June 8, 2012
A battle of wills for weary Cup finalists
By Steve Simmons, QMI Agency
NEWARK, N.J. - Dustin Brown keeps waiting to be a difference-maker in the Stanley Cup final -- the way he was during the earlier rounds of the playoffs.
But it hasn't happened yet for the Los Angeles Kings captain.
He admits to being tired. He admits that almost everyone at this time of year is fighting an ailment. He figures the two teams playing for the Stanley Cup are fatigued enough whereby the final now will come down to a battle of wills.
And then it becomes Brown's kind of game.
"It has been a long playoffs, obviously," said Brown, a Conn Smythe Trophy candidate after the earlier rounds, who is one win away from the NHL championship.
"Emotionally and physically, you're going to be tired. But it's a matter of finding the next gear. I think it's pretty much on even playing ground when you consider fatigue. It's about finding that next gear. The team that finds that will win (Game 5).
"We've been going at this I don't know how many weeks now. The grind, mentally, it's more difficult (than being in the Olympics). It's getting yourself ready to go for multiple games. You have to consider there are guys who play 20 years in the league and have never got this opportunity."
The opportunity is this close for the unlikely Kings. They have played 18 post-season games and won 15 of them. One more win and they take the franchise's first championship.
But that one win won't come easily and Brown, who was been slightly quiet during the final, understands the difference in playing the New Jersey Devils.
"They're the best team we've played so far," Brown said. "They're different than the other teams we've played. All playoffs we've had different players step up at different points. It has been myself in a few games but I've been pretty quiet in the final. It's up to the big players to step up at the big times. So it's an opportunity for guys to have a huge impact in a huge game. You do that and you can impact how a game and series is turned around.
"I'm preparing the same way I've prepared all along. It's just that Jersey does a better job of taking ice away. For a big strong team like ours, they're taking a lot of ice away. It makes it difficult to enter their zone with speed. I just haven't had as much time or space on the ice with the puck. That's not me. That's due to the team we're playing."
Kings coach Darryl Sutter isn't worried about the production of his captain and says Brown is producing in ways other than scoring.
"He's still the physical guy, the hard guy to play against," Sutter said. "I think in the earlier rounds ... he was more of an offensive guy.
"You have to be careful of that because he's a 20-goal scorer who scores big goals. We still need him to do that. We still need him to be a physical guy and a strong guy on the walls. Everybody asks about our captain and those things. But it doesn't change, right? He had an identity. If he plays in that identity, that's what he does for us."