Center Anze Kopitar could do no wrong in the eyes of SAC' fans from the moment he scooted around the Ducks' Chris Pronger as if the 6-foot-6 defenseman were a black-and-orange pylon, then curled in front of the net and flicked the puck in for a goal.
Yet, on Saturday night, Kopitar did something wrong behind the net.
Calgary's Todd Bertuzzi had the puck there with time running out and the score 3-3. Kopitar, with one hand on his stick, rushed Bertuzzi and gave a weak bump. Bertuzzi easily brushed him away and then slid a pass to Daymond Langkow for the game-winning goal.
"There has to be more dig in there," SAC Coach Terry Murray said. "That's the stuff that good teams do: getting a stick on the puck, two hands on the stick, really playing aggressive in one-on-one situation."
From wunderkind to wonders-what-to-do in two seasons? Well, not really. But Saturday was another reminder that a kid will be a kid.
Kopitar, 21, has grown a lot since that rookie season. The SAC, though, need him to be three years older.
"He is really leading the way with his intensity," Murray said. "Part of the issue I've talked with Kopie about is the length of his shifts. I think it's very, very hard to overextend yourself and come back three shifts later and play at the same high tempo. He has to keep it short, get off the ice and keep things intense."
Teams, though, are applying that pressure to limit Kopitar's space. As a result, Kopitar's line has not produced as many goals as anticipated thus far this season.
He had 20 goals and 61 points as a rookie and led the SAC with 32 goals and 77 points last season. But through the first 10 games, he has only one goal and six assists.
While Kopitar's play has been solid enough, Murray would like to see more.
"He has the size and strength, and the skating ability," Murray said. "But he needs to push himself emotionally and mentally. That is something that is a learned skill and all players in NHL have to figure out. I need him to be harder on himself and to play more demanding on the physical side of things."
At 6-foot-3, 219 pounds, Kopitar has the size. He also appears to have the will. It's just those pesky opposing players are making it difficult, and Kopitar has yet to completely acquire the NHL savvy to deal with it.
"We faced the best checkers every night," Kopitar said. "It's hard, but that's what it is. Teams focused on us. We take that as a compliment. We had to be doing something right. You just got to go out and play hard. Everybody is human."