May 14, 2012
Snapshots: Brown continues playoff dominance
By RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency
Five years ago, upon his return to the Calgary Flames via a mid-season trade with the Los Angeles Kings, Craig Conroy said to watch for Dustin Brown in the future.
Even the affable Conroy couldn't imagine his former teammate would turn out to be this dominating during the playoffs.
During the 2006-07 NHL season, the Kings were on their way to three consecutive years near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, with Anze Kopitar their great hope of the future.
Kopitar has become the big, scoring centre all clubs are looking for, but Brown is undoubtedly the leader, and has proven it this spring.
The soft-spoken, hard-hitting winger has been a force throughout the playoffs and continued that trend yet again with his performance to lead the Kings to their 4-2 victory in Sunday's Western Conference final series opener.
Anybody caught off-guard by the pundits who said before the game that Brown is a good bet to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs sure got to see early why it's not a bold proclamation.
On his first shift, Brown created a scoring chance for himself. He set up Kopitar's goal on his next shift.
On top of being a huge force all game, the 27-year-old right winger from Ithaca, N.Y., scored the go-ahead game-winning goal.
To top it off, Brown stepped into the faceoff circle with 1:46 left and won a big draw.
Drop of the puck
Don't for a second think there is no rivalry between Phoenix and Los Angeles. Sure, they haven't met in the NHL playoffs, but sports fans in Arizona's biggest city don't like clubs from La La Land, as witnessed when the NBA Phoenix Suns face the L.A. Lakers. It's more of that little brother thing, but the chants of "Beat L.A." started at the rink in Glendale, Ariz., moments after the Coyotes vanquished the Nashville Predators in the second round ... The most interesting part of TSN's pre-game show was Jamie McLennan's breakdown of the goaltenders. There are similarities between the Mike Smith of the Coyotes and Jonathan Quick of the Kings, but it was interesting to see how Smith is a more patient netminder, who plays a little deeper in his crease. Good on the affable McLennan to admit he couldn't have posted the kind of results this series' goalies have in their club's defence-first system. "These guys have to make the save. Their high quality chances are limited by the system, but they make the timely saves," McLennan said.
Off the Glass
Not having Adrian Aucoin in the lineup is a bit of a blow to the Coyotes, but that team's defence corps is amazingly balanced. Going into the game, the seven blueliners who have suited up for the Coyotes in these playoffs ranged in average icetime from 26:04 for Oliver Ekman-Larsson to the 17:17 David Schlemko had in his three outings ... Scary to think it was Mother's Day when the Boston Bruins clinched the Stanley Cup in 1970. Now, we're just starting the second half of the playoff marathon.
In the corners
The first Kings goal is a perfect example of the danger of a team which plays passive in its zone and blocks shots. Ekman-Larsson screened Smith, while Kopitar lifted that backhand for the series-opener ... Anybody who has watched Darryl Sutter-coached teams in the past shouldn't be surprised to see the way the Kings came out of the blocks. Sure, the former Flames GM/head coach may be known for tough-love approach, but his teams are notorious for exploding out of the blocks. The result was the 8-0 edge in shots and 1-0 lead through nearly seven minutes ... Can't help but wonder whether Martin Hanzal's dive to earn the Coyotes their first powerplay of the game bites his team in the end. When officials see that kind of a flop on the replay, they have to be a little choked and shouldn't give those players, or their teammates, the benefit of the doubt in the future.
In the crease
So who had the first Coyotes goal coming off the stick of Derek Morris and from centre ice? His hopper of a slapshot to make it a 1-1 game was reminiscent of the long goal Nicklas Lidstrom scored on Vancouver Canucks' Dany Cloutier year's ago ... Love that cheeky Kings twitter account: "Thankfully they don't have three-pointers in the NHL" was the statement after the Morris goal ... Shots on goal just before the Coyotes tied the game was 13-4 for the Kings. It's not the first time the Coyotes have been out-shot by a huge margin ... Love the tweet courtesy of Mike Modano after watching all the skaters who play goalie: "Jesus now they'll be drafting guys who can only block shots..!" ... Good on TSN's Ray Ferraro for letting fans know Kings forward Justin Williams was telling Smith they were going to keep bumping him and Smith telling them to bring it on. That's the beauty of a colour commentator being between benches.
Makes you go Hmmm
Yeah, it's impressive the Coyotes went into the game having been out-shot in nine of their first 11 outings of the playoffs while still posting a 7-2 record. Still, it's hard to imagine a team can counter-punch to get so many wins ... The Kings are now 9-1 in the playoffs, with six of those wins on the road.