Good afternoon, Insiders…..good to be home! Let’s dive right in –
We spoke with Drew Doughty today about a number of aspects of both his game, and the team’s game as a whole. Doughty has been a standout, in a positive way, for the Kings both offensively, defensively and as a leader – in short, he’s been Drew Doughty. His point totals are up, his possession metrics are up, he’s been happy with his defensive play and he’s been touted positively as a leader by many of the young defensemen that have suited up in the black and white this season.
By his own admission, Doughty has always put a focus on his defensive play first and foremost. It’s what, in his mind, has defined his game. Offensively, however, he has produced to the tune of 17 points (5-12-17) from 20 games played so far this season. No defenseman that is not a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning had more points in the month of February than Doughty’s 11. Earlier today, he talked about both the added focus he placed on improving his shot in the offseason, as well as his teammates putting him in positions to score, as reasons for his increased offensive output.
“I worked a lot on my shot during COVID,” Doughty said. “Back home, we couldn’t have more than like eight guys on the ice, so I would just get three guys to pass me pucks, so I worked on my shot a lot. Besides that, it’s just the guys around me. The power play is clicking, guys around me are putting the puck in the net and giving me good passes for me to put the puck in the net. I don’t think it’s anything I’ve changed, or anything I’m doing different, the puck’s just going in for me right now and I hope it continues.”
At the other end of the ice, perhaps no defenseman in the NHL draws more difficult minutes than Doughty. He ranks second in the league in total time-on-ice (26:36), averages more than six minutes per game on special teams and he’s one of just two players in the league to play more than 3:30 on the PP and 2:20 SH (yeah, I cherry-picked those numbers to fit my narrative, so what?). In terms of playing difficult minutes at even strength, it’s hard to analyze that statistically, but his most common opponents this season have been Kaprizov and Eriksson Ek versus Minnesota, O’Reilly and Perron versus St. Louis and Mackinnon, Rantanen, Landeskog versus Colorado. Top-line players. Doughty has always taken pride in playing against the best players in the league, and his own defensive game.
“My defensive game is my most proud attribute, especially this season, I think I’ve been really good in that department,” Doughty said. “I know I’m getting points, you see the recognition, but my defensive game is my specialty, and I take a lot of pride in that.”
Doughty has pointed to what he learned from Matt Greene in the leadership department several times this season, and did so again today. The London, ONT native’s presence has been invaluable when it comes to teaching a group of younger defensemen behind him, and many of those players have spoken to that throughout the season. Doughty said he learned a lot from how Greene led, and has taken some of those principles and applied them to his own style of leadership.
“Matt Greene was a mentor to me, he’s like a big brother, he took me under his wing in my first season, and still to this day, if I have any leadership issues or questions, I’m calling Matt Greene,” Doughty said. “I think anybody who’s every played with him would tell you he’s one of the best leaders they’ve ever seen. I’m not the same leader he is, I do go about it a different way, but there are a lot of things that I took from him that I use in my leadership skills.”
We’ve seen a resurgent Drew Doughty this season, a player who has already garnered Norris Trophy consideration in the media. Doughty seems re-energized, on a re-energized Kings team that finds itself in the hunt at the one-third mark.
While Doughty said he’s unsure if you can call the Kings a playoff team today, he emphasized that is still the goal for this group.
“I definitely think there’s a chance we can make the playoffs. I wouldn’t say that we’re 100 percent going to make it, we’ve got a lot of work to do, but I can see us hopefully getting into that third or fourth slot there. If anyone doesn’t think that we can potentially make the playoffs, what’s the point of even coming here every day? That’s we’re playing for.”
The Boys Are Back
After an 11-day road trip, it was certainly nice to see the team back at Toyota Sports Performance Center in El Segundo. It’s even nicer to do so after a road trip that saw the Kings go 4-1-1 from six games away from Southern California.
“I think, after a long trip like that, everyone is happy to be home and get some practice time. Today, we got the legs moving again, worked on a few things in the zone and on the forecheck. We feel good today and we’ll feel good tomorrow, going into the game on Wednesday.”
The team had 15 forwards, eight defensemen and three goaltenders on the ice today, with the Kings going through one of two practice days in advance of Wednesday’s game versus Arizona. Here’s how the Kings lined up this afternoon –
Gray – Iafallo, Kopitar, Brown, Carter, Vilardi, Athanasiou
White – Amadio, Grundstrom, Moore, Kempe, Lizotte, Wagner
Purple – Luff, Kupari, Andersson
Doughty, Anderson, Maatta, MacDermid, Strand, Roy, Bjornfot, Walker
Quick, Petersen, Grosenick
This week of practice holds a bit of extra importance for the Kings, considering what lies ahead. The stretch of three days, which began yesterday and runs through tomorrow, is the only set of consecutive non-game days the team will have until March 25 and 26.
Beginning on Wednesday, the Kings will play 13 games in 20 days, with no more than one day off in between any two games. There are three back-to-backs in there, including two home-away back to backs, and little time for practices that can work on specific elements of the game. That brings us back to today, a full-team practice day, that McLellan admitted to looking forward to following the final game in Minnesota.
“We’ve got some things ahead of us that we have to work on,” McLellan said after yesterday’s game. “I’m looking forward to some of the practice time that is upcoming [over the next two days] because we haven’t had a lot of it on the road.”
While the team lost only two games of six on the road trip, McLellan felt that certain bad habits started to creep into the way the Kings were playing in St. Louis, despite winning both games over the Blues. We’ll take a deeper dive into what the team hopes to achieve over these two practice days tomorrow, following’s McLellan first media availability of the week.
Lastly, we spoke with forward Austin Wagner, owner of a breakaway goal in Minnesota, after today’s practice. Wagner talked about being back in Southern California after a long trip, the team’s effectiveness when forechecking well and using his speed when playing alongside Andreas Athanasiou.