Vancouver returns to the playoffs with an Art Ross Trophy winner (top scorer) and a balanced offense with a number of 20-goal scorers in the lineup.
Henrik Sedin competes with unprecedented confidence, having bested Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby as the No. 1 point producer in the NHL.
Although Vancouver is favored to win the series, because of the team’s offensive capabilities and experience (Daniel Sedin, Alexandre Burrows, and others), it is not expected to be a cake walk by any means.
LA has surprised doubters with its enthusiasm and zeal to compete for every puck that comes its way. The Kings have an accomplished defense and could use it to stymie the Vancouver offense.
The LA Kings are making their first playoff visit in eight years led by second-year star defenseman Drew Doughty.
After three games, the series has developed into a classic offense-versus-defense stratagem with plenty of hitting and tenacious defense.
The first two games were close before Doughty took Game 3 in his hands, scoring a goal and adding three assists to propel LA to an important win.
While Anze Kopitar, Jack Johnson, and goaltender Jonathan Quick have all contributed to the Kings' new-found street cred, it has been the leadership of the second-year defenseman that has made the difference.
During the season, Doughty logged impressive minutes on a regular shift, the power play, and penalty kill, sometimes playing half the game. Hockey scribes noticed his coolness under pressure and his self-assured style on the ice.
Doughty has been frequently mentioned as a possible Norris Trophy finalist during the regular season, in addition to accolades for his fine defensive play for Team Canada during the Winter Olympics.
Although Doughty was not yet born when legendary Montreal defenseman Doug Harvey was dominating the game as the NHL’s best defenseman, he has many of Harvey’s on-ice mannerisms.
Doughty, like Harvey, has tremendous offensive skills to go along with his defensive abilities. He is capable of leading the rush out of the LA defensive zone when necessary and quarterbacking the Kings' potent power play.
He also has shown the tendency to deliver timely body checks and block shots in front of his goal.
”Doughty is very calculating on the ice,” says teammate Wayne Simmonds.
The major similarity between the two is Doughty’s cool and calm personality on the ice in the middle of sheer chaos. It is very difficult to compare players of previous eras to this one, but the similarity is indeed striking.
Comparing Doughty to other past NHL greats, Bobby Orr, Paul Coffey, and Raymond Bourque come to mind, particularly the determination on their faces. Watching Denis Potvin, you could feel the intensity, and in Larry Robinson, intense desire.
It is hard to find a time when Doughty appeared rattled or not in control. This is especially impressive for a sophomore NHL defenseman.
During the 1950’s, Harvey was not ever panicked, and he occasionally rattled Coach Toe Blake by skating in front of his team’s goal while handling the puck in the heart of traffic.
Harvey was a cool customer. Doughty is similar in that regard.
It is too early to tell how the playoffs will turn out, but it is a sure thing that the series will be a memorable one.
No matter if Vancouver or LA advances, Doughty has officially emerged as a top defenseman in the NHL.
It seems as though LA has a great eight (Doughty’s number) in their lineup too.