The San Jose Sharks left the Staples Center with the same number of shots, 17 less penalty minutes, two more hits, and six more face-offs won, than the Los Angeles Kings. Unfortunately, they also left with a 4-1 defeat.
In fact, if not for lopsided power play time, the loss may have looked even worse for San Jose. The Kings outskated them for much of the game, sustained more offensive zone pressure, and seemed to win every battle on the boards. Although the Sharks had good chances, most came on the power play and ended up either off the post or in the glove of rookie sensation, Martin Jones. The Kings rookie goaltender saved 31 shots and won his seventh straight game to begin his career. Jones is yet another example of a Kings rookie goaltender coming up to the NHL and catching the league by surprise. It makes you wonder, are the Kings’ goalies really that good, or does their defense deserve the credit? On Thursday night the answer seemed clear; both of them! When the Sharks finally broke into the zone and produced second chance attempts, Jones was there to make the save. For the most part however, the Kings defenders kept San Jose to the perimeter, and besides a few shots off the post, Jones was rarely tested.
Despite another loss in Los Angeles, the Sharks biggest loss came during the game when Dustin Brown “collided” with Tomas Hertl on a knee-to-knee hit, forcing Hertl to leave the game. This “collision” however, was not a collision at all. Rather, it was a cheap penalty by a player with a reputation for committing knee-to-knee hits. Last year against the St. Louis Blues, Brown lunged for Jaden Schwartz’s leg, jutted out his knee, and then threw his elbow in the direction of Schwartz’s head. Even worse, against Phoenix in the 2012 playoffs, Brown committed one of the most dangerous knee-to-knee hits in recent memory. No penalty was called and the Kings won the game moments later to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. Considering his past affinity for these dangerous hits, it would be astonishing if Brown does not receive at least a 10 game suspension for his hit on Hertl. While it’s true that Brown did not extend his leg out, he clearly made no effort to move it out of the way. Brown understood that Hertl was coming his way and he made no attempt to clear from his path, instead choosing to slam into Hertl’s right leg. Although media outlets have chosen to dismiss the hit by not even showing the highlight, the league needs to objectively look at both the play in question and Brown’s history. After all, this is the same process they used with Raffi Torres when determining his penalty for a hit on Kings forward Jared Stoll. Regardless of how talented a player is, or what market he plays in, Brendan Shanahan needs to determine his punishment just like he would with any other player. Lets hope for hockey’s sake that this is the last career threatening hit courtesy of Dustin Brown, and that the Sharks young phenom did not suffer any serious damage as a result of it.