Toews and Kopitar do it all for Blackhawks and Kings

Kings' Anze Kopitar controls the puck against Jonathan Toews during Game 1. The two stars will be...

Kings' Anze Kopitar controls the puck against Jonathan Toews during Game 1. The two stars will be back at each other tonight. (AFP)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:28 PM ET

CHICAGO - High octane offence is great in the regular season, it sells tickets and brings people out of their seats, but playing both ends of the ice is what gets it done in the playoffs.

So it’s no coincidence that a battle between the two best teams in the NHL features a battle between the two most complete players in the game.

Jonathan Toews and Anze Kopitar can deliver the thrills when they need to, but goals and assists are only a fraction of what makes them so valuable to the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings.

And their head-to-head match-up in the Western Conference final, that resumes with Game 2 on Wednesday, is going to be an epic game-within-the-game that might just decide the series.

“The best way to explain Kopi is he’s just a complete hockey player,” said Kings captain Dustin Brown. “If the best play is to shoot, he’s generally shooting. If the best play is to pass he’s passing.

“And there are things he does that you just can’t teach. All those top players, there’s a reason they’re top players. They do things you can’t teach.”

Toews is one of those top players Brown is talking about and still admits Kopitar is a serious handful.

“He’s not easy to play against,” said the two-time Cup champion, who held Kopitar pointless in Game 1. “He’s good on draws, he’s tough to defend, he’s big and strong and protects the puck well and he’s got good vision.

“He knows where to find his linemates, even if he’s got his back to the play. The best way to really play defence against him is to try and keep him in his own zone, but easier said than done.”

Asked if he enjoys the challenge, Toews simply shrugged and said: “Someone’s got to do it.”

And if you’re Chicago, Captain Serious is the guy you want in charge of the job.

Jonathan Toews,” said Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter. “He is the best two‑way player in the National Hockey League.”

Nobody knows this more than the team he helped eliminate in last year’s conference final.

“Offensively he’s obviously a really good player,” added Kings defence man Drew Doughty. “And I think he has more heart than a lot of players and that’s what separates him. Skill wise he’s got it all.

“Kopi has to win that battle if we want to win the series. There are so many other battles, entire team, goalie vs. goalie, but obviously we have to pay special attention to Toews, he’s their leader, probably their best player. We need Kopi’s line to outplay that line.”

But if anyone is up for staring down Toews at both ends of the ice, Doughty says it’s Kopitar.

“He’s one of the top five defensive centres in the league,” said Doughty. “Kopi does it all for us. When we need to win a series and we need to win big games he’s one of the guys we look upon to do it.”

Maybe that’s why more Selke nominees have appeared in the final four over the last decade than Hart Trophy nominees.


“They play the full 200-foot game, every situation,” said Kings centre Jarret Stoll. “They’re on penalty kill, they’re blocking shots. The Hart Trophy guys are usually in the top five in scoring, that’s great, it helps win games, too, but putting the whole package together helps the overall team game and the overall team game is what wins in the playoffs.”

It takes a willingness to be that kind of player, though.

“A lot of guys don’t want to come back and play below the goal line and battle and make plays and take hits,” said Stoll. “And then have to drive the net at the other end and make plays on that side of the puck, too.”

Toews does it for one simple reason: “It just came from being a competitive player and just wanting to win games at whatever cost.”

GET OUT, KINGS!

With a major shortage of hotel rooms in Chicago this week, the Kings actually had to check out of their original digs and split into two separate locations after Game 1 — players in one, suits and trainers in the other.

It’s not the first time they’ve been rousted by a convention. Last year a Star Trek gathering had them packing up and moving in mid-series, too.

“That was in my age group,” grinned head coach Darryl Sutter, one of the few people in his dressing room who remembers the original series. “A lot of our players didn’t know who all those guys walking around in blue-and-gold tights were.

“That’s what happens in the playoffs. You don’t know your schedule, especially with the city being so busy and conventions going on. We talked about it before we got here; we knew we were changing hotels.

“We’re not a team that’s bothered by it.”


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