- The Washington Times - Monday, June 4, 2012

Former Detroit Red Wing Nicklas Lidstrom played almost perfect defense for 20 seasons in the NHL, so it’s no surprise that he was the example for many young players.

“He was so focused and so prepared for every single game he played in,” Drew Doughty said. “I think a lot of us young D-men really looked up to him.”

But Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter doesn’t see any of Lidstrom in Doughty’s game.

“No,” he deadpanned. “Because they’re not similar in style of play.”

Fair enough, but Doughty put himself in the conversation for Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP by looking like some other legendary defensemen. Never was that more evident than in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup FInal when he deked through several New Jersey Devils defenders and scored a goal that drew comparisons to Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque and forward Pavel Bure.

It was only fitting his end-to-end rush happened in an arena with Scott Niedermayer’s No. 27 hanging in the rafters.

“I actually remember Niedermayer when he played in New Jersey having a couple end-to-enders. He was an unbelievable player here, everywhere he played,” Doughty said. “I always wanted to emulate him. He always scored some highlight goals that I remember.”

Given the stage, Doughty’s highlight goal will be one to remember for fans and future players. He flew past a forechecking David Clarkson, went around a poke-checking Ryan Carter and schooled an oncoming Stephen Gionta.

“Made a great play. You know what, a 200-foot play, right? One of those coast-to-coast things,” Sutter said. “You’ll look at a lot of times. Win or lose, that’s a great play.”

It’s a play Doughty said earlier that day he wanted to make more of. Even though his playoff performance is one reason the Kings are close to winning the first championship in franchise history, the 22-year-old lamented not helping more months ago.

Doughty separated his shoulder early on, but even upon returning he wasn’t satisfied.

“I think my first quarter, first half of the season I wasn’t playing the way I could,” Doughty said. “I had all that pressure on me, and I was thinking about it too much and I wasn’t myself.”

Doughty was talking about the pressure that came with signing an eight-year, $56 million contract last offseason. At $7 million, his cap hit was tied for 15th in the NHL, and he wasn’t making a major impact.

“I knew I signed that big contract and I wanted to play to the best I could, and I knew I had to be one of the best guys on the team, too. I wasn’t performing that way,” Doughty acknowledged. “Once I saw that other guys were doing a lot better than me and I wasn’t performing up to expectation, I put a lot of stress on myself and a lot of pressure on myself and I didn’t play like it.”

Doughty never felt like the “reins” were on him during the first half of the year under former coach Terry Murray. But under Sutter, he started to settle down.

In the playoffs, he has shined at both ends of the ice with three goals, nine assists and a plus-12 rating through Game 2 of the final. Doughty said he’s at the top of his game when having fun, and that’s happening now.

“I know in order for our team to be successful, I got to be the best defenseman on the ice every night. Even though I kind of put that pressure on myself, I’m having fun,”he said. “I’m enjoying coming to the rink every day, being in this moment, in the spotlight in the Stanley Cup Final.”

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