“They’ve struggled offensively, for sure,” Darryl Sutter said of linemates Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar.
“That’s not me jumping out, making a statement. That is a fact. That’s a statistical fact.”
It certainly is. Concerns about whether undisclosed injuries have hampered the team’s top performers aside, Brown and Kopitar haven’t matched their levels of production from the regular season or from last spring’s ascent towards the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.
Defensively, there is no concern. For what these statistics are worth, they’re both plus-players, with Brown registering a plus-5 rating through 15 narrowly decided games against elite competition. They remain effective penalty killers that have improved the team’s shorthanded unit’s efficiency from 83.2% in the regular season to 85.7% in the playoffs – while facing teams with impressive penalty killing credentials in St. Louis and San Jose.
Offensively, something just isn’t clicking.
Kopitar averages less than a half a point-per-game in the playoffs, down from his .96 postseason points-per-game mark entering this spring and the .91 points-per-game he has averaged throughout his NHL regular season career.
“I think it’s pretty evident. 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,” Sutter said. “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.”
Though Brown leads all players with 67 hits this postseason, he has produced three goals and four points. He has as many points as Tyler Toffoli, who has appeared in six fewer games.
“I think it’s pretty fair to say as a line we’re collectively in a slump,” Brown said. “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.”
Kopitar also has the constitution that should allow him to rebound from a middling offensive phase.
“We’ve spent a lot of time together talking about stuff and working on stuff and trying to find other areas that he can do differently or do better, but I don’t lose any sleep over Kopi,” Sutter said. “He’s not a guy that takes shortcuts to not do well. He does everything he can to do well. I think he handles that really well. Other than last year, he hasn’t been a guy that’s played much playoffs or had success at playoffs. So you know what? It’s still a great experience for him.”