Darryl Sutter on Anze Kopitar

When Darryl Sutter spoke to the media following this morning’s skate, he fielded a pair of questions pertaining to tonight’s game before offering a detailed account of what makes Anze Kopitar the type of player that he is. It was very interesting to hear Sutter dissect Kopitar’s on-and-off-ice qualities and provide an example of when plus-minus is at its most accurate as a statistic.

On reasons behind the statistics that indicate L.A. improves as the game progresses:
“I think first, we need four lines, especially in the schedule the way it is. If you don’t have four lines that can give you eight minutes of even strength, you’re going to have trouble. I think that’s the most important part.”

On what Phoenix possesses that presents a challenge to any team:
“Veteran mobile defense. Other than the kid – who’s a star – their veteran mobile defense.”

On Anze Kopitar:
“He’s the best all-around centerman that I’ve coached, period. Period. Faceoffs, last minute, first minute, penalty killer. Plays against everybody’s top player, whether it’s a defenseman, a center, a checking role or an offensive role. He plays 20-plus minutes. Doesn’t take penalties. It’s the whole deal. He can play it whatever way we want. Do you want to come and get me? Come and get me…He can play it any way we want. And you know what? The best thing about Kopitar is he’s getting better. And when they do the comparisons with guys that are like that, there’s only a handful of them.”

On Kopitar “playing the body”:
“Big guy. The biggest adjustment that he’s made since I’ve been here…is playing that way all the time, and I think the playoffs last year, that stimulated him into seeing the ability to stay with it instead of getting frustrated with anything that’s got to do with numbers. Just to stay with it. He’s a special player.”

On Kopitar “initiating contact”:
“It’s not so much anything to do with initiating. It’s just that when there’s loose pucks, it used to be where he would see what was going to happen out of it. Now he goes and gets it, and then he protects it, which is the biggest part of it. It’s possession…because he wants to play a possession game. But he’s a hard guy to take the puck away from, because he’s so skilled, and he has good size, and then he sees it. He’s got the vision in traffic. We call it ‘expect numbers’, meaning he expects numbers – he expects two or three guys all the time. He’s very gifted at it. If you look, even at the start of the year, hey, he missed two weeks. Say what you want about it, but he missed two weeks. He got to play one game in Colorado, and then it took him like four or five games, and you could just see it, just see where his game was going, right? The other thing about it is he’s a high-plus guy. That one ain’t going to lie when you play as much as [him]. He’s a high-plus player, and…everybody says, ‘well, that stat may or may not be important’. For guys like that that play a lot and play against everybody’s best player, whether they’re high-offense or…checkers, that is a stat that tells you what’s going on. You even look at our center ice position, and guys that are really on and guys that aren’t…we can use our centermen effectively against other teams’ centers just because Kopitar, Richards-slash-Carter, Stoli and then Fras – they fit the role of where they should be. But he still gets most of it when you look at it. Nine times out of 10 he’s your best faceoff guy. He’s the guy you want taking a big faceoff, and that’s the other best part about Kopitar too. The communication during the game and before the game in terms of who, what why, all those things? Spot on. He’s not afraid to turn and tell you, ‘Jeez, do this. You should try this. Do this.’ Or, ‘I can’t get anywhere.’ And you know what? That means they’re special guys. Not every team has guys like that.”

On Kopitar being a “low maintenance” player:
“No, he’s not a high maintenance guy. But the difference – that’s one of the things when I came here, I had get these guys to practice at a level. They were a paced team because of the style they played, and he was the guy that had to make the biggest adjustment, quite honest. So it kind of pulls everybody with him.”

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