Kings captain Dustin Brown has told the story before, and he related it again Friday. He grew up in Ithaca, N.Y., and just to be different, just to annoy family and friends, he didn’t root for the New York Rangers like everyone else in his upstate town. He was a fan of the Vancouver Canucks when the team faced off against the Rangers in the 1994 Stanley Cup Final. He also said he rooted for the Quebec Nordiques, which he said he couldn’t explain beyond admiring the play of Peter Forsberg and Joe Sakic before the franchise relocated to Denver and began the Colorado Avalanche before the 1995-96 season.
“Everyone was a Rangers fan in upstate New York, so I tended not to like the Rangers just to be different,” Brown said, smiling. “I started liking Vancouver because they played them in ’94. I liked the Quebec Nordiques for some reason.”
The Rangers eliminated the Montreal Canadiens in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals Thursday, a game Brown said he didn’t watch on TV because he had other commitments. New York’s trip to the Stanley Cup Final will be its first since Brown rooted against them in the ’94 Final, when they defeated the Canucks for their first Stanley Cup championship since 1940.
By now you probably know that Jake Muzzin, Marian Gaborik and Dustin Brown scored to give the Kings a 3-0 lead by the end of the first period as they roared to a 5-2 victory Monday over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals. Muzzin and Brown scored on the power play.
What you might not know is that the Kings’ power play improved to 16 for 56 (28.6 percent) over the last 16 playoff games, dating to Game 3 of their first-round victory over the San Jose Sharks. The Kings’ power play clicked at a meager 15.1 percent during the regular season, 27th-best in the NHL.
“We’re trying to simplify it a little bit,” Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said of the rejuvenated power play. “We’re just trying to get pucks up to the D-men, trying to get shots that way. My mentality on the first one, just kind of get a shot off, a one-timer, no matter what it was. If it hits the guy, it hits the guy. Just want to get that in their heads, that we’re going to be shooting pucks. The more you shoot, the more other things open up. We took advantage of those things.”
The Kings are 3-3 at Staples Center going into Game 3 of the Western Conference finals against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday. They also are 6-4 on the road after winning Game 2 of the best-of-7 series Wednesday in Chicago. The Kings eliminated the Sharks in Game 7 in San Jose in the first round and then did the same to the Ducks in Anaheim in the second.
“It’s always nice to play at home and have home-ice advantage, but one thing about it: we’re comfortable on the road and I think if you’re not comfortable on the road you’re probably not playing at this time of the year,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said of the road-ice advantage so far in the playoffs. It’s one of those things that comes into play, but at the end of the day, at this time of the year, it’s about finding a way. Home and road, we haven’t been very good at home and that’s going to be a challenge for us, to have that same focus at home.”
Jill Painter will have much more on this subject in her column for the Los Angeles News Group, but here’s what two of Drew Doughty’s Kings teammates are saying about him in comparison to the now-retired Nicklas Lidstrom of Detroit:
Kings center Anze Kopitar (after a 6-2 victory in Game 2 on Wednesday’s: “I’ve been saying this for a couple of years now, but he’s our Nick Lidstrom. We all know what he did in Detroit for many, many years. I think Drew likes the big stage. He likes these types of games. He gets very emotional. He just brings his game to the next level at this time of the year and in these types of games.”
Kings captain Dustin Brown (after Friday’s practice): “I can’t speak for ‘Kopi’, but the way I look at that is Drew has a long way to go to be a Nick Lidstrom. But I think he has the impact on our team comparable to the impact that Lidstrom had on Detroit. Their skill sets are similar but I think Drew has a long way to go to be that player. But his impact on our team has a similar effect. I think there’s been a big growth spurt from him from that (leadership) standpoint in the last year and half. Just being more vocal and saying certain things at the right time. … He’s kind of coming into his own as an off-ice kind of guy with his personality and the way he’s matured. He’s getting to that time where he’s taken more of a role.”
OK, here’s what’s coming up next in this Kings-Ducks series:
Game 7 is Friday at 6 p.m. at the Honda Center. Friday’s winner advances to play the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference finals. Game 1 is at noon Sunday. If the Ducks win, they will play host to the Blackhawks. If the Kings win, they will travel to Chicago.
“I think it’s good for this area,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said of the series going the distance. “There’s a lot of excitement and probably a lot of nervous people. Neither team wants a Game 7, but from a fan’s perspective and a Southern California perspective, it’s probably good for the growth of the game.”
The Kings beat the Ducks 3-1 in Game 2 to take a two-games-to-none lead in the best-of-7 series. The Ducks outshot the Kings 37-17 and played most of the final two periods in their end of the rink. How did the Kings win? Kings captain Dustin Brown knows, and it’s nothing he hasn’t seen before Monday night,.
“We found a way to squeak one out because we have the best goalie in the world in our goal,” Brown said. “They had the better chances, more chances, more opportunities. Jonathan Quick just finds ways to make saves. They were all over us, especially in the second and we found a way to win because of Jonathan Quick.”
So, now you know.
For all their recent playoff experience, the Kings’ track record in Game 7s is rather limited. Defenseman Robyn Regehr has played in the most Game 7s with five listed on his resume. Several other key players, including center Anze Kopitar, team captain Dustin Brown, center Jarret Stoll and goaltender Jonathan Quick, have played in only one winner-take-all game.
The Kings’ Game 7 experience is rather thin as a franchise, too. They have played in only eight Game 7s in their history, winning four and losing four. They won their most recent Game 7, taking a 2-1 victory from the San Jose Sharks in the decisive game of their second-round series last spring. The Kings and Sharks face off again in Game 7 of their first-round series on Wednesday in San Jose’s SAP Center.
The opening faceoff is at 7 p.m.
Kings captain Dustin Brown was named one of three finalists Tuesday for the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award, which is presented “to the player who exemplifies great leadership qualities to his team, on and off the ice, during the regular season. Mark Messier solicits suggests from team and league personnel as well as NHL fans to compile a list of candidates. The selection of the three finalists and the winner are his alone. The winner will be announced June 24.
Ryan Getzlaf of the Ducks and Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks are the other finalists.
Brown, a Messier Award finalist for the third time, was singled out for his charitable work with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and also KaBoom!, which built a playground in Carson that’s visited by more than 100 kids per day.
Here’s Kings captain Dustin Brown’s reaction to the Stanley Cup playoff-clinching victory Wednesday over the Phoenix Coyotes: “With the evolution of this team, maybe four or five years ago, this was a big deal. Now, it’s just part of the process. It’s good to get it out of the way and get our game going. There’s nothing to celebrate about making the playoffs. It’s not a goal, it’s an expectation.”
The usually empty Kings’ dressing room was emptier than usual after their 4-0 rout of the Coyotes sent them to the postseason for the fifth consecutive season. Brown was the only player at his locker stall when reporters were granted access to the dressing room. Alec Martinez was later summoned from the off-limits area and he spoke along the same lines as Brown, saying it was a bigger deal to play well.
Dustin Brown played only 7 minutes, 12 seconds in the Kings’ 4-0 rout of the Florida Panthers on Saturday at Staples Center. He didn’t play at all in the third period after suffering a chest contusion in the second. Brown’s status for the Kings’ trip to Philadelphia, Washington and Pittsburgh was uncertain. The team departed for Philly immediately after the game and is scheduled to practice there Sunday. The Kings play the Flyers on Monday.
Brown, who sat out two games recently because of a lower-body injury, played only 4:05 in the first period against the Panthers. He scored a second-period goal and then headed to the dressing room after he was injured. He did not re-appear on the bench and the team said he suffered an upper-body injury and would not return.