Tuesday, March 29, 2011

It's Dustin Brown time

Does the Internet really need yet another blogger/expert/idiot weighing in on Anze Kopitar's injury and how it will impact the Kings' post-season chances?

Did the Internet really need the video of me carving my holiday prime rib? No! But it got it anyway.

So here's my decidedly non-expert take on the Kings: I think the next few weeks will offer a good chance for Kings captain and winger Dustin Brown to transform his game, and for the better.

As many of you know, Brown has earned a reputation for his big-time hits on opponents. Although hits are a meaningless statistic -- and have little to do with actually winning a hockey game -- Brown's checking game has come to define him because big hits are part of the hockey mythology.

The above screen shot from the Kings website neatly sums it up: Dustin Brown smears people. (And sometimes he hits them in the head. The fact that this is being celebrated on the Kings website also might tell you how much individual clubs care about protecting -- or not -- players from head trauma.)

The funny thing about it is that Dustin Brown is also an immensely talented skater, shooter and stickhandler. He hustles. He has heart. He is, by all accounts, a good guy. He didn't end up as team captain by accident.

But one has to wonder what would happen if Brown worried less about "finishing his checks" and worried more about putting said puck into the other team's net (which does win hockey games). After all, Brown has been with the Kings on a full-time basis since 2005 and has just one post-season appearance to show for it.

And one has to wonder why Brown's coaches/enablers have never brought this up. Perhaps it's the same reason they occasionally put Kevin Westgarth on the ice: they like the violence even if said violence doesn't equate to wins. Sure, violent checks are part of the NHL game and sometimes produce turnovers. Just as often, violent checks seem to involve the deliverer of the hit taking himself out of the play.

Right now, the Kings need to keep doing what they do well -- play defense -- and somehow improve or not get any worse at what they don't do well, which is score goals (they currently rank 21ist in the league with 2.64 goals per game). Brown has had a good season, with 52 points, which ranks third on the team -- behind the injured duo of Kopitar and Justin Williams.

So he's the best candidate to step it up scoring-wise. Starting with tonight's game in Edmonton, we'll see if he does.

Caveat: I just captained my beer league team to yet another league playoff loss, due in part to my terrible play. So my head could be up my ass on this one. But I don't think so.


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