There are certain comparisons in hockey that carry considerable weight. Compare a goalie to Dominick Hasek or Patrick Roy, and he better well be dominant. Compare a skater to Gretzky or Lemieux, and he better end up with Sidney Crosby’s career points per game average.
Compare a defenseman to Nicklas Lidstrom … well, Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings just did after their Game 2 Western Conference Final victory over the Chicago Blackhawks, actually:
“I’ve been saying this a couple years now, he’s our Nick Lidstrom,” Kopitar said of his teammate Drew Doughty.
“We all know what he did in Detroit for many, many years. I think Drew likes the big stage, obviously. He likes these types of games. He gets very emotional. I guess if you draw a line underneath that, he just brings his game to the next level at this time of year and these type of games.”
Getting “very emotional” would seem the antithesis of the android-like efficiency of Lidstrom during his 19-season career, in which “the perfect human” secured four Stanley Cups for the Detroit Red Wings. But no one said it was a perfect comparison -- heck, Doughty's yet to win a single Norris Trophy, let alone all of them like Lidstrom did.
What they share in emotional makeup is an ability to let losses go and simply hit the reset button after every game.
“He’s a very calm, relaxed guy in any situation. Nothing bothers him. I think that’s a good attitude, a good way to go about things. You don’t want to be too high and low. If you’re going to have a long career, you have to be even keeled to a degree and not let too many things bother you,” said Jarret Stoll.
Like Kopitar said: Doughty is the Lidstrom of the LA Kings. An ice time monster. An offensive catalyst. A defensive stopper. A player that does seem to get better as the pressure is added in the postseason. And while Dustin Brown wears the ‘C’ for the Kings, it’s Doughty’s leadership in championship situations that’s getting high praise.
“Whether he has a letter or not, he’s a leader on our team,” Brown told LA Kings Insider. “I think it’s a result of having the same group of guys and he’s kind of coming into his own as an off the ice type guy. With his personality and the way he matured, he’s starting to get to that time where he’s taking on more of a role.”
Doughty is 24. He’s fifth in ice time in the playoffs with 27:21 and fifth in the playoffs in scoring for defensemen at 10 points in 16 games, skating to a plus-7. He's the lynchpin for a defense that can shutter an opposing offense. If Jonathan Quick is the backbone, Doughty's the heart.
Lidstrom won his first world championship gold at 20 years old, but didn’t win his first Cup until his was 27.
Doughty won Olympic gold twice, world junior gold in 2008 and world championship silver. He’s trying to win his second Stanley Cup, attempting to keep pace with his countryman Jonathan Toews as the greatest young winner in hockey.
What he shares with Toews and Lidstrom is an insatiable desire to win, and to lead his teammates there any way he can.
“I’ve become a lot more of a leader than in past years,” Doughty told the LA Times. “When I got out there, I have to be the best defenseman on the ice. I have to make sure I’m showing that. I’m just playing my hardest and trying to have fun, too. I’m trying to be the most competitive guy out there.”