Doughty drove Kings as playoffs' top defenseman
LOS ANGELES -- Drew Doughty still doesn't have an individual NHL-awarded trophy, but his place among the elite players in the sport is secure.
And he's filling his resume with team-based achievements quite nicely.
Doughty capped an incredible 2013-14 season Friday by playing more than 41 minutes in the Los Angeles Kings' 3-2, double-overtime, Game 5, Stanley Cup-clinching victory against the New York Rangers at Staples Center.
He led playoff defensemen with 18 points, and led the Kings in average ice time at 28:45 per game. Doughty often was the best player on the ice for Los Angeles, which faced a gauntlet just to reach to the Final then win a second championship in three seasons.
"His passion for the game," veteran defenseman Willie Mitchell said of what separates Doughty from other great players. "I've said it all along, there's people at first who kind of thought he didn't care enough, or was too lax. But he just loves the game, and loves to compete. You don't want to take that out of a player. That's his No. 1 attribute: He loves to come to the rink and he wants to make a difference every game, and I really respect it.
"I think sometimes people take that as not serious enough, but it's darn serious in its own way. He does it all. Some guys play a physical game, and that's their shtick, or play a defensive game, or just offensive, or have a great shot; he'll hit you down the wall. I was fortunate enough to play with [Sergei] Zubov when I was in Dallas for a short while, as his defense partner, and he reminds me of him: his poise at the point, how he can, I call it 'skate sideways.' Zubov did that, [Nicklas] Lidstrom did that, it makes it really tough for a forward to cover him at the point when he can move like that."
Doughty, 24, was tasked with facing elite offensive players while the Kings knocked off three of the top seven teams in the regular-season standings -- the San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks -- to emerge from the Western Conference.
He would have been the youngest defenseman to win the Conn Smythe Trophy since Bobby Orr of the Boston Bruins in 1972, but forward Justin Williams earned it by leading the Kings with seven points in the five games against the Rangers and some great performances late in series during the first three rounds.
"I thought there were a lot of candidates, you could give that award to the whole team," Doughty said. "Justin deserved it. He played well for us the whole playoffs, especially in the Finals, and he deserved it. But our whole team played well and helped him get that award as well."
Doughty scored the prettiest goal of the Final to tie Game 1, then played more than 41 minutes and was on the ice for one goal against in Games 2 and 5, each a double-overtime victory for the Kings.
A Norris Trophy finalist once (in 2010), Doughty was one of the best players at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and has won the Stanley Cup twice to go along with two Olympic gold medals.
He and center Jeff Carter pulled off the Olympic gold-Stanley Cup double, like fellow Canadians Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook did in 2010 with the Chicago Blackhawks.
"Yeah, it's been a long year," Doughty said. "A lot of games. I'm pretty tired right now. But it feels good. Never thought it'd be possible to win both in the same year, let alone one. So I'm very happy and excited."
Doughty has played the third-most Stanley Cup Playoff games of any defenseman in NHL history at his age. He was the Kings' most valuable player through the first three rounds of the playoffs and likely was a close runner-up in the Conn Smythe voting.
Though he hasn't put up the offensive numbers the past couple of seasons he did when he was younger, Doughty has developed into one of the top all-around defensemen in the game. He consistently faces the toughest competition, drawing important defensive assignments while being one of the catalysts for the Kings' ability to dominate possession of the puck.
Doughty (6-foot-1, 213 pounds) lacks the size and shot velocity of Zdeno Chara and Shea Weber, but he is otherwise the prototypical modern defenseman. He's adept at skating and passing the puck out of danger, and he helps generate shot attempts with his smarts and skill in the offensive zone.
"You look at him earlier [in Game 1 of the Final], he made that little toe-drag and it went down the other way and we got scored on," Mitchell said prior to Game 4. "Later on in the same game, he does exactly the same play, maybe moves the puck a half-inch further than he did the first time, and went in and scored.
"You can't teach that, you can't teach that ability to be able make that mistake and not think about it, just go out and do it again. When you're playing that many minutes and you have that much confidence in yourself, you're able to do those things, and he does."
Author: Corey Masisak | NHL.com Staff Writer