With Halloween approaching, hockey fans are already getting rare glimpses into the lighter side of NHL players. Still, it’s a special sensation when something whimsical actually happens during a game.
Such was the case in 3-on-3 overtime during the Los Angeles Kings’ eventual 3-2 shootout win against the Ottawa Senators last night.
Even if you (understandably) give a lot of credit to Anze Kopitar, the resurgence of Dustin Brown has been one of the least expected, under-the-radar stories of this early season. Perhaps some of what makes Brown effective is knowing his limitations, however, as even Erik Karlsson had a laugh when Brown told Drew Doughty that he wanted no part of Karlsson with all of that open nice:
Tremendous. Since we’re on the subject of lighter moments, this Minnesota Wild fan possibly becoming a Vancouver Canucks fan should brighten your day:
That face is the understated, hockey version of “kid going nuts after getting a Nintendo 64.”
(Hold on, let me search for my childlike wonder for a second.)
Circling back, the first clip seems like a decent excuse to take a really quick look at how Karlsson and Brown are doing so far.
Erik eases back in, as much as Karlsson can ease back in
So far, it seems like Karlsson is still a special player, even with a chunk of his ankle bone missing (again, hockey players).
Through four games, it seems like business as mostly usual for the freakishly talented defenseman. Karlsson has six assists in those contests, with a healthy 13 shots on goal. The Swede averages just under three SOG per contest for his career, a big part – but not the only element – of why he tends to be such a possession monster.
While Guy Boucher is likely easing Karlsson back in (at least relatively speaking, as the Senators still need him badly), the clever coach might want to consider saving number 65’s energy for the playoffs. At least if this team has the breathing room for such luxuries.
In 2015-16, Karlsson approached Ryan Suter-like useage by averaging an absurd 28:58 TOI per game. Last season, Karlsson was down to 26:50, while he’s currently averaging 25:50. That really might not be such a bad bar to set for all of 2017-18.
Brown does it for Kings
Looking at Dustin Brown’s career stats, it’s almost as if the last lockout broke him. He scored 29 points in 46 games in 2012-13, and then his numbers stayed in that range even during full seasons.
So, cut to 2017-18 and Brown has five goals and 11 points in nine games, of course.
With a 14.3 shooting percentage, some of this is luck. He hasn’t been in the double digits in shooting percentage since that 2012-13 campaign, when he connected on 12.7 percent.
It’s not just his scoring and shooting luck that’s going up. Brown has 35 SOG in nine games, close to four per night. He only averaged 2.19 per contest last season. He’s generally been a player who fires the puck quite a bit, so while that number should slip, it might not go down as much as you might expect.
… At least, if he sticks with Kopitar. The Selke-level center isn’t just boosting Brown’s scoring opportunities through the roof, he’s also transforming Brown’s overall opportunities. Since 2013-14, Brown has clocked in at about 16 minutes of ice time per night. In 2017-18, he’s at 20:03.
Again, much like Kings trying to pass the Karlsson matchup torch around, it’s plain to see that Kopitar deserves an enormous chunk of the credit here. Still, with Jeff Carter on IR and the Kings still fairly challenged from a depth standpoint, Los Angeles is likely to give that top line every chance to keep things going, so the Brown rebound could be a real(-ish) thing.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.