Two Olympic gold medals, one Stanley Cup ring and an increasing position of leadership … does this all mean the Kings have seen the last of Dewey-isms?
That would be the often quirky observations of the uber-talented Drew Doughty (aka "Dewey"). They also once included made-up words from the fun-loving kid lurking in the body of a world-class defenseman.
"He's not changing," said Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin, Doughty's partner on the blue line.
Doughty and Muzzin, the Kings' No. 1 pair, are assigned the task of shutting down the Blackhawks' top line centered by captain Jonathan Toews.
Toews scored once and linemate Marian Hossa had two assists in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, which Chicago won, 3-1, on Sunday.
Game 2 is Wednesday at the United Center and Muzzin drew a parallel from their assignment against Toews and Hossa to the last series against the Ducks.
"Those two guys are probably one of the top two pairs of forwards, along with [Ryan] Getzlaf and [Corey] Perry," Muzzin said. "We've got to do the job on them because their team builds a lot of momentum from them."
Said Doughty of Toews: "I think he has more heart than a lot of players and that's what separates him. Skill-wise he's got it all, but what I really have to be aware of when I play him is on the defensive end or in the neutral zone, if he's trying to forecheck me, I can't be making passes by him, he's going to knock those down."
Doughty's evolution accelerated last season when the Kings had to get by without veteran defensemen Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell because of injuries. Mitchell missed the whole season and Greene almost all of it. And Muzzin entered the playoffs last season with no postseason experience.
"It wasn't the best thing for me and my career, but I was out of hockey for the year," Mitchell said Tuesday. "It put Drew in a situation — it was probably going to happen regardless — just the evolution of a career. He always played with someone who was a stay-at-home player and all of a sudden he was looked upon to be that person.
"That's why he's such a complete player in the league. This year, the coaches trusted [Muzzin] and Drew together, to be in that situation coming into the playoffs."
Muzzin grew up in Ontario, not far from Doughty, and they played against each other as youngsters.
The competitiveness has not ebbed with age, according to Muzzin.
"It's always a competition," Muzzin said. "Now that I play with him, it's always between me and him…. He's got so much skill. I think a lot of that is that he wants to win.
"All that good stuff rubs off on me, but for the most part we're just two guys who want to win and are having fun."
Chicago in the spring means convention time.
Even the Kings had to scramble for hard-to-book hotel rooms. They had to switch hotels after Game 1, and Kings Coach Darryl Sutter recalled the Star Trek convention being held at their airport hotel here last year during the third round.
"That was in my age group," Sutter said. "Lot of our players didn't know who all those guys walking around in blue-and-gold tights were.
"That's what happens in the playoffs. You don't know your schedule, especially with the city being so busy and conventions going on."
Toews had a funny line when asked whether he relished playing against great goaltenders.
"I guess you'd rather go against a goaltender who lets in more goals than that," Toews said. "We've got to do what we've got to do to score. We did a good job in the first game, but I still think we can generate more shots, more traffic and try and get on him earlier in the next one."
Toews played with the Kings' Jeff Carter and Doughty for Team Canada at the Olympics. Blackhawks star Patrick Kane was with Kings captain Dustin Brown and Kings goalie Jonathan Quick for Team USA in Sochi, Russia.
"He's a battler," Kane said of Quick. "I know from firsthand experience playing with him in the Olympics. He kept us in a lot of games there and makes a lot of saves that he shouldn't sometimes. It's going to be tough to score on him. We know that."
Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times