||02-28-2013 04:58 PM
Anze Kopitar leading Kings back to Stanley Cup Form
Excellent article from SI.com. Highlights what Kopitar does in a game that goes unnoticed by many.
Even more so, they benefited from the continued all-around excellence of Kopitar, who does both exceptional and subtle things to change a game's flow. It will sound like heresy to some, but Kopitar must be included in any discussion of the best player in the NHL, right there with Sidney Crosby and Pavel Datsyuk -- who both play far more games in the Eastern Time Zone, and consequently get more attention.
Man at work
Detroit had been the better team through the first two periods, but you had to figure that the Kings weren't going to surrender the final 20 minutes without some serious pushback. And I watched closely as Kopitar led the way. On the first shift of the third period, he applies backside pressure and forces Cleary to take a weak shot at goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who held on for a whistle, a move designed to slow down the game's pace and the Wings' superior team speed.
On his second shift, Kopitar bumps Patrick Eaves behind the Kings' net, shaking the puck loose, killing Detroit's cycle, and starting the play the other way. The Wings get it back and Kopitar pressures Joakim Andersson along the boards into a bad pass, which the Kings recover. They work the puck behind Detroit's net. Kopitar cruises in to fight off two Wings and grab the puck, starting a cycle to Justin Williams, whose pass back to the point didn't result in much, but the tide is starting to turn.
During Kopitar's third shift, a turnover goes to Datsyuk, who appears to have a clear shot at Bernier. But Kopitar flies in from behind and, just as Datsyuk shoots, gets his stick across the Red Wing's arms, dampening the force of the shot. The period is barely four minutes old and Kopitar has taken control, but not yet in any obvious way.
On his fourth shift, he helps out on the penalty kill, getting in the lane to force Brendan Smith to shoot off to the side.
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