As training camp opened last September, Kings captain Dustin Brown and teammate Justin Williams joked about how then-coach Terry Murray would probably be interchanging them quite a bit as right wingers on the first and second lines. What he didn’t see coming was a move to the left side for most of the second half this season.
Regardless, one thing was clear back then, Brown didn’t buy into the theory that he lacked any sort of chemistry with Anze Koptiar – something he discussed in an article here. Playing along side the Kings top center most of this year, he’s likely silenced any of those lingering doubters by putting together a solid statistical season, one in which he’s lead the team in goals at various points and will likely finished with a new career high in assists.
“There was a maybe a stretch – last year or two years ago – where it was very similar. From a stats perspective, we were all producing with goals and assists,” said Brown, when asked if the last month has been the most in-sync he’s felt with Kopitar. “What’s been interesting over the last 10 games or so is that we’re all contributing. It’s not Kopi getting all the assists and me or Stick (Williams) getting all the goals. On different nights guys are scoring big goals for our line. When you have that, it’s hard to defend three guys who are all feeling their game and able to make plays.”
The entire team has been scoring for that matter. Since the late-February trade for Jeff Carter, the Kings have averaged 3.36 goals per game – a far cry from when they were last in the league in offense. Coach Darryl Sutter attributes part of that to a change in their mindset, saying the team had a really bad habit of trying to pass the puck into the net previously, especially on the power play.
“It’s about getting into the scoring areas,” Brown explained. “I think we’re doing a lot better job of getting in front of the net and taking shots from the middle of the ice, as opposed to the outsides. In turn, you’ve seen our goal scoring go up – and some personnel changes, with Jeff coming in has definitely had a trickle-down effect on the rest of the team. I think if you look at some of the goals we’ve been getting, it’s because we’re just shooting the puck and getting to the net. Coaches always talk about these stats in the league, like certain percentages for ‘rebound goals’ – and lately, when we’ve been scoring four or five goals, a lot of them have been rebound goals.”
Brown himself has been especially hot since the trade, with 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) and a career-high 10-game points streak. Were those numbers giving him a little extra motivation lately?
“You don’t need any extra motivation. Ultimately, it’s about just two points. I couldn’t care less actually. The last couple of years I haven’t had nearly as many points and we’ve been in the playoffs. So, that’s fine. Same thing this year, the main focus for me is getting this team into the playoffs. Some nights, that means scoring big goals, some nights that’s not getting any points but contributing in other ways. Regardless of my personal situation, it’s about winning.”
And the Kings have been doing that too, tying their season high four game win streak with a victory over Nashville on Saturday night. Next up, the always tough San Jose Sharks. We’ll take a deeper look at that game tomorrow.