Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown is playing inspired hockey for his team right now, and if he continues to dominate all over the ice, he will accept the Stanley Cup from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman next month as a champion.
Brown is one of the premier power forwards in hockey, and has used his toughness and size to get under his opponent's skin throughout the playoffs.
Per Lisa Dillman of the L.A. Times:
"[Brown] lets his play do the talking," [Coyotes goalie Jason] LaBarbera said. "I think that's probably frustrating for players. This guy hammers guys, but nobody ever goes after him because he's not that kind of guy who hits you and stays there and says something. He hits you and keeps playing.
"He plays on the edge. He's not afraid. He's not a dirty player. He hits hard, but he doesn't cross that line. Not yet, anyway."
Has Brown been the best forward in the playoffs?
If not for Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick being so dominant in the playoffs, Brown would be the front runner for the Conn Smythe Award as playoff MVP.
Offensively, Brown has been spectacular and has scored several big goals for the Kings during the playoffs.
His 13 points (seven goals and six assists) is tied for the second most in the postseason. If you don't factor in Philadelphia Flyers forwards Claude Giroux (1st with 17 points) and Danny Briere (T-2nd with 13 points), who have been eliminated from the postseason, then Brown is the top scorer right now.
His third period goal in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against the Phoenix Coyotes on Sunday night was one of three game-winning goals he's scored in the playoffs thus far.
Brown has also been a force defensively. He leads the playoffs with a plus-11 rating and is forechecking aggressively, which is tiring opposing defensemen. He's also doing a good job of back checking in the defensive zone to help his own defensemen.
Brown's resurgence began around the NHL trade deadline in late February, when there were rumors that the Kings were shopping him (via TSN's Bob McKenzie) after making the Jeff Carter trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets. We found out last week, thanks to Joe Haggerty of CSNNE.com, that the Boston Bruins wanted to acquire Brown but weren't willing to part with hard-hitting winger Milan Lucic.
Once the deadline passed, Brown exploded offensively and began to show the scoring production the Kings expected from him all season.
Maybe Brown was angered by the rumors. Whatever the case may be, his level of passion and intensity has dramatically risen since the deadline.
Brown has done everything for the Kings in the playoffs. He's scoring, playing defense, being a leader, and frustrating his opponents on every shift. He's playing just as you would expect a captain to in the postseason.
The Kings are really benefiting from Brown's MVP-caliber performances in the playoffs, and his leadership combined with his offensive production has put the Kings three wins away from their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1993.
NHL Playoff Schedule for Tuesday, May 15
|Matchup||Time (ET)||TV Info||Location|
|Kings at Coyotes||9:00 p.m. ET||NBCSN, CBC||Jobing.com Arena|
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and was also the organization's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in Boston.