Hey, too bad there wasn't a Kings game last night. I don't know why I wrote a gameday post when there was no game, but that's my bad. Guess I got mixed up. Anyway, the Kings have a game tonight (I think) and it should be a good one.
The league found 2 points Anze Kopitar deserved during 6-8 PM last night, which now gives him 40 points in 36 games. (I'm pretty sure the Kings have only played 35 games; hopefully they'll fix that shortly.) Anywho, that translates to the following stats over an 82-game season:
82 games, 34 goals, 57 assists, 91 points, 18 PIM
Those are pretty much the exact numbers I would expect Kopitar to get in his prime: 35 goals, 55 assists, 90 points, a Lady Byng nomination.* Some folks expect Kopitar to get 40 goals some day but not me. Kopitar has always been more of a passer that became a shooter because no one else could shoot; he's not a naturally gifted shooter like a lot of the other guys that get 30+ goals a season. He's almost willed himself into a goal scorer, which is a lot harder and more impressive than you'd think.
That's pretty much the story of Kopitar's career so far: he's had to subvert his natural gifts and in spite of that has become a fantastic hockey player. When he came into the league he was a pond hockey player, someone who was fantastic when he had time to skate but could easily get shut down in half court. He liked to carry the puck, he liked to circle the net, and he liked to dish it off to an open defender along the blue line. Now look at him: he's usually without the puck entering the zone, he's the one actually getting to the net for a pass, and he's working in tight.
The first assist he was given last night (in the game that never happened) was beautiful; he fought through 3 men to give the puck to an open Kevin Westgarth, who then put the puck on net for a rebound that was tapped home. Kopitar couldn't have done that 3 years ago. Combine that with his defensive play and what we have is a fully formed, elite center. He really is turning into a Mats Sundin but with hair.
I've written before that what I worry the most about is Kopitar not turning into an elite center. Drew Doughty is crucial and the Jonathans are important, but Kopitar is the one. He's Wyatt. He needs to be the one to lead this team to a Stanley Cup and this is the first year where I think you can say he's good enough to do it. It makes games like the one that didn't happen easier to swallow, to know that hey, we can have bad games but we still have Anze. Because of Anze we'll be OK.
And it's stupid but I'm pretty proud of him.
*I know this is also stupid but why the fuck hasn't Kopitar been nominated for a Lady Byng yet? The award's dumb, I know, but if you score a lot and don't take penalties you get nominated for the Lady Byng. That's all Kopitar does. I know he looks like he made a lot of evil choices in Knights of the Old Republic but by all accounts Kopitar is an awesome dude. Fucking Patrick Marleau manages to get nominated and he's a plank of wood. I'm going to throw a fit if Kopitar doesn't get nominated this season.
Brayden Schenn: awesome. He had 4 goals, 1 assist a day after he had 1 goal 4 assists. Too bad it was against Norway... hey, not Norway!!! Schenn, you asshole!
Oh, and Tyler Toffoli? The guy left off Team Canada's invite list? He had 5 goals last night. Booyah.
I'm going to be gone the next 3 days. I go up to a cabin with a bunch of buddies every year for New Year's. It's fun: we drink beer and hang, and then I pass out and when I wake up my underwear's on backwards. Ahh, good times, good times. Anyway, I might be able to watch the game tonight but I might not. Happy new year and go fuck yourself.
Prediction: Kings win, 4-2. Goals by Kopitar, Brown, Stoll and Williams.