BROWN EMERGING AS AN OFFENSIVE THREAT
First there was the age old goaltending question.
Then there was the kid Bernier earning a roster spot out of camp.
Then there was Cammy’s hot start.
Then came the five-game losing streak. Then there was the Royal Rebound and a four-game winning streak followed by yet another losing streak.
Lost in the shuffle has been the offensive emergence of Dustin Brown, who tallied his 10th goal of the season on Sunday night at Anaheim.
“People probably aren’t noticing because you only notice that stuff when we are winning as a team and right now we are struggling a little bit,” Brown said from his locker stall at Toyota Sports Center following a Kings practice. “Well, for me it has been getting opportunities on the power play and on 5-on-5 playing with good players. Cammy (Michael Cammalleri), Kopi (Anze Kopitar) and I have been clicking right from the get go. We all picked up some points at the beginning of the season and that gave us some confidence.”
That confidence has translated into goals for the fourth-year left winger.
Looking at the schedule, Sunday’s 3-2 loss to Anaheim was just the Kings’ 23rd game of the season. Last year it took Brownie 38 games to reach double figures in goals, scoring his 10th on Dec. 28 vs. Edmonton.
That 2006-07 season saw the Ithaca, N.Y. native finish with a career-high 17 goals. If he continues his current pace, he will shatter that total and finish with around 35 goals.
To put that into perspective, Brown entered this season having lit the lamp 32 times in his career, which has spanned 191 games over three seasons.
“Experience is part of it. I remember my first year I was playing with Ziggy (Palffy) and (Jozef) Stumple and I probably could have had five or six goals in my first 10 games, but I didn’t bear down or what not and it took me a good 30 something games to get my first goal.
“Now I know what it takes to score goals.”
And his goals have been across the entire spectrum of goal scoring at the NHL level, scoring on pretty tic-tac-toe plays with Cammalleri and Kopitar, or a tip-in right in front of the net, even a put back of a rebound, Brown has scored them all.
“A lot of my goals haven’t been pretty, getting rebounds in front of the net and tip ins. When you go into the traffic areas like that goals are bound to happen. But we have some talented players on this team and there are bound to be some nice goals.
“The main thing is to work and when you are working hard, good things happen.”
Though Brown has really developed his offensive touch this season, he still hasn’t lost a grasp the physical way in which he plays the game.
As of Tuesday morning, Brown was still first in the NHL with 87 hits, four ahead of Montreal’s Michael Komisarek. Last year he finished second in the league with 258 hits.
Defenseman Tom Preissing, who played in San Jose from 2003-06, saw a healthy dose of Brown and the Kings and has noticed some changes in Brown’s game since the pair became teammates.
“He was known pretty much as a physical player, the offensive side of his game had not really developed yet. You could tell he was a good player and that he knew what he was doing on the ice.
“He is only going to get better, he is still a pretty young kid.”
Just 23-years old, Brown, the Kings 1st round choice, 13th overall, in 2003, has four years and over 200 games experience in the NHL and has accomplished a lot on the ice already (finishing second in the NHL in hits last season) as well as off the ice (getting married to wife Nicole during the offseason).
GM Dean Lombardi has seen enough in the 6-0, 200-lb forward to lock him up long term to a five-year deal which Brown signed on Oct. 26.
All of which have Brown feeling rather comfortable in LA.
“I am comfortable. I think we have a good team here and I am going to be here for a long time. That doesn’t change the way I play the game, but maybe the way I prepare for a game, I am not really tensing up thinking I need to do this or I need to do that, I just go out and play my game and work hard.”
Working hard is not really a problem for Brown, who is still learning, still improving, and still critiquing his game. He says he needs to improve on his puck possession skills, pointing out that those are two real strengths in Alexander Frolov’s and Derek Armstrong’s game and he notices how it helps them create scoring opportunities by waiting out defenders.
He also credits Kyle Calder with helping develop in front of the net.
“There are always things you can improve on. I am getting better in front of the net. Calder is one of the best at that. We talk from time to time about things. He will see a play and I will see a play and we will talk about it.”
Well if he keeps playing this way, it is about time people start talking about Dustin Brown.