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Anze Kopitar’s Improvement In Face-Off Circle Is A Key Factor In LA Kings’ Playoff Success

LA Kings center Anze Kopitar (right), shown here being pursued by
Chicago Blackhawks left wing Patrick Kane.

EL SEGUNDO, CA — One of the reasons the Los Angeles Kings have made it all the way to Game 7 of the 2014 Western Conference Final has been their ability to possess the puck, and as players and coaches will tell you, puck possession begins in the face-off circle.

Kings Center Jarret Stoll has been one of the best in the National Hockey League in the face-off circle since his days with the Edmonton Oilers. But star center Anze Kopitar, now one of the best face-off men in the league, has had to really work on face-offs, a part of his game that was rather deficient when he started out.

In 2006-07, his rookie season, Kopitar won just 46.1 percent of his draws. It took him five seasons before he really improved, jumping up to 53.8 percent in the 2011-12 season, even though his percentage dropped to 48.6 percent during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when the Kings won the Stanley Cup.

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2014 Western Conference Final: LA Kings Need To Shore Up Defense In Game 6, A Must-Win Situation

LA Kings defenseman Drew Doughty
(click above to view larger image
Photo: David Sheehan/FrozenRoyalty.net

EL SEGUNDO, CA — Through three rounds of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Los Angeles Kings have an 11-8 post-season record and their eight losses can be chalked up to, primarily, poor defensive play.

That was also apparent in their 5-4, double overtime loss in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final against the Chicago Blackhawks on May 28, in Chicago.

The Kings lead the series, 3-2, with Game 6 scheduled for tonight at Staples Center in Los Angeles (6:00 PM PDT; televised in the United States on NBCSN, and in Canada on CBC and RDS).

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Game 5 vs. Chicago Is Likely To Be The LA Kings Toughest Challenge Yet During 2014 Playoffs

LA Kings center Anze Kopitar (foreground), shown here being pursued by Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane during Game 4 of the 2014
Western Conference Final at Staples Center in Los Angeles on May 26, 2014.

LOS ANGELES — After the Los Angeles Kings soundly defeated the Chicago Blackhawks, 5-2, in Game 4 of the 2014 Western Conference Final at Staples Center in Los Angeles on May 26, many media, pundits and fans alike declared the Blackhawks dead, and the series over.

The Blackhawks are trailing in the series, 3-1, facing elimination in tonight’s Game 5 in Chicago. But as the saying goes, there’s a reason they play the games, and as the Kings themselves have proven during the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, coming back to win a series after being pushed to the brink of elimination is not impossible.

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Chicago Blackhawks May Not Have An Answer For LA Kings “That 70’s Line”

LA Kings right wing Tyler Toffoli celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal in the second period of his team’s 4-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 of the 2014 Western Conference Finals at Staples Center
in Los Angeles on May 24, 2014.

LOS ANGELES AND EL SEGUNDO, CA — Prior to the start of the 2014 Western Conference Final, much of the talk was about the upcoming battle between two of the top centers in the National Hockey League, Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings, and Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Conventional wisdom dictated that for whichever player won the battle between them, their team would win the series.

So far, the advantage goes to Toews.

Indeed, Kopitar has contributed just one assist in the series so far, and his line mates, left wing Marian Gaborik and forward Dustin Brown, have been held without a point in the series by Toews’ line, with Bryan Bickell and Marian Hossa on the wings.

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