Leading into the playoff series between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Los Angeles Kings, surprisingly little talk was centered on the matchup between Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Toews. Many assumed that both players — generally held to be two of the top three or four two-way centers in the NHL — would simply cancel out, and it would be each teams’ respective depth that would really decide the series.
After Game 1, that school of thought would certainly seem to be off base. Toews significantly outplayed Kopitar, and this extended to each of their wingers as well; Marian Hossa and Bryan Bickell were clearly more effective than Marian Gaborik and Dustin Brown. When the two lines were matched up on the ice against one another, Toews and the Blackhawks were almost never caught in their defensive zone (a rarity in a game where Chicago otherwise played terribly).
Kopitar generated very little in the way of offense for the Kings in Game 1, which is a concerning problem for a team which has come to rely exceptionally heavily on him and Gaborik to put up points. This is hardly a new development; he was bottled up by Toews in last year’s Western Conference Finals as well (although he had been playing badly even before that series).
With the even strength anchor that is Michal Handzus rendering Chicago’s second line entirely useless, the onus was on Toews to dominate. The result was a familiar one for Blackhawks and Kings fans.