When the Los Angeles Kings’ run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs comes to an end – whenever that end may come – one imagines we’ll hear tales of Azne Kopitar’s various injuries. That’s the only logical rationale as to why one of the premiere offensive players in the NHL has one goal in his last 11 playoff games, and why his line hasn’t been anywhere near effective.
OK, it’s not the only rationale. The Chicago Blackhawks have also defended linemates Kopitar and Dustin Brown (one goal in his last seven games) well, as Brown explained before Tuesday night’s Game 3 in Los Angeles:
“I think it's pretty fair to say as a line we're collectively in a slump. We looked over some video today. We know what we need to do better. It's getting into their offensive zone, our spacing is pretty significant. It's hard to play, especially against a team like Chicago. They kind of have that man-on-man with an extra man in there. When you don't have the spacing right, one guy eliminates the other guy, quick on the puck.
“Probably more importantly against Chicago, we need to have closer support in all three zones.”
Coach Darryl Sutter was asked about Kopitar, and anything his star could be doing differently to excel in this series. From the LA Times:
"I think it's pretty evident," Sutter said. "When Kopi has the puck, he's a top player in the league. When he doesn't have the puck, he's a good checker.
"That means he could have the puck more. Quite honestly, he can support the puck better. Certainly who he plays with can feel privileged that they're playing with a top player. They should be doing everything they can to play with him."
So there you go: Maybe one day Dustin Brown and Justin Williams will appreciate what a top talent Kopitar is and do everything they can to play with him.
Or Kopitar is injured. One of the two.
Regardless, some offense from that line in Game 3 would certainly be welcome, as the Kings try to climb out of their 0-2 hole.