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Oilers’ Connor Brown redeeming himself after subpar regular season by shining in series vs. the Stars

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Sean Panganiban
16 days ago
Edmonton Oiler Connor Brown is scripting a fine redemption story in the playoffs after a disappointing regular season, which saw him take nearly five months to find the back of the net for the first time.
He arrived in Edmonton with the reputation of having chemistry with Connor McDavid as his linemate in the OHL. However, there was some caution, as he was coming off a severe knee injury, which saw him miss almost an entire year of hockey.
Many knew it would take him time to adjust to the speed of the game. But as time went on, and he went goalless after 10, 20, or even 30 games, it seemed as if he was going to pull a Tobias Rieder, a former Oiler who went scoreless during the 2018-19 season, leading many to wonder if Brown would ever score.
However, on March 13th, in game 55, he scored his first of the season off a 2-on-1 chance with Evander Kane, and Rogers Place erupted as the crowd applauded him for pushing through the adversity and lifting a huge monkey off his back.
Fast forward nearly two and a half months later, and the 30-year-old, who many in Oil Country were wishing and praying that he’d find the back of the net just once at one point during the regular season, has now become a significant depth piece, recording points in three consecutive games for the Oilers in the Western Conference Final versus the Dallas Stars.

Brown Has Been One of the Best Oilers Against the Stars

Brown played well down the playoff stretch, finishing the regular season with 12 points. However, the emergence of Dylan Holloway kept the Toronto, ON native out of the lineup in the first round against the Los Angeles Kings.
Yet, an injury to Adam Henrique opened a spot for Brown to enter the postseason in Game 1 against the Vancouver Canucks. He played six out of the seven games in the second round and made key defensive plays, and although he only tallied a single assist in those six games, it was an impressive play, coming off a 2-on-1 where he feathered the puck over to Mattias Janmark (something we’ll see repeated later), who buried it in Game 4.
Since then, he’s been on an upward trend. Brown has been consistently strong defensively in the playoffs, but his increased speed has stood out over the last several games. This is likely the most confident we’ve seen him all season, and we’re now starting to see the hard work he’s put in, reflected on the scoresheet in the series against the Stars.
In Game 2, he scored the lone Edmonton goal less than five minutes into the game, feeding a pass to Cody Ceci. Brown then picked up the rebound and tucked the puck five-hole past Jake Oettinger, all while showcasing his speed on the rush throughout the night despite a 3-1 Oilers loss.
Brown was rewarded for his big Game 2 goal and was elevated to the third line to play with Henrique, for his first game back in eight in Game 3. The duo showcased their chemistry when they combined for a tally to tie the game 3-3. Brown anticipated his linemate heading to the net, and Henrique opened up his stick blade and tipped one past Oettinger, which was the first goal by the third line all playoffs.
Brown was demoted to the fourth line in Game 4 as Corey Perry and Ryan McLeod returned to the lineup to play on the second line, a decision I initially thought was a misstep by the head coach. However, in the end, like many other bold moves by Kris Knoblauch, it paid off as Edmonton eventually won the game. That said, Brown played a crucial role by setting up an enormous shorthanded goal after Derek Ryan was given a questionable holding penalty in the second period.
The Oilers’ forward picked up a rebound on the PK, skated the puck up ice, and feathered another pass to Janmark, and the duo combined for their second 2-on-1 goal in six games. That play electrified Rogers Place just like when he scored his first goal of the season 55 games in; however, this time around, his big play was a shorthanded assist on the go-ahead goal in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final. Talk about rising to the occasion when it matters.
Nevertheless, as much of a massive goal that was for his team, Brown downplayed his big assist, saying, “The D-man was kind of shaded over to me, and I kind of gave Janner a bit of a sh*t burger there. He adjusted, but it was a great play by him. I’m just reading what he gives me.”

Should Brown Receive More Minutes?

The Oilers have killed off an incredible 93.2% of their penalties in the playoffs, which includes killing off all eight against the Stars. Moreover, Brown has been a big part of that success, playing the sixth most minutes (6:46) on the PK against Dallas and made a crucial clear on Zach Hyman’s penalty in the third period of Game 4. He was also sent out on three occasions with five minutes left in the game to defend the lead, showing just how much his coach trusts him.
That said, Knoblauch may decide to keep his lines together for Game 5 as the Oilers just won. However, if he decides to make changes to his forward lines in the future, with the jump we’ve seen from Brown in this series, he’s a prime candidate to receive more minutes, playing only 10:33 in Game 4.
More specifically, if Henrique is slated to center the third line, it’s worth a longer look to see what Brown can do beside him. This duo has proven in the past that they have chemistry together, combining for 27 points in 10 games playing on the same line at the 2021 World Championships, while also connecting on the tying goal in Game 3 versus Dallas.
Moreover, while Brown has primarily skated on the fourth line this season, it’s nearly overlooked that he also previously played in the top six with the Ottawa Senators where he scored 21 goals in 2020-21. I’m not suggesting he receives a bump to the top two lines, but his resurgence suggests that a top-six calibre player may have emerged in the bottom-six, potentially giving the Oilers the extra spark needed to defeat the Stars. That said, he spoke about his team fighting back 2-1 in the series to even things up, saying:
“Well, I think it stems from the beginning of this year. We’re in dead last, we faced adversity all year. It’s gotten to the point where we’re thriving under that adversity. We’re welcoming it, and I think it’s shown here whenever we need a response.”
The Oilers faced adversity all season, and they’re proving their resilience with their big Game 4 win, tying the series 2-2. Brown, who likely struggled more than any other Oiler this season, personifies the team’s battle against adversity and overall, he’s redeeming himself for a lacklustre regular season with the way he’s stepping up against the Stars.
With that in mind, what are your thoughts on Brown’s play and do you feel he deserves a higher spot up the lineup?

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