After a Hart Trophy nominated season in 2017-18, it’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride for Kings captain Anze Kopitar. He and his teammates went through two coaching changes, just for starters. There was a glimmer of hope late last season that perhaps brighter days were on the horizon. Now, riding a five-game winning streak, Kopitar is feeling much more optimistic.
After today’s morning skate in advance of their rematch with Blues, he shared the following comments:
Kopitar on Dustin Brown and his 2021 resurgence
Brownie is the type of player that’s always hanging around the net, so for the lack of better words, he’s about an inch or two away from from scoring every night. Sometimes the puck hits you or the puck bounces the other way on you, so it doesn’t surprise me at all. He’s been a hard-working guy for all these years. We’ve all seen it first-hand. To me, he’s just getting rewarded right now. We talk a lot about confidence and everything; and he’s running away right now. Hopefully, he can do it for for as long as he can.
On if there any similar tendencies or a similar feel to this run and the winning streak at the end of last season
We’re a pretty confident bunch right now. Confident teams play a little bit looser, meaning not uptight and not being afraid of making plays, but well within the system. We’re feeling good right now. Yes, there are little similarities, but at the same time it’s quite a bit different because now we’re in the thick of things, as opposed to last year – we were written off. Now, we’re fighting for a playoff spot. It’s nice to see that we’ve grown and shown character, even in some some losses. We’re building and I think we’re on the right path.
On beneficial it is to play the same teams back-to-back when making adjustments
It’s definitely different, it’s something that you get accustomed to. I mean, it wasn’t too hard really. You’re trying to make adjustments throughout the game, and to that extent, to play another game against the same team, it makes it a little bit easier for the coaching staff to maybe tweak out the the game plan a little bit. In the majority of cases, it comes down to just being able to make plays and do what we do; just making sure that our compete level is where it needs to be we kind of go from there.
On using the P-word, playoffs, and if that’s a word the players are now starting to use again
It’s used more in the media than anything else. We’re taking it step by step, we know that this five-game winning streak that we’ve been on we’ve put ourselves in a position where, by no means is anything done, but we’re in the thick of things now. That’s where the fun begins really. You want to play meaningful games going into March, going into April. That’s where we want to be, we want to keep improving on our game and we want to keep climbing.
On how his leadership role is different on the team now versus in years past
Not a whole lot really. First and foremost, I got to take care of myself and make sure that my games in order and then just spread it around and get the message across. I said it a bunch of times, it’s not just on me. I got the pleasure of playing alongside great leaders too in Dustin [Brown] and Drew [Doughty] and Jeff [Carter] and in [Jonathan Quick], so it makes my leadership responsibilities a lot easier. Very happy I have those guys around me and it doesn’t just take one person to get the team going, it takes a whole bunch, and I think that’s what we’ve been doing pretty well lately.
On if he finds himself feeling fresher with less travel in the schedule
That’s pretty much a given. Going to bed after a game, it’s midnight or 1 o’clock as opposed to 2:30 to 3 o’clock in the morning certainly makes a difference the next day and the whole recovery process a little bit quicker. I don’t think you’re thinking about too much being fresh or not fresh, you just want to prepare for the game. Deep down it makes a difference.
On if the system they are playing makes it easier for him a more efficient player
Todd [McLellan] put the system in place last year and there were spurts last year where we’re executing and getting good results out of it. Coming into this year, we we’re stressing about taking the next step. We’re using five pieces all over the ice where we’re supposed to be and playing together, support is obviously huge, and trying to play quick and fast and all of the above. It’s clicking right now and hopefully we can continue playing like that and track upwind.
On the growth of the power play and penalty kill this season and the consistency in the personnel in both
On the power play especially, our unit hasn’t changed a whole lot, if at all, since the start of the year. That’s a big key to success. Yes, we got to make plays and shoot the puck and eventually score goals, but when you have a unit of five being together over the course of the better part of two months it’s bound to click. We’re not overthinking it too much we’re playing hockey, making plays that are there, and trying to shoot the puck as much as we can and we’ve been getting results. Also, the balance between the first unit, or the two units, scoring, it’s huge. Then on the flip side, PK, we’ve been trying to be as aggressive as we can be. The PK pairs are just about the same. When you’re familiar with your partner, it’s a lot easier to read off each other than being scrambled around all the time.
On the emergence of some younger players that are starting to show leadership qualities
You don’t get results like this without some of the young guys taking the next step. There’s been a bunch this year where they’ve embraced the challenge and embraced the opportunity to step in those shoes. They’ve done a really good job.
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