My favorite moment covering the Kings’ run to the Stanley Cup title was seeing and hearing the revealing reaction from the player at the heart of the team’s success.
It certainly wasn’t for attribution as Kings defenseman Drew Doughty strode down the United Center’s visitors’ dressing room hallway after the Kings had just survived a third consecutive Game 7 on the road by eliminating the 2013 Stanley Cup champions in overtime.
But in light of what happened less than two weeks later, seeing Doughty skate around Staples Center on Friday night hoisting the Stanley Cup, the moment remains unforgettable and a telling snapshot of the magical ride.
“Let’s get … out of here,” Doughty roared to no one in particular.
To me, Doughty was making it clear the heaviest lifting of the Stanley Cup challenge was complete, that it was time to get back home to Los Angeles after three grueling back-and-forths to Chicago against a team that pushed the Kings to the brink -- that it was time to win a second Stanley Cup in three seasons.
Doughty played more than 23 minutes in all 26 of the Kings’ playoff games. In Game 2 against the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Final, he played 41 minutes 41 seconds.
Friday night, he was in there for 41:21, helping blank the Rangers for the game’s final 59:06 as the Kings rallied to win, 3-2, in double overtime.
“This series was probably — I don’t want to say the easiest — but the least physically demanding, without a doubt,” Doughty told reporters after Friday’s win. “All the other series were more physical, they were tougher on the body.
“It was still a good series, but the other ones were tougher.”
I looked at Doughty during a timeout in a tie game late Friday night. Staples Center was a tense mess. Would the Kings dare blow a 3-0 series lead themselves after overcoming such a hole against San Jose in the first-round series?
Doughty -- while many teammates sat -- stood along the boards, calm, looking as if he was having the time of his life, sipping from a Gatorade bottle.
At 24, he now has won two Stanley Cups and two gold medals for Team Canada in the Olympics.
There’s an “it” factor that some special athletes have. You know it when you see it. Doughty has it.
“After we won the first one, all we wanted to do was win another one,” he said. “We kind of messed that up last year. We lost the Cup to another team and we wanted it back so bad. We felt like it was ours. We got her back and we’re happy now.”