Stanley Cup Finals 2012: L.A. Kings' Drew Doughty Proving His Doubters Wrong

Al DanielCorrespondent IIJune 3, 2012

NEWARK, NJ - JUNE 02:  Drew Doughty #8 of the Los Angeles Kings celebrates after scoring a goal in the first period against the New Jersey Devils during Game Two of the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Prudential Center on June 2, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Trailing only Anze Kopitar, defenseman Drew Doughty is the Los Angeles Kings’ highest-grossing holdover from last season with a $6 million income heading his way for 2011-12.

With this being his first season beyond his original, entry-level contract, his cap hit has more than doubled within the past year.

Funny thing, though. His results on the ice did anything but increase accordingly over the regular season.

Rather, he all but saw a rancid regression back to his rookie campaign with his offensive productivity, hit total, plus/minus rating and shooting percentage all down from where they were in 2009-10 and 2010-11.

Heavy were the Benjamins, were they?

But over the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, in what might be considered an ongoing personification the Kings’ season, Doughty has kicked abundant ice chips over his regular-season transcript.

Just as team captain Dustin Brown is among the L.A. forwards, Doughty is piloting the blue line brigade as its most complete player.

His final line from Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals, a 2-1 victory that gives the Kings a 2-0 advantage over the higher-seeded New Jersey Devils, should be enough to tell you as much.

Doughty led the team with 45 shifts and 32:19 minutes of ice time on the night, including 1:45 on the power play and 2:19 shorthanded.

And in that time, he blocked one New Jersey shot, forced one turnover, threw three body-checks, landed three out of five attempted shots on net and landed one of them in the net.

Still not convincing enough? Then maybe a look back at Doughty’s icebreaker goal will drive the point home just like teammate Jeff Carter later put a stamp on the Kings’ second straight 2-1 overtime triumph over the Devils.

If not for Doughty’s exemplary demonstration of converting assertive defense to prolific offense, Los Angeles may never have even been in a position to take the 2-0 series lead in sudden death.

But as it happened, he set another favorable tone for his club in the first period.

He single-handedly took the puck from between his own hash marks, through a maze in the neutral zone and to the far circle-top on New Jersey property.

From that spot, he nailed a 17-foot wrist shot at the 7:49 mark, drawing first blood on his third goal of the postseason.

Doughty remains in a three-way tie with Brown and Kopitar for second among the Kings with nine helpers in the playoffs.

The unassisted strike brings his playoff point total up to 12, tying him with Justin Williams for third on the team. It brings his rating up to plus-12, still the best among all NHL defensemen in the postseason.

In the current series, Doughty already has a hand in half of the Kings’ four goals and has been on the ice for three of them. Dating back to the Western Conference championship clincher versus Phoenix, he has a 2-2-4 scoring log with a plus-four rating, eight hits and three blocked shots.

It has been a balancing act most pivotal to the success of a team that gets less surprising by the day. And it comes after a regular season where it seemed Doughty had misplaced his touch, particularly on the defensive front, while his team was fortunate to have merely sealed the last available playoff spot.

Suffice it to say, the important thing now is that they have taken that spot and fostered a historic run out of it.

And just as much as Kopitar and Brown have in front of him and goaltender Jonathan Quick behind him, Doughty has unveiled a new identity as a proficient postseason marathon runner.

In his case, as one of Saturday’s key plays proved, he is the type who will rigidly run from end to end and smuggle a precious goal past Martin Brodeur.

Suddenly, that hefty $7 million cap hit isn’t exactly weighing down on his back anymore.