the next two games, and the Ducks’ captain has met every challenge so far this season.
Getzlaf was the NHL’s second-leading scorer in the regular season while developing into an impressive leader. He has assisted on all three of Anaheim’s goals in the series, but Perry has yet to find the back of Jonathan Quick’s net.
The Ducks’ meagre offensive output in the first two games against Los Angeles isn’t shocking, given the Kings’ status as the NHL’s best defensive team in front of their dominant goalie. Yet Getzlaf and Perry have been able to score on almost anybody this year, and they’re determined to get their teammates going at Staples Center.
“I was mad, and I’m still mad,” Getzlaf said Tuesday. “I want to win, and when we don’t win, I get mad. That’s just the nature of my well-being.”
Even if Kopitar’s line was as dominating as Boudreau said, the Kings clearly aren’t overpowering the Ducks in this series. Anaheim was 7 seconds away from winning Game 1 when Gaborik tied it with the goalie pulled, and Los Angeles sat on a one-goal lead for 46 minutes in Game 2 before an empty-net goal in a 3-1 victory.
The Ducks are getting most of the series’ scoring chances, but they’re not getting the second chances and grind-it-out goals that are usually the only way to beat Quick. Boudreau is emphasizing the importance of getting in front of Quick, whose aggressiveness can be used against him by a team with Anaheim’s four-line skill.
“I think we’ve got to start using Quick against himself a little bit,” Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano said. “He challenges the pucks very well. He sprawls out, and sometimes there is room for shooting pucks off his pads and getting rebounds. … Now it’s all about dirty goals. We’re not scoring enough goals. Guys are getting good looks, but we’re not scoring.”