Minnesota Wild @ Los Angeles Kings, Game 81 Recap: Playoffs?!

Dustin Brown scores four goals, including the game-winning goal, to establish a career year at age 33.

Yesterday’s game against the Minnesota Wild was a microcosm of the Los Angeles Kings season.  Brilliance followed by ineptitude.  Celebration followed by frustration.  Domination followed by emasculation.

Or maybe, after the Kings clinched a playoff berth on April 4 with the help of our old rivals, it was like a FIFA World Cup group play match after the Round of 16 has been decided, in which the two teams agree to keep it casual against each other.

Here is the good about yesterday’s game:

  • The old Dustin Brown, the 2012 difference-making edition, is back.  Brown is having a career year at age 33, with 28 goals and a career-high 33 assists and 61 points.  Shortly into overtime, he not only took Jonas Brodin out of the play with a well-placed hit, but took possession of the puck.  And from the circle, he sniped the game-winning goal to the delight of the Staples Center crowd.  That play was a microcosm of the pesky style that Kings fans love, and what opposing fans love to hate, about the former captain.  He scored not one, not two, not three, but four goals last night.  It was his first hat trick since February 25, 2012 against the Chicago Blackhawks, at a time when the team was slumping and a trade seemed imminent.  But instead the Kings traded for Jeff Carter, and you know the rest:/
  • Anze Kopitar is also having a career year, with career highs of 35 goals and 57 assists.  Should he win the Hart Trophy?  Per Jon Rosen, increased usage is driving up Kopitar and Brown’s production.  And so is placing them both as regulars on the top line.  The duo played with incredible chemistry last night.
  • Drew Doughty is also having a career year, with a career-high 50 assists and 60 points.  Do you see a trend?  Sharing is caring.  All appears forgiven after an epic meltdown against yes, the Blackhawks, on March 3.  But is it enough to warrant the salary raise he will demand?
  • New acquisition Daniel Brickley from Minnesota State made a beautiful assist last night.  His fake, then pass to Christian Folin led to a Tobias Rieder goal—a beautiful Riederection.  (Credit goes to Munchrat who posted that on LA Kings Insider.)/

The not so good:

  • Adrian Kempe has not scored in 28 games.  It’s not for lack of opportunities—he had a big one against the Anaheim Ducks on March 30—but he just isn’t converting.  Fans observe there may not be full integration between what his body is capable of and what is mind is thinking.
  • Despite a power play, Tyler Toffoli was extremely lazy getting back on defense as the Wild carried the puck.  It allowed Nate Prosser to waltz in and tie the game shorthanded—only the 10th goal of his entire nine-year career.
  • Kevin Gravel had a rough time (excuse the pun).  He was -1 last night, and had trouble clearing the puck out of the defensive zone.  The jury will shortly make a decision on whether Gravel is NHL material after all.
  • But the Kings might not have much choice.  The losses of Jake Muzzin and Derek Forbort are proving costly to the team, as the Kings gave up four goals, their most in 11 games.  Alec Martinez played 24 minutes, more than usual, and was taxed out there.  Fans want to see more of Paul LaDue, but he has only one goal in his last seven games (granted, limited usage).
  • Jonathan Quick was also not at the top of his game.  Though the Wild established traffic, giving up four—one off a bad glove catch—is uncharacteristic of him./

The Kings host their final regular season game against the Dallas Stars on Saturday.