Following the Los Angeles Kings’ season-ending loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals, news broke that injuries had limited the effectiveness of some of Los Angeles’ top players. According to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com, Dustin Brown was playing with a torn PCL, while Justin Williams had suffered a separated shoulder in the second round against the San Jose Sharks. Lisa Dillman of the LA Times also reported that Drew Doughty’s ankle wasn’t exactly at 100%.

One player that wasn’t battling a significant injury was Anze Kopitar, whose tepid offensive production raised not only eyebrows but also questions over whether the star center was hobbled by something more serious than the aftermath of a knee sprain suffered during a game in Sweden shortly before the end of the lockout.

“I guess I’m getting back to no discomfort and good strength in my knee and should be fine,” said Kopitar, who plans to shed the knee brace that he used during the season. “And [in regards to] being injured during this playoffs, there was really no significant injury that I suffered. It’s normal being just banged up a little bit – a few bumps and bruises, but that’s about it.”

It wasn’t injury that limited the output of Kopitar, who scored once in Game 5 and totaled three goals over his final 34 games. It was simply an ill-timed slump that the burgeoning star center faced as his league-wide recognition grew courtesy of a breakthrough performance during a Stanley Cup run the season prior.

“This kid came out of nowhere. He’s on the west coast here, and until he scored that goal against St. Louis coming across, people didn’t know who he was. Heck, maybe the other teams didn’t even know who he was,” General Manager Dean Lombardi said. “But this year, one of the byproducts of him and Doughty and Quick, they get circled. Hey, now you’re going to draw the toughest assignments. You’re going to draw Pietrangelo and Bouwmeester on the back end. So just like the team faced different challenges, individuals faced different challenges. Yeah, it was harder on him, just like it was harder on the team.”

The challenge was one that wore on Kopitar, who appeared playoff-weary but not particularly dejected or ornery during the team’s postseason run.

“I think any guy will tell you that you feel a little down,” he said. “Obviously you’re working hard and the results are not coming and it gets a little bit frustrating. I think the competitive guy that I am, I want to perform every night, and it just wasn’t going. Yeah, feeling down was part of that…Again, I’m pretty sure that it’s not lack of caring or not trying. In fact, sometimes you try even harder and it backfires on you. Maybe that was the case. Again, for me it’s a matter of evaluating things like that and learning from this and for the future trying to get rid of those slumps and definitely not drag them on too long.”

Kopitar, whose defensive and neutral zone traits hardly wavered in his period of diminished offensive output, will turn 26 this off-season. In the maturation of a player who continues to grow alongside a young and prime-approaching core, there are still obstacles to overcome in the quest to reach a collective ceiling, which is remarkably high considering the character and resolve in the room, according to Lombardi.

“This kid is like Drew and so many others. He is far from having maximized his potential, and like I said about every one of those kids, yeah, some of them are going to take a little longer to figure it out,” Lombardi said. “But deep down, they’re a great group of kids. They care about each other, and deep down they’re all competitors. And I have no doubt he’s going to figure out. He just had a different challenge that he never experienced before in his career, and I’ve got the utmost faith [that he’ll think] ‘I realize what this is all about, and if I’m going to be a top, top player in this league a long time, that goes with the turf.’ And they’ve got two things going for them. This group – I’ve been around a while, and people underestimate this, but in this day and age, we all see it with all these sports. We’ve got all the drama and everything else. When you have 20 guys who give a damn about each other and are competitors, you’ve really got something special. That’s what these guys are. Kopi knows not only does he want to do it, but I know he also wants to do it for the guy sitting next to him, and I think that goes for all of them.”

Rules for Blog Commenting
  • - No profanity, slurs or other offensive language. Replacing letters with symbols does not turn expletives into non-expletives.
  • - Personal attacks against other blog commenters, and/or blatant attempts to antagonize other commenters, are not tolerated. Respectful disagreement is encouraged. Posts that continually express the same singular opinion will be deleted.
  • - Comments that incite political, religious or similar debates will be deleted.
  • - Please do not discuss, or post links to, websites that illegally stream NHL games.
  • - Posting under multiple user names is not allowed. Do not type in all caps. All violations are subject to comment deletion and/or banning of commenters, per the discretion of the blog administrator.
Alec martinez

#27 | 6′ 1″ | 210 lb | Age: 29

Born: July 26, 1987
Birthplace: Rochester Hills, MI, USA
Position: D
Handedness: Left

Bio

Bio: Martinez was drafted by the LA Kings in the 2007 Draft, while playing for Miami University. He has since become a two-time Stanley Cup champion and the 17th man in Stanley Cup playoff history to score the Cup-winning goal in overtime.

VIEW ALEC MARTINEZ POSTS
Anze Kopitar

#11 | 6′ 3″ | 224 lb | Age: 29

Born: August 24, 1987
Birthplace: Jesenice, SVN
Position: C
Handedness: Left

Bio

As the 11th overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Kopitar became the first Slovenian to play in the NHL. Kopitar has spent his entire NHL career with the Kings, and following the 2015–16 season, was named the Kings’ captain. Noted for both his offensive and defensive play, Kopitar was awarded the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the NHL in 2016.

VIEW ANZE KOPITAR POSTS
Drew Doughty

#8 | 6′ 1″ | 195 lb | Age: 26

Born: December 8, 1989
Birthplace: London, ON, CAN
Position: D
Handedness: Right

Bio

Bio: Doughty is a Canadian defenceman who was selected second overall by the Kings in the 2008 Draft. Doughty made his NHL debut in 2008 as an 18-year-old and was named to the All-Rookie Team. He is a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Kings, a two-time Olympic gold medallist with the Canadian national team, and a Norris Trophy finalist.

VIEW DREW DOUGHTY POSTS
Tyler Toffoli

#73 | 6′ 1″ | 200 lb | Age: 24

Born: April 24, 1992
Birthplace: Scarborough, ON, CAN
Position: C
Handedness: Right

Bio

Toffoli is a Canadian professional ice hockey forward, drafted by the Kings in the second round of the 2010 Draft. Toffoli scored his first career NHL goal in his second game in a 4–0 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes in 2013. He was also named the 2012–13 AHL All-Rookie Team.
VIEW TYLER TOFFOLI POSTS

Jeff Carter

#77 | 6′ 4″ | 215 lb | Age: 31

Born: January 1, 1985
Birthplace: London, ON, CAN
Position: C
Handedness: Right

Bio

Carter began his hockey career playing in the Ontario Hockey League in Canada before joining the AHL and playing for the Philadelphia Flyers. He was then traded to the Colombus Blue jackets before joining the LA Kings in 2012, where he has since won two Stanley Cups with the Kings.

VIEW JEFF CARTER POSTS
Jonathan Quick

#32 | 6′ 1″ | 218 lb | Age: 30

Born: January 21, 1986
Birthplace: Milford, CT, USA
Position: G
Handedness: Left

Bio

Bio: Quick is the current goaltender for the LA Kings and was selected by Los Angeles at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Previously, Quick was a silver medalist with USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics. He’s won two Stanley Cup championships with the Kings, along with being the most recent goaltender to be awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.

VIEW JONATHAN QUICK POSTS