Kings looking to put first-time nervousness behind them
Drew Doughty’s maturation has been so rapid, it’s no surprise he sounded like an expert on the Stanley Cup playoffs after only one postseason game.
Asked Friday for his thoughts on the Kings’ performance in their 3-2 overtime loss to the Canucks the previous day, he responded with his usual assurance.
“It’s kind of a good feeling knowing we didn’t play our best and still went to overtime,” said Doughty, one of nine Kings in uniform for their first NHL playoff game.
“It was a really physical game. That’s how the playoffs are.”
Doughty played 23 minutes 32 seconds and was credited with one shot and two hits. He also took a huge, clean hit from Alex Edler at 12:21 of the third period but bounced back up.
“He got me good,” Doughty said Friday after the Kings had meetings and an optional skate in advance of Game 2 Saturday night at GM Place.
Doughty said his first playoff game was a memorable experience. “It was pretty unbelievable going out there right before the puck dropped,” he said. “Everybody has goose bumps going up and down their body.”
Team captain Dustin Brown, another playoff newcomer, acknowledged feeling some jitters early in the game but said they faded after he played a few shifts. “The atmosphere was good, loud, but once you’re into the game you don’t really notice any of that,” he said.
He did notice a key difference between playoff hockey and the regular-season variety. “More attention to the little things, done more consistently,” he said. “Both teams, I thought, did little things more consistently well.”
The Kings will have to do a few things better Saturday to avoid taking a 2-0 deficit back to Staples Center on Monday. Avoiding neutral-zone turnovers is one (that means you, Randy Jones). Cutting down their shots-against from Thursday’s 44 would also spare Jonathan Quick some stress.
But by Saturday night Doughty, Brown and the other previously inexperienced Kings will be playoff veterans.
“I think we were a little bit nervous at times. There were some young guys tasting this level of play for the first time and it showed,” Coach Terry Murray said. “I thought we were chasing the puck a little bit too much in the offensive zone, trying to get the forecheck going, trying to get it stopped. We’re not able to do it so we’ll be better next game.
“We need to bring our ‘A’ game. We want to get something out of this game [Saturday] and it’s important that we bring our best to the game.”
Brown said that would include more persistent forechecking.
“That’s where our game is. We need to get in on their defensemen,” he said. “We didn’t get the puck stopped up enough in Game 1. That and having a net presence on [goaltender Roberto] Luongo, getting guys in and around the net, scoring ugly goals, that’s all the result of having a good forecheck.”
The match game
The home team has the last line change, allowing Canucks Coach Alain Vigneault to get the line of Daniel and Henrik Sedin and Alex Burrows away from the Kings’ checking line, centered by Michal Handzus. But Murray has often been content to have his No. 1 line of Ryan Smyth, Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams face the opposing team’s top line, so it was no great disadvantage for the Kings.
However, they’d like to get Doughty and Rob Scuderi against the Sedin line as a shutdown defense pair but probably won’t be able to do that until Monday.
The Sedin line also did a good job defensively in Game 1. Kopitar had one shot and an assist, Smyth had three shots and Williams had one shot, and Murray was asked how he will get Kopitar free to lead the Kings’ offense.
“You can take a player off the ice if you don’t like the matchup,” he said. “There’s also a time when players have to find a way to get it done, create some space, create some scoring opportunities, don’t look to get too cute, too fancy. More pucks to the net. That maybe opens some stuff up later in the game.”
Canucks center Henrik Sedin spent some time after practice Friday getting treatment, leading a reporter to recall an odd moment in the second period when Kopitar’s stick came up and got stuck in Sedin’s visor. Did his treatment involve getting Kopitar’s stick surgically removed from his head?
“Yeah, exactly,” Sedin said before smiling. “It accidentally came up there. He dropped it right away, so it wasn’t a big deal.”
Sedin said he expected a high-sticking call, though none was made. “The evidence was there to make the call,” he said.
Kopitar said he watched a replay Friday and was stunned to see where the stick lodged. “The expression on my face on TV was kind of funny,” he said.
Brown, who ranked second in the NHL with 287 hits, had none Thursday. “There weren’t that many chances for me to get in on the forecheck. That’s how the game went,” he said.
The Kings’ Game 1 ice-time leader was Jack Johnson, at 25 minutes 20 seconds. The leader for both teams was Vancouver defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, at 30:35.
Burrows and Doughty had a lively dialogue most of the game, but that’s no surprise, given Burrows’ reputation as a yapper.
“Just having a good time, I think,” Burrows said. “Playoff energy and playoff intensity. We’re going to face him a lot. Just nice to know the kid a little bit.”
The Sedin twins’ connection helps them enormously on the ice, and they also made a huge impact off the ice last month by jointly donating $1.5 million to British Columbia Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.
“We’ve been here for a long time now, and every year we go to the hospital and see the kids. Now that we’ve got our own kids, we realize how important that place is to the people here, so we wanted to do something,” said Daniel, who has two children, while Henrik has one and another on the way.