Tale of two months for Drew Doughty
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The last time Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty skated on the ice at General Motors Place two months ago, he was cheered on by nearly 19,000 fans as one of the young superstars on Team Canada's gold-medal-winning team.
Now the 20-year-old London, Ontario, native is public enemy No. 1 at the arena known as Canada Hockey Place during the Winter Olympics.
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Doughty did little to endear himself to the white towel waving Vancouver fans on Thursday as he slashed Canucks left winger Alexandre Burrows in the back of the legs after the two were yapping; a tête-à-tête which would get increasingly more vocal and physical as the game progressed and should continue throughout the series.
"Having that atmosphere against me this time is a little bit different," said Doughty. "But it's a lot more fun too. It was some of the most fun hockey I ever played. I know the other team's mindset is to get me off my game and get under my skin so I have to make sure I go out there every night and just play."
When it comes to getting under your skin, there are few players in the league more proficient at the art than Burrows, who is a first-class agitator and has played his role perfectly since advancing to the Canucks' first line after being an undrafted player in the ECHL.
"I was just having a good time," said Burrows, smiling when asked about his run-in with Doughty. "It's playoff energy and playoff intensity and obviously we're going to face them a lot and it's nice to get to know the kid a little bit."
While there is no question Burrows enjoys being an instigator, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault was quick to point out Burrows wasn't the one who started the physical confrontation between Burrows and Doughty in Game 1.
"Doughty slashed him in the back of the legs at the end of the period and Alex took offense to it," Vigneault said. "He paid attention to him after Doughty slashed him. If he hadn't slashed him he wouldn't have paid attention to him."
Burrows probably won't need Doughty to do anything before he gets in his ear Saturday, when the two return to the ice for Game 2. He understands his role on the team and importance of getting the Kings' young superstar off his game.
"If someone wants to talk to me I'm more than willing to talk back," Burrows said. "I've always played like that and I don't think that can go away. I'm an emotional guy and especially in the playoffs I really want to win and if that's what it takes to get us over the hump, that's what I'll do."
One of the main storylines for the Kings heading into their first postseason since 2002 was their lack of playoff experience with half their roster, including many key players, never having played in a postseason game. While the Canucks may have more playoff experience, having advanced to the playoffs three out of the past four years, they haven't advanced past the second round since losing in the Stanley Cup finals in 1994.
Vancouver's inability to go far in the playoffs was a big reason the Canucks signed forward Mikael Samuelsson in the offseason. He's the only Canuck to play for and win a Stanley Cup (with the Detroit Red Wings in 2008) and his signing paid big dividends in his first postseason game with Vancouver as he scored two goals, including the overtime winner.
"He doesn't say too much," said Canucks left winger Daniel Sedin. "He shows by example. He's very calm before games and he's relaxed. He knows that it's a big game but you can't be too tight, play like you would in the regular season and he showed that [in Game 1] with two big goals and blocking another shot in the third and that's what it takes to win games."
Samuelson, who was calm after his Game 1 heroics, said he hates losing far more than he enjoys winning and didn't see any need to get overly excited about winning the first game of what he expects to be a long postseason run for Vancouver. He is trying to instill the same mentality in his teammates that he learned from the likes of Nicklas Lidström and Steve Yzerman in Detroit.
"He's been through it all," said Canucks center Henrik Sedin. "Before you make it to the finals, you play under pressure and it's tough to know what it's all about but he's been there and he's shown over the years that he's mentally extremely strong. That's why they brought him here. I think if you've been on teams that have won you pick up on things that they do and he's brought it here."
The universal theme for the Kings after their Game 1 loss and heading into Saturday's Game 2 is they must improve their forechecking and get more offensive zone time if they are to leave Vancouver with an all-important split. The Kings were outshot 34-23 at even strength and were practically nonexistent in the third period, getting only two shots on goal.
"Our power play was pretty sharp last night, and 5-on-5, our big thing is that we want to have zone time," said Kings defenseman Sean O'Donnell. "We feel like if we can play in there, we have a good cycling team and we can try to wear down their defense, but the important thing is that when you're cycling down there, you're not giving them any chances. The longer the puck is in their end, your chances of scoring are a lot better, so we need to get back to that. That's kind of our bread and butter, and we got away from that a little last night."
Kings head coach Terry Murray believes the team's problems on the forecheck and inability to do anything offensively in the first and third periods, when they were outshot 30-8, had more to do with the nerves of many of his young players experiencing the playoffs for the first time than anything they had to work on in practice Friday. He made the skate optional, and only six players took to the ice. "I think we were a little bit nervous at times," Murray said. "There were some young guys tasting this level of play for the first time and it showed. I thought we were chasing the puck a little bit too much in the offensive zone, trying to get the forecheck going, trying to get it stopped and we're not able to do it so we'll be better next game. We need to bring our A game. We want to get something out of this game [Saturday] and it's important that we bring our best to the game."