Anze Kopitar's continued brilliance is leading the Kings to the Stanley Cup

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Anze Kopitar hasn't scored a goal in nine games, and he has just five throughout the entire playoffs. But his work with Marian Gaborik, and his shutdown of the Rangers' top guns, has been enough to push the Kings within two wins of the Cup.

SB Nation 2014 NHL Playoff Bracket

On any given night, the best player in the National Hockey League can change, or so at least it would seem in the eyes of many.

Sidney Crosby (the actual best player on earth), was surpassed by Jonathan Toews, who was then surpassed by Drew Doughty (at least in the eyes of one). Rankings are arbitrary, and can become fickle when players and their teams are eliminated in the postseason. Here's one example of just how crazy this stuff gets this time of year.

Anze Kopitar typically isn't included in this conversation, and that's for any number of reasons, perhaps primarily that he plays on the West Coast. He may not be "the best player in the league." He may not be the best player on the Kings some nights. But what's undeniable is there aren't many better than Kopitar, and his play through two Stanley Cup Final games and this entire playoffs is pretty good evidence.

As was the case when the Kings eliminated the Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final, Darryl Sutter has tasked Kopitar with going up against the opposing team's top unit of the Rangers. And why not? Kopitar is a Selke finalist and a possession juggernaut, posting a 6 percent Corsi Rel during the regular season on a fantastic possession team.

There's another curious aspect of how many evaluate Kopitar's play: he leads the Kings and the entire league in playoff scoring, yet Kopitar hasn't scored a goal since Game 7 of the Kings second round series against Anaheim. That's a nine-game stretch, and naturally questions have arisen of "Why isn't Anze Kopitar scoring goals?"

The answer if you choose to provide one for such a one-dimensional question is simple: Kopitar is too busy influencing the game in other ways. He's recorded six assists over that nine-game span, including a secondary helper on the Game 2 winner Saturday night.

Shutting down New York's top guns

In Game 1 against New York, Kopitar wasn't on the ice for a 5v5 shot against. That's not just luck at play, but a good deal of defensive skill and precision. Saturday night in Game 2, those numbers weren't as sparkling, as even strength shots when Kopitar was on the ice were an even 13-13. It wasn't a banner game for the Kings' top center, but it's hard to remember that when the puck was on his stick moments before the double overtime winning goal.

Overwhelmingly, though, through two games and 155:02 of play, Kopitar has worked diligently to keep Rick Nash, Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider off the scoresheet. The latter two picked up their first points respectively — each assists — on a power play goal, while Kopitar and his line have still held Stepan's line scoreless at even strength.

The Rangers came closer Saturday night, as Nash registered eight shots on goal and 10 shot attempts, and Kreider nearly ended the game when he hit the post in the first overtime, but it was still Kopitar and the Kings who came out on top of the matchup.

Teaming up with Gaborik

Kopitar's most impressive postseason feat may be the reenergizing Marian Gaborik. The trade deadline acquisition leads all players in the playoffs with 13 goals, while nine of those goals have been assisted by Kopitar. Two were unassisted. Considering how well Kopitar controls the puck and drives play toward the offensive end of the ice, it wouldn't be shocking to look at the Gaborik goals he didn't have a direct hand in and find some contribution away from the puck that led to the goal.

Stanley Cup Final

Enumerating his skills and contributions isn't as simple as reading a scoresheet, which is also why constantly ranking and re-ranking players on a "best" list is a futile exercise. (Mostly, again, because anyone not named Crosby is the incorrect answer.) Kopitar's team is still fighting for a Cup, the single most important factor to him right now. Of course he's trending up because on any given night, there's now only 35 other skaters playing in the entire league, all of whom he's better than.

If the Kings can beat the Rangers twice more, Kopitar will have more Cups than that aforementioned Crosby, the same number as Toews, and more than guys like Peter Stastny, Marcel Dionne and Brad Park.

But that's all hosh posh. Individual and team success aren't mutually exclusive, but there's so much more to the story. Kopitar obviously plays a large role in the Kings' success, while the lack of success of other teams shouldn't devalue the individual contributions of some.

At the end of the day, Kopitar is a top player in this league, which is more than good enough for the Kings and should be more than good enough for everyone else.

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