In this edition of Los Angeles Kings News & Rumors, I’ll be discussing Mikey Anderson being recognized as one of the best shutdown defensemen in the league by The Athletic, the Kings ending the regular season with 99 points and Dustin Brown‘s last regular-season game with the team.
Mikey Anderson’s Shutdown Ability
The Kings have certainly missed Anderson since his injury in early March. The blow was made even worse when his partner, Drew Doughty, suffered an injury in the same game. Anderson has put together a strong sophomore season on the King’s top pairing, eating up heavy minutes alongside Doughty. He’s done a great job playing his role as a safety net next to the higher risk Doughty. Many Kings fans have felt like Anderson’s season has gone undervalued league-wide, as he plays a style that doesn’t garner much attention outside of local fanbases. Because of this, fans were extremely happy to see him featured in a recent Athletic article ranking the best shutdown defensemen in the league. Anderson was number eight on the list, just behind Matt Grzelcyk and in front of K’Andre Miller. Author Harman Dayal then had this to say about Anderson.
“Matt Grzelyck and Mikey Anderson are a reminder that defensive value isn’t always driven by elite in-zone defense. Grzelyck and Anderson are competent in their own end, but they shine because they’re elite skaters who do an excellent job of moving the puck. They play defense by virtue of almost always ensuring their team has puck possession — they don’t have to defend without the puck much in the first place.”Harman Dayal (from ‘Who are the NHL’s best shutdown defensemen and why are they so valuable?,’ The Athletic, April 27,2022)
Not only do I appreciate Anderson getting some love, but I also really like that they pointed out how good his skating and puck-moving are. Because Doughty is such an exciting player with the puck, Anderson’s own skills are often overshadowed. He doesn’t make flashy plays, rarely looking for home run passes or slick moves to beat forecheckers, but he’s extremely efficient in the way he moves the puck. According to AllThreeZones, no Kings defensemen makes fewer negative plays with the puck. Essentially, he makes the fewest mistakes. It’s a perfect complement to Doughty, who leads the team in zone exits, but is also high on the list for negative plays and failed zone exits.
While I would agree that his in-zone defense isn’t elite, I’d say he’s more than just competent. He prevents carries against better than nearly 90 percent of defensemen in the league and denies entries entirely at a high rate as well. One thing Anderson still needs to work on is his tendency to get beat one-on-one. He often gets caught fishing for the puck in one-on-one situations, allowing forwards to pull the puck through or around him. Kirill Kaprisov, in particular, has put Anderson on a few highlight reels, but we saw this again on Wednesday when Jordan Eberle walked past him before scoring. Fortunately, Anderson is still very young and has plenty of time to work this out. Once that happens, he will be an even better shutdown blueliner, possibly moving into the top five league-wide.
Kings Finish Regular Season With 99 Points
The Kings finished their regular season on Thursday with an overtime loss against the Vancouver Canucks, leaving them with 99 points on the season. Very few people predicted them to finish anywhere near that mark in 2021-22, but they’ve defied expectations and put together an incredible season. It has truly marked the transition from rebuilding to competing. It was a massive jump from last season’s bottom-10 finish; in fact, it was the team’s second-biggest season-to-season point increase in team history.
The fact that the Kings have lost roughly 400 man-games to injury this season makes the feat even more impressive. They were without Sean Walker all season, lost Doughty for more than half the season, and only got Alex Edler for half the season. Sprinkle in plenty of injuries to the forward group, and it becomes clear that this team battled through plenty of adversity. The Edmonton Oilers are the only playoff team to have suffered more man-games lost this season, adding an extra layer to their first-round matchup. This was an excellent season for the Kings to build upon as they exit their rebuild stage, and the playoff experience young players like Arthur Kaliyev, Quinton Byfield, and Jordan Spence will gain is going to be huge for their future.
Brown’s Final Regular Season Game
Thursday was a very sad day for Kings fans, as legendary forward Dustin Brown announced he would be retiring after the playoffs. Current captain Anze Kopitar relinquished the “C” for Thursday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks, allowing Brown to wear it one more time. Brown also returned to Kopitar’s wing, and it was clear the team desperately wanted him to get a goal in his final regular-season game.
Related: Kings Dustin Brown Will Retire a Team Legend
Unfortunately, Brown couldn’t find the net on his three-shot attempts, but he was given a classy send-off from the Canucks. The team honored Brown over the PA system, with a standing ovation from the fans following. Canucks players would then show their respect, lining up to shake Brown’s hand one last time.
It was a night that once again reminded everyone of how great hockey can be. Brown was once a hated rival in Vancouver after plenty of tough battles against the Canucks, but at the end of the day, respect won out. While I’m sure Canucks fans and players will be happy to never see Brown suit up against their team again, they gave him a wonderful send-off for his last career regular-season game.