Tag Archives: Dustin Brown

Kings-Devils Set for Stanley Cup Showdown

It’s quite unexpected, but expected to become a legendary matchup. The Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils have punched their ticket to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final. Very few anticipated these two teams would be good, let alone great. Very few foretold these two cities would gain hockey elite status. Few doubt that this will be a runaway series for either team. Welcome to the thinking fan’s style of hockey.

The Los Angeles Kings barely made it into the playoffs coming in at the No. 8 seed. Representing a new generation and geographical era of beach-leagues, the Kings have given Southern California exactly what they knew they had in their midst. Billboards lined the Hollywood Hills, Kings jerseys were sported on Rodeo Drive and talk of rising stars became household names. LaLa Land is riding the wave of success.

The Kings railed through the Stanley Cup Playoffs on a mission. Only taking one hit to the Phoenix Coyotes, the Kings momentum is not a streak rather a mantra. There are so many factors that will give the Kings the edge in this series, but the strength of this team is their versatility, confidence and creativity.

Captain Dustin Brown has been an underrated player for years. Brown is the epitome of the quiet leader and workhorse. He isn’t the grandstander expecting to be the leading scorer on the team. He shares the victory equally and rallies behind the skilled talent assembled on the ice. Brown is both versatile and veracious. He can hit a goal from any angle and hit an opponent with every angle. The captain drew the most penalties in the league this season, yet won’t waste a scoring chance bantering with an opponent. Brown is the freight train you didn’t see coming.

Brown’s line with  Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams have combined for 42 points in 14 games and a plus-32. They’ve produced four shorthanded goals and three game-winning goals. In the playoffs, expect the Kings to dazzle. This line has scored the first goal of the game five times, which sets the tone for the each game in the series.

Los Angeles has a sturdy offense, but their netminder is unstoppable. Vezina finalist Jonathan Quick is the remaining finalist still standing. Though he’s hit some rough patches, Quick led the league with 10 shutouts, finished second with a 1.95 goals-against average, plus added a .929 save percentage (5th overall). Quick can take down Marty Brodeur. He’s really the secret to their success. The goalie dominated in the first-round of the Western Conference playoffs ousting the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks.

New Jersey has rebounded from terrible times. Coming in at the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference, no one saw this team surviving into the playoffs. After beating the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers, the Devils are the new studs in the stable. Headed by General Manager Lou Lamoriello, the Devils are experiencing a renaissance. This is great news for Devils fans, Newark and New Jersey. Controversy surrounding the team’s bankruptcy has been prominent. Lamoriello’s acquisition of forward Ilya Kovalchuk spurred a battle with the NHL costing the team a draft pick and hefty fines. Who’s looking good now? The New Jersey Devils SB Nation blog  In Lou We Trust exemplifies all the the Devils represent. Lou has stood behind his team and the city of Newark. Though many doubted his vision, Lou has proven his vision was genius.

Captain quandaries plagued the Devils early in the season. It had been rumored that star forward Zach Parise was looking for a way out. Kovalchuk vs. Parise became the question as the season progressed. Parise won in large part to appease his level of commitment and experience with New Jersey. As the matinee-idol, Parise is the chosen one to become the future of this franchise.

New Jersey is the New Jersey Devils. Hard work, mental toughness, resilience, and serving up the honest play will make New Jersey a devilish opponent for Hockeywood. Brodeur and Quick will ignite the veteran-rookie debate as the goaltender has achieved significant status in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

Expect the series to last seven games. Los Angeles will take home the Stanley Cup.

How West Coast Hockey has Won

Beach leagues and desert dreams have put the Los Angeles Kings and the Phoenix Coyotes in a Western Conference final worth the wait. Making deals and trades to acquire players who are now showing their worth creates a must series to watch whether a west coast fan or not. Goaltenders Jonathan Quick and Mike Smith have dazzled and proven that the goaltender isn’t out of style in the playoffs.

Vezina finalist, Jonathan Quick, has been the backbone of the Kings all season. With the addition of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, the chemistry of the duo have raised hope in raising the Stanley Cup in LaLa Land. The Kings are stacked with Stanley Cup winners and playoff veterans.

The Kings arrived at the final with huge upsets the No. 1-seeded Vancouver Canucks and No.-2 seeded St. Louis Blues. Only captain Dustin Brown, Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty hadn’t won a playoff series. Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene lost in the Cup final with Edmonton in 2006 and Mike Richards and Jeff Carter lost with Philadelphia in 2010. Dustin Penner also won a Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.

Justin Williams has emerged as a scoring threat in the playoff run, as he did with the Carolina Hurricanes in defeating the Edmonton Oilers in the 2006 Cup finals. Oilers at the time, Stoll and Greene are happy to be on his side of the fence for this run. Expect Williams to be a factor in the win.

Rob Scuderi was a “piece” of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 2009 triumph. He got the nickname “piece” after he misspoke while intending to say he was just “one piece” of the team. Colin Fraser played three games of the Chicago Blackhawks’ 2010 Cup run, but what a run to be in.

The Kings have creativity and confidence on their side.

The Phoenix Coyotes have Mike Smith, a Vezina snub, to tackle the goals that the Kings will be tossing his way. Phoenix has battled ownership issues, dismal fan attendance, and a captain who didn’t have the best few seasons, until now. Forwards Radim Vrbata, Antoine Vermette and veteran Ray Whitney are solid, but the defensive talents of Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson are holding the ‘Yotes together. The Coyotes beat Nashville and Chicago to move on, but they didn’t sweep like the Kings.

Finally, better-than-good hockey has arrived in the west. The Western Conference has been plagued with underachievement for years and not being taken seriously. Kudos to those players who stuck with their teams, and congrats to the fans who have supported the beach and desert teams.

This will be an exciting series, but the Kings will win in 5.

Follow me on The Hockey Writers for analysis, predictions and commentary on the  Eastern Conference Final between the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils.

March Madness- Western Conference

The Western Conference has been building strength for years, so it’s no surprise that the race is tight. Los Angeles, Dallas and Phoenix all could get a bid for the postseason party. The Colorado Avalanche, The Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers bid adieu to the postseason and will be booking tee times later this week. Finally, the West can bring in new blood to represent emerging talent.

The biggest success story is The Los Angeles Kings.  A few weeks ago, the Kings looked lost and doomed down the stretch. Goaltender Jonathan Quick was not quick, but has his game back and could be the weapon of choice for the Kings.  Anze Kopitar will get an opportunity to prove his worth as a top forward.

St. Louis Blues-
Success comes from patience and persistence. St. Louis deserves to be the leading team in the West and should win the President’s Trophy. With top talent in Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk on defense, and Captain David Backes at the helm, the Blues could win this whole shebang. With Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott making a dynamic goaltending duo, the odds are in The Blues favor.

Vancouver Canucks-
Hockey fans know Vancouver can deliver, but can drop at a moment’s notice. Consistency is the key for The Canucks and with Daniel Sedin out, and Kevin Bieksa,  the remaining mates must muster more points. Kesler and Burrows have not produced much, so these two gotta get a groove going. Goaltending is world-class with Luongo and Schneider, but can’t carry the team. Or can they?

Los Angeles Kings-
Mike Richards and Jeff Carter reunion equals Stanley Cup bid. This was their goal in Philadelphia, so maybe the chemistry and drive is propelling the energy in the locker room. Dustin Brown, Justin Williams and Jarret Stoll have been Kings and would like this season to be the one. Chances are good for Los Angeles. They really spiked up the standings, and likely will make it to semifinals.

Nashville Predators-
Every hockey fan can get behind the program Barry Trotz has put together. Trotz is truly a hockey pioneer. The Predators have an awesome netminder in Pekka Rinne, who is Vezina worthy. Expect Nashville to do well, because the players have turned on the heat and are cohesive. Best chance this year for a conference final showdown.

Detroit Red Wings-
They’re fighters. No matter where Detroit is in the playoffs, they find a way to win. With a healthy crew, the Wings will fight until the end. Goaltending has been spotty. Offense has gone up against tough opposing goaltenders. Scoring must increase and Howard must be at the top of his game if Detroit wants to move on.

Chicago Blackhawks-
The Chicago boys just hang in there. While they have a seemingly secure spot as the No. 5 seed, teams are chasing them. Chicago may be bumped. They play in a tough Central Division this season and sit just ahead of Columbus in the fourth slot.

The Dallas Stars and The Phoenix Coyotes will fight to the death to get in. Dallas has done an outstanding job staying in the hunt. Dallas forward Michael Ryder has been a force to reckon with. The Coyotes have a solid goalie in Mike Smith. The outcome is boosting hockey in the Southwest for certain. The Pacific Division at this point is a 3-way tie. Expect some tenacious play in the next week for a guaranteed spot.

Rafalski, Miller Torque Team USA

No one expected Team USA to be at the top of their group, nor be a medal contender, but the Cinderella team are one step closer to the ultimate Vancouver souvenir.  In a shocking upset, Team USA reclaimed some hockey pride by beating the Canadian team on home ice.   Team USA’s youth has sparked the adventurous spirit of what the American team want to showcase. Though the average age of Team USA is 26.6, lack of experience and youth has proven to be a mute argument.  With such amazing performances by Zach Parise who had two goals in the match-up with Switzerland, or the tenacious puck play of Dustin Brown, the sheer mettle of taking on the powerhouse Canada and breaking the bank to top Group A has stunned hockey fans globally.

But the true heart of any hockey team can be found in leadership from between the pipes and on the blue line.  The Canadians knew that a behemoth of a goaltender could revive their team, and it did. Canada has been quick to regroup after the loss to the Americans, replacing goaltender Martin Brodeur with Canucks captain Roberto Luongo.

Not only is Team USA’s goaltender Ryan Miller one of the biggest contributors to the team’s success, but also this is his Olympic debut.  At the age of 29, Miller has the youth, but he brings wisdom and wile to the competition.

Ryan Miller has been stellar and faced quick shots at a furious pace.  Miller faced 45 shots by the Canadians and held 42. Facing 19 shots from the Swiss, Miller took hold and delivered the shutout.  His level headed play was evident at his alma mater, Michigan State, where the Michigan native set an NCAA record with 26 career shutouts.  In 2001, Miller’s talent was showcased with the leading winning percentage, save percentage (.950) goal against average and a record 10 shootouts over all other players in the country, thus snagging the coveted college hockey Hobey Baker Award.  Ryan took the Goaltender of the Year for all three seasons at Michigan State and was the CCHA’s overall MVP twice.

Growing up in East Lansing, Michigan, you’d think Ryan would look at exciting options to play away from home, but not the case.  Michiganders love their hockey and Ryan’s family is no exception.  Brother Drew now plays for the Detroit Red Wings, plus ten members of his family, including his grandfather, all played for the Michigan State Spartans.  In 1990 his cousin, Kip Miller also won the Hobey Baker and was the first Spartan to be honored.  Hockey royalty perhaps, but Ryan never lets his prestigious genetics blur his ability to reign supreme in net.

Michigan is also the home to a defenseman who has rallied the troops, Brian Rafalski. At age 36, Rafalski is the oldest player on the team providing leadership yet so much more.  With four goals and four assists, Detroit Red Wings’ Brian Rafalski leads in scoring for Team USA.  In a mesmerizing match-up between Canada and the USA, Rafalski’s blue line demeanor broke through to score two goals and nab an assist.  The unexpected fury came and this American boy was not going to lose.

Rafalski, the veteran Olympian, was on hand during the 2002 games in Salt Lake City winning a silver medal, as well as playing at the 2006 games in Torino.  Vancouver marks his third Olympic appearance.  His presence may have led the charge in Team USA’s success.  Rafalski has always been a quiet player, not ostentatious with his style, but a classic American citizen and family man.  He is also no stranger to fighting for what he wants, as he struggled to find his place in the world of hockey.

Rafalski, born in Dearborn, Michigan, took his hockey talent to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he played for four years.  His senior year, Brian netted 45 points in 43 games.  The WCHA named Rafalski to their First All-Star Team, plus he was named to the NCAA West All-Star Team, as well as the WCHA Defenseman of the Year in 1995.

Though he has come back to his birth state and found a home with the Detroit Red Wings, it wasn’t always that easy for Brian.  He struggled throughout the years being bounced from teams, countries but always playing as a winner.  He won a Stanley Cup with the Red Wings in 2008.  Despite a discouraging season this year with the Detroit Red Wings, Rafalski is having a good year with 4 goals and 25 assists.  Look for more firepower from this defenseman when he returns from the Vancouver no matter the outcome.

If Team USA is victorious, then American hockey will gain some respect and prove to be a formidable training ground for future players.  If Team USA can’t clinch the prize, then the players can say they fought the good fight and proved American hockey is for real.   No one can overlook the exceptional effort of goaltender Ryan Miller and defenseman Brian Rafalski leading the charge to battle for Gold.