When he was traded to Los Angeles on March 5, some thought Marian Gaborik would immediately gel with Anze Kopitar. I thought maybe those people got Gaborik's native Slovakia and Kopitar's native Slovenia mixed up. After all, aside from sounding similar, the flags of both countries, aside from their respective crests, do look fairly identical to the untrained eye Nevertheless, Gaborik and Kopitar were supposed to have chemistry right off the bat. I still don't know how some thought this would happen but whatever the case may be, they were right.
After averaging just under 77 games in his first three seasons in the NHL, Marian Gaborik ran into some bad luck on the injury front. In his remaining 13 seasons, Gaborik eclipsed the 70-game mark just three times, including participating in all 82 games with the New York Rangers in 2011-12. It is, to date, the only time the Slovakian has played in every regular-season game.
On the upside, in his 791 games before being traded to Los Angeles, Gaborik collected 688 points - 0.87 per contest. After all, when all (Kings GM) Dean Lombardi traded to Columbus (Gaborik's old team) a pair of conditional draft picks and the underwhelming Matt Frattin, how could anyone in Los Angeles not have been excited about Gaborik's arrival?
As for Anze Kopitar, despite leading the Kings in scoring for so many years, he was still lacking a linemate who could consistently complement his offensive game. But when Gaborik came along, No. 11 seemed to have found a new level to his already-impressive game.
In the 19 games he played in a Kings uniform in the regular season, Marian Gaborik scored five times, adding 11 assists while amassing a +7 rating in addition to averaging 17:41 of ice time per outing. Kopitar, meanwhile, benefited from the addition of his new teammate, scoring 10 goals and eight assists in 19 games to close out the regular season. But as impressive as that final stretch was for the duo, things only got better in the playoffs. While their first two games against San Jose were uneventful, Kopitar and Gaborik picked up the pace with a vengeance.
While Anze Kopitar recorded assists in each of the first two games of the San Jose series, Marian Gaborik was left off the scoresheet on both occasions. But Gaborik did score in Game 3 and while it was in a losing effort, both Kopitar and Gaborik, in addition to the rest of the Los Angeles Kings, took off.
Through nine games in these playoffs, Kopitar leads the Kings (and the league) with 14 points while Gaborik is second on the team (and seventh overall) with nine points. But it's Gaborik who leads the Kings (and the league) in goals with six while Kopitar is second on the team (and tied for fourth overall) with four. Whichever way you want to look at it, Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik are arguably the most dangerous duo in these playoffs, hence why I like to compare them to Quentin Tarantino's lethal duo of Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield, played by John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson respectively in the 1995 cult class Pulp Fiction.
I sincerely hope Kopitar and Gaborik don't resort to what Vega and Winnfield had to but the Kings' current six-game winning streak is largely attributed to the play of the Slovakian and Slovenian - and that makes them all the more dangerous when they're on the ice together. Even captain Dustin Brown has benefited from sharing a line with the duo, elevating not only his offensive game but his physical play, too.
If there is a positive side to being anxious, I feel it for Kopitar and Gaborik who only seem to be getting better with each passing period. What they will have store on Thursday night when the Los Angeles Kings host the Anaheim Ducks for Game 3 of their West Semi-Final series obviously remains to be seen but it is exciting nonetheless to think about what the duo is capable of given what they have already showcased thus far.
Like the flag of the United States, those of Slovakia and Slovenia are covered in red, white and blue. To most, said trio of colors represents freedom and for the natives of Slovakia and Slovenia respectively, they have given themselves the freedom to score at will this spring. And like Vega and Winnfield, Kopitar and Gaborik have given themselves the freedom to blow everyone away (although, thankfully, not in the same way).
These days, Los Angeles belongs to Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik, and unless the Anaheim Ducks have something to say about it, that will not change anytime soon.