Drew Doughty isn’t a finalist for this year’s Norris Trophy, but few players at any position have performed at a higher level in the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs than the Los Angeles Kings defenseman.
In fact, Doughty has been so impressive in the playoffs that one of his teammates has compared him to probable Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom. That’s right, the Lidstrom who won seven Norris trophies, four Stanley Cups and a playoff MVP for the Detroit Red Wings.
“I’ve been saying this a couple years now, he’s our Nick Lidstrom,” Kings forward Anze Kopitar told LAKings Insider Wednesday. “We all know what he did in Detroit for many, many years. I think Drew likes the big stage, obviously. He likes these types of games. He gets very emotional. I guess if you draw a line underneath that, he just brings his game to the next level at this time of year and these type of games.”
At just 24 years old, Doughty has won two Olympic gold medals, a World Junior Championships gold and a Stanley Cup. He also played an integral role in all of those championships.
“He can play 28, 30 minutes and play against top guys playing the power play, killing penalties,” Kings winger Jarret Stoll said. “You see him lying down blocking shots in the playoffs. It’s a defenseman that does everything. We’ve got a lot of guys like that, but Drew is a special player. We all see it. When there are bigger game and bigger games he steps up, whether it’s the playoffs, Stanley Cup Final, Olympics he’s that guy.”
Doughty was a force at both ends of the ice in Los Angeles’ 4-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 of the Western Conference final Saturday night. It was a complete effort that showed off his well-rounded skill set. His third-period goal proved to be the game-winner, and he also picked up an assist on Slava Voynov’s power-play tally in the first period. As a result, the Kings lead the series 2-1.
Doughty’s two points in Game 3 tied him with Montreal Canadiens star P.K. Subban for the playoff scoring lead among defensemen with 12 points. He leads all D-men with 10 assists and ranks second with 37 shots. Doughty is the ideal power-play quarterback for the Kings with his playmaking skill, heavy and accurate shot from the point and ability to enter the attacking zone cleanly with his smooth skating. Los Angeles also maintains consistent puck possession when Doughty is on the ice, evidenced by his 55.0 corsi-for percentage (second-best among D-men remaining in playoffs). The Kings average 2.7 percent more shots when Doughty is on the ice, and his 102.6 PDO (shooting percentage plus save percentage) ranks ninth among defensemen.
His offensive skill and production receive lots of praise, and rightly so, but Doughy also is a legitimate shutdown defenseman who excels against opponent’s top lines (his 29.2 quality of competition rating ranks second on LA). He played 28.5 minutes (including 8:40 of special teams ice time) in Game 3, the most of any player on the ice. He led the Kings with five blocked shots, registered two hits and played a key role on Los Angeles’ penalty kill by clearing pucks, winning possession below the goal line and clogging shooting lanes. Keeping a talented Chicago power play scoreless (0-of-4) is no easy task.
In addition to his scoring production and stellar defense, Doughty also provides the Kings with exceptional leadership and energy. He gets emotional on the ice, but maintains his composure and doesn’t let distractions or tough breaks bother him. It’s one of the many facets of his game that makes him arguably the best defenseman in hockey. Doughty is capable of excelling in any situation, and when the bright lights come on in the playoffs, he takes his performance to new heights.
“I think it’s fairly evident in his performance,” Kings head coach Darryl Sutter said. “That’s how he demonstrates his leadership and how he plays. He’s an elite, top two-way defenseman in the NHL.”
Scott Niedermayer (Anaheim Ducks, 2007) is the most recent defenseman to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. If the Kings win their second Stanley Cup title in three years, expect Doughty to be the latest D-man to claim the prestigious award.