The Fall Heard ‘Round the NHL

Kopitar Injury

“He’s not getting up.”

I watched in horror as Anze Kopitar, the Los Angeles Kings’ indestructible center who had played in the last 330 consecutive games, writhed on the ice in pain.

But Anze Kopitar is more than just a reliable player who suits up for every game:

  • He is the team’s best goal scorer
  • He is the team’s best play-maker
  • He is the team’s best defensive forward
  • He is the team’s most complete player
  • He is the best player who has put on a Kings jersey since #2o took the front office job.

And he will be absent from the team’s attempt at their first back to back playoff birth in 10 years. A streak that he is largely responsible for.

All of these opinions hopefully explain why I did not take this very well yesterday:

 

 

 


Melodramatic, I know. But with this coming almost immediately on the heels of the Justin Williams shoulder injury, it felt like our season had indeed come to an end. It’s like Ryan Smyth said,

“Not one guy can replace a guy like Kopitar.”

Is the Kings’ season really over? Of course not. But the road has never been rockier. The hill has never been steeper. And a thousand other cliches.

With seven games remaining in the season, the Kings sit in 5th place with 92 points. Five teams are within six points. Three games are against these teams, including two against the Ducks to close the season. Those final back to back games could very well determine which (or if) of the two Southern California teams continue their season.

As I write this article with my eyes peering though my fingers at the computer screen, it is hard to be optimistic about what lies ahead for the Kings this season.

If there is any hope to be had, I offer it to you here:

1. The Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins have been without Sidney Crosby since January 5. They have been without Evgeni Malkin since February 4. Quickly- other than Marc-Andre Fleury, name three players currently playing on that team. Not that easy, is it?

Since that game against the Buffalo Sabres, the Penguins have gone 11-9-4 after losing their top 2 offensive weapons. Some reasons for their perseverance:

  • An all-star caliber goaltender (Marc-Andre Fleury)
  • A highly skilled puck moving defenseman (Kris Letang)
  • A deep crop of capable prospects that the organization has taken time developing (Ben Lovejoy, Chris Conner, Mark Letestu, Dustin Jeffrey)
  • A goal scoring winger added at the trade deadline (James Neal)
  • An American Olympic defenseman (Brooks Orpik {though he has been injured})
  • A supporting cast willing to elevate their game to make up for the gaping holes in their lineup. (All)

Comparing that to the Kings-

  • An all-star caliber goaltender (Jonathan Quick- not voted in but numbers suggest he was deserving)
  • A highly skilled puck moving defenseman (Drew Doughty)
  • A deep crop of capable prospects that the organization has taken time developing (Oscar Moller, Marc-Andre Cliche, Bud Holloway, Viatcheslav Voynov)
  • A goal scoring winger added at the trade deadline (Dustin Penner)
  • An American Olympic defenseman (Jack Johnson)
  • A supporting cast willing to elevate their game to make up for the gaping holes in their lineup.

That last bullet brings me to:

2. Putting the Depth to the Test

With a few exceptions, the burden of success is now on the shoulders of players who have often been inconsistent this season. When Kopitar and Williams weren’t scoring, games were likely lost unless Quick stood on his head or the team simply shut it down on defense.

Now, these players must figure out how to put the puck in the net without them, while keeping it out with even more proficiency than before. The latter will be a matter of bearing down and fighting for every inch of ice. The former will require all of that heart combined with every drop of skill Terry Murray can squeeze out of his remaining roster.

In the spirit of realism, this was probably not going to be the year the Kings hoisted the Stanley Cup, even with Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams. The core of the team is still mostly green to playoff experience with only 6 games played last postseason.

Thus, these games to follow will be invaluable experience for a young team that has often relied on their talented stars to win games. It’s up to them to dictate how successful the Kings will be this season.

At worst, the increased responsibility will be beneficial to these young players’ development. There are some veterans that have been there before who can help to see them through as well.

At best, they may be able to use the team’s misfortune to rally together, finish the season strong, and take that momentum into the playoffs and surprise a first round opponent. Right now, that opponent would be the Phoenix Coyotes, and they don’t have a player who has scored over 60 points either.

Comments
2 Responses to “The Fall Heard ‘Round the NHL”
Trackbacks
Check out what others are saying...
  1. [...] aren’t exactly barren when it comes to offense … if their depth can pick up the slack. From Crowned Royal: With a few exceptions, the burden of success is now on the shoulders of players who have often been [...]

  2. [...] Losing Kopitar and Williams is losing 47 of the 351 goals the Kings have scored this season, or roughly 13 percent 207 goals the Kings have scored, or roughly 23 percent. (Ed. Note: Apologies … notes fail.)There’s no replacing that, but the Kings aren’t exactly barren when it comes to offense … if their depth can pick up the slack. From Crowned Royal: [...]



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 917 other followers

  • Email

    crownedroyalblog@gmail.com
  • On Twitter:

    • That was a brutal defensive shift by Dustin Brown. All he had to do was defend Michael Raffl. 1 day ago
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 917 other followers

%d bloggers like this: