Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown was named as one of the three finalists for the NHL’s Mark Messier Leadership Award on Monday. Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks and Daniel Alfredsson of the Ottawa Senators were also nominated.
The nomination comes after a year in which the 28-year-old Brown had yet another solid campaign. In 46 games he had 18 goals and 11 assists, and scored eight power play goals for the Kings.
The award nomination is probably also due to the fact that he helped lead the Kings to the Stanley Cup championship last season. Like Sidney Crosby in 2010 with the Pittsburgh Penguins, voters for the Mark Messier Award tend to reward past performances as much as they do present ones, and Brown likely qualifies by that standard. In the playoffs last year, he had 20 points (8 goals, 12 assists) in 20 games, and scored three game winning goals as his team cruised to the first championship in franchise history.
This year’s playoffs haven’t been quite so kind to Brown, however. In nine games, he only has two goals and one assist, with both goals coming on the power play. He has also been very bad in the faceoff circle when the need arises to take draws, winning only 31.2 percent of them in the postseason.
What is working for him, however, is his physical game. He is currently third in the league in the playoffs with 43 hits, and he does have six takeaways. Those numbers are very much in line with what he produced last year, when he averaged over 4.5 hits per game and half a takeaway per contest.
The offensive slump that Brown finds himself in isn’t unique to him. The entire team is having a difficult time in terms of scoring goals in these playoffs, with rare breakouts like the third period of Game 2 against the San Jose Sharks standing in stark contrast to the more frequent bouts of inconsistent tempo and sloppy passing. Those failings have had a direct impact on Brown’s production, due to his status as a net crasher who thrives on rebound opportunities, and yet those haven’t been coming very much in the nine games the Kings have played.
So how does Brown go about reversing this trend and starting to produce offensively again? For starters, he is going to need to continue to do what he is doing in terms of taking shots. He has 22 shots so far in these playoffs, which means that he is doing his part to use his deceptive speed to try to create opportunities for his teammates, but he has been taking them from lower-percentage areas of the ice.
What that means is that Brown needs to start getting to the front of the net more, as opposed to bringing the puck into the zone himself and trying to create an opportunity from the area outside the circles in the offensive zone. Allowing a teammate to bring the puck in will give Brown an opportunity to muscle his way through the San Jose defense and towards the front of the net, where his quick hands and ability to screen goaltenders can lead to more scoring chances for the Kings.
If Brown can get back to doing the little things that he does so well, then he is going to start finding more success, and it can’t come soon enough for a Kings team that needs to get more offensive production from its key players.
-The Kings haven’t gotten much positive news on the injury front. Kyle Clifford, who has missed the last four games for the team, did practice on Sunday, but there’s no update as to whether or not he will be able to play on Tuesday night.
In addition, Jarret Stoll is still suffering from his injuries suffered at the hands of Sharks forward Raffi Torres, who was suspended for his high hit on Stoll in Game 1 of the series. Stoll has not practiced since the injury, so his status for Game 4 has to be considered doubtful.
-On the Sharks side of things, they will be without Martin Havlat once again, who tried to come back in Game 3 of the series but left in pretty short order after suffering another lower body injury.
The Sharks will have Logan Couture in Game 4, however. He suffered an injury in the second period of Game 3, but came back later in the contest and ultimately potted the game winning goal for the Sharks in overtime.