Is Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown saving his best for last?
Brown has only one point to speak of in the Stanley Cup Finals, an assist on his team’s second goal in a 4-0 Game 3 victory. In terms of offensive output, his zero goals and one assist on five shots in the last four games make this his quietest stretch of the playoffs to date.
On the other hand, Brown has at least been on the ice for each of linemate Anze Kopitar’s four points and Justin Williams’ three against the New Jersey Devils. And he has tangibly clicked in each of his team’s last two clinching games.
He inserted two goals, including the game-winner, to polish off a sweep of St. Louis and then set up Kopitar to put the Kings on the board en route to a 4-3 overtime win over Phoenix.
After defaulting an opportunity to sweep the Devils, setting up Game 5 in Newark on Saturday, Brown’s craving to contribute and to share a coveted postgame handshake with commissioner Gary Bettman will be tested once more.
Based primarily on their contributions to the conclusion of other playoff rounds, some of the other Kings players who could be the X-factor in this prospective close-out game are as follows.
In contrast to Brown, the resident two-way blueliner is currently on a five-game production streak with three goals and three assists. He has also tallied one assist in each of the first three series-clinching games, adding a goal in the 4-3 overtime triumph to dispatch Phoenix.
In his day job, Doughty and partner Rob Scuderi will likely see their share of shifts against the top New Jersey unit of Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and Travis Zajac. That troika is still looking to play its best game of the series, so successfully curbing them ought to make a critical difference in putting the Devils away on Saturday.
Although no two of them have shared credit on any of the scoring plays, linemates Colin Fraser, Jordan Nolan and Brad Richardson have each tallied a point in one of the Kings’ series clinchers.
In Game 5 of the opening round, Richardson drew a 1-1 knot at 3:21 of the third period, forcing the overtime that saw Jarret Stoll put the Canucks away. Nolan broke the ice at 4:36 of the first period in Game 4 of the St. Louis series and Fraser set up Doughty’s 2-2 equalizer in Game 5 against Phoenix.
Over those three clinchers, Fraser has accrued a plus-three rating while Nolan and Richardson are each a plus-two.
With the return of Simon Gagne, Richardson may be scratched for Game 5 just as he was for Games 3 and 4. But Fraser and Nolan, whose only other playoff points were in Game 1 of this series, should have a chance to help L.A. flex some depth in the effort to drown the Devils.
Penner assisted on Nolan’s icebreaker in Game 4 of the second round and charged up a two-point night in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals, capping it off with the overtime decider.
But like Brown, he has but one assist thus far against the Devils after rolling up a 3-7-10 scoring log in 14 games over the first three rounds.
Is this the night the otherworldly goaltender puts the ribbon on the Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy? If so, how will he do it?
The Kings have allowed the first goal in seven of their 18 playoff games, including four of their six potential clinchers. They have regrouped to go 5-2 when shedding first blood and 2-2 when a desperate opponent tallies first.
But in spite of his skating mates’ resiliency, Quick would serve everyone’s best interest in Game 5 by stalling the Devils long enough to ensure counterpart Martin Brodeur blinks first. After all, with the exception of Game 4 of the first round against Vancouver, the Kings are impeccable when tuning the opposing mesh first.