Doughty roughed up, but excels anyway
ANAHEIM -- They hit him. They tripped him. They slashed him. They ran him.
For Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, it was another night of being a marked man, a target for all sorts of confrontational behavior and the Anaheim Ducks tried to lessen the impact made by one of the most influential players in the world at his position.
It didn't work.
Doughty was sporting a fat lip when he addressed reporters after a 3-1 victory Monday night, but the smile was genuine. He and the Kings came to Honda Center twice in the past three days and have left with not only two victories, but a firm grip on this Western Conference Second Round series."We could only dream of this, really," Doughty said. "We knew it was going to be tough to do. They might say we don't deserve it or whatnot, but it doesn't matter. We're up 2-0 going back to Staples and it's exactly what we planned."
The Kings were without their two most experienced defensemen. Willie Mitchell hasn't played since Game 6 of first round against the San Jose Sharks, and Robyn Regehr joined him on the injured list midway through the first period of Game 1 against Anaheim.
Doughty was a dominant player in Game 1, logging more than 33 minutes of ice time and controlling the play with his ability to possess the puck and ability to get it out of dangerous areas at one end and into them at the other.
Even without Regehr and Mitchell, and maybe more surprisingly without dominating the puck, the Kings were able to stifle the high-scoring Ducks. Anaheim had 62 percent of the shot attempts and 68.5 percent of the attempts on target, but the Kings were always in control after Marian Gaborik put them in front 34 seconds after the opening faceoff.
The Ducks decided the best way to try and beat Doughty was to, well, beat on him. Doughty gave the Kings a scare when he crumpled to the ice in the second period.
Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin slashed him in the back of the knee, and he struggled to put any weight on his leg after got up and headed to the bench.
"It's playoffs. You do anything you have to do to get an edge," Kings captain Dustin Brown said of the slash. "Obviously, Drew is a world-class defenseman, you've got to try to get him off his game any time you can try to. But I think he's played in big enough games and you're not one of the best defensemen if that stuff bugs you. It's something he's going to have to deal with and our top guys always have to deal with that stuff, especially at this time of year."
Later in the period, Anaheim forward Matt Beleskey tried to hit Doughty well after he released the puck. Doughty turned away from the hit and ended up getting a knee in the hamstring, but he also earned the Kings a power play.
"Well, he's one of the best in the world, if not the best defenseman in the world," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "So we acknowledge that and we're trying to get him off his game. But he's on the ice all the time and he's a difference-maker."
Doughty is always going to be the target of physical play. Few players in the League can skate with him or can compete with his stamina, so one way to try and slow him down is with brute force.
Given that Los Angeles is already short two top-six defensemen, the Ducks may have put a little extra emphasis on hitting the guy wearing No. 8 as well.
"It is probably a little bit of both. I'm always going to see that kind of stuff, even in the regular season I see the exact same stuff," Doughty said. "Maybe not to this extent, where I'm getting run at 10-15 times a game. The San Jose series, I think they were running me way more than this team, so I'm not complaining."
Instead of wearing Doughty and the Kings down, the Ducks were left with a lot of frustration. For two games now, the Kings have not played keep-away with the puck like analytics would have suggested.
SOG: 21 | +/-: 6
This strategy often doesn't work in the NHL. If teams let opponents knock at the door for too long, too often they find a way through. Not every team has Doughty though, who has proven in three Stanley Cup Playoff runs and two Olympics capable of consistent outstanding play in the sport's biggest moments.
Not every team has goaltender Jonathan Quick, who has struggled in each of the past two regular seasons but is also in the midst of excelling in his third straight postseason.
"You can see how stifling they can be just by getting it out," Boudreau said. "No matter how hard you're trying to get it deep on the forecheck, they know how to close the door."
There might be some extra bruises in the morning. It might be a little uncomfortable when he brushes his teeth.
But now Doughty and the Kings have two days to rest before Game 3 of this series Thursday at Staples Center (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS). The Ducks had a chance to beat the Kings when they were the fresher team in Game 1, and they couldn't. The Ducks had a chance to beat the Kings when they were missing two experienced defensemen in Game 2, and they couldn't.
Doughty will expect more physical punishment Thursday, and the Kings will expect him to continue to be the best player on the ice at this position.
"We won two games. That was exactly our goal," Doughty said. "I still don't think we're playing our best hockey. I think they're playing pretty good. I think we have a lot to improve on. That just takes some video, and it just takes some better effort from every single one of our guys. We'll be fine."