Drew Doughty is averaging 23 minutes, 47 seconds of ice time this season, just three seconds per game under last season’s team-high average. Doughty played a career-high 29:33 Saturday against Tampa Bay and has played at least 24 minutes in four of his last six games.
Doughty isn’t the only defenseman getting big minutes. Jack Johnson is averaging 23:02, almost three minutes more per game than last season. Johnson logged 26:19 on Saturday, in a game in which Rob Scuderi got hurt in the first period and overtime was needed. Murray has shown plenty of faith in Johnson’s play, despite his minus-10 rating and one assist in his last nine games. Doughty is fifth in the NHL in defenseman scoring, with 16 points.
MURRAY: “When you get up into the 26, 27-minute range, I kind of like to see young guys get up in that area, because you have to figure out how to manage your game. You’re not going to play full-tilt that many minutes. It’s absolutely impossible. So you have to be able to manage your intensity, manage your minutes in each shift, have great awareness to that and not get over-extended. I think it also shows the potential that these two young guys have.
“It’s going to be incredible, as they get older, the amount of mintues that they’re going to be able to demand. They’re not just able; they’re going to demand it as they get to be 27, 28 years old. You’re going to have to have that third guy. It will be like the old Montreal Canadiens, with (Serge) Savard, (Larry) Robinson and (Guy) Lapointe, just rotate three people. I’m going to have to talk to Dean about that. Six years from now, that’s the focus we’ll have to have. (laughs)”
And how did Murray think Doughty and Johnson handled the heavy playing time?
MURRAY: “I thought they managed it pretty good. Sometimes you get exposed with a little bit of having the puck on your stick too much. That’s part of the learning process that you go through when you do play a lot. You’ve got to make quicker plays, smarter plays, harder plays with the puck, get it up ice to the forwards and let them mess up, rather than you yourself. That’s always been my philosophy as a defenseman. That’s a big part of your game, coming into the National Hockey League. But overall, we had five guys, and those two young guys did a pretty good job.”