EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — If Dustin Brown stands up in the Los Angeles locker room before the Stanley Cup FInal opener Wednesday night and delivers a stirring, emotional speech that would make Mark Messier proud, his teammates won't know how to react.
"Well, he's not a rah-rah guy," veteran Kings defenseman Matt Greene said. "We don't have too many of those guys in the room. But he knows how to lead."
Brown prefers showing to telling, whether it's with a timely goal or a bruising hit. The Los Angeles captain's playoff performance has demonstrated something quite clearly to the Kings: Behind his leadership they're capable of winning the franchise's first title.
Brown's hard-hitting, high-scoring play has been the biggest revelation of the postseason for the eighth-seeded Kings, but his quantum leap forward began during the regular season. Brown's run of stellar play started right after he was prominently featured in trade-deadline rumors linking him to Toronto and beyond, forcing the forward to wonder whether he would have to move his young family away from his only NHL team.
"Of course it's concerning to you, but I tried to just concentrate on what I could control," said Brown, the NHL's third-leading postseason scorer. "I just focused on hockey and getting this team to the playoffs, because I felt like we had a team that could do a lot."
The Kings' long-suffering fans are always near the forefront of Brown's mind when he discusses this playoff run. He realizes Los Angeles has enjoyed only one run to the final in 45 years of existence, and he learned all about the Kings' paltry playoff success when he logged 431 regular-season games with the franchise before reaching his first postseason two years ago.
"This is the most successful we've been, but it's not where we want to end up," Brown said.
With 16 points in just 14 games, Brown's scoring has sparked the Kings, but his physical play has been even more decisive. Critics call him a dirty player, decrying his emphatic checks and occasional open-ice hits, but his teammates say he's brilliant at toeing the line of legality.