LOS ANGELES -- Those that were around Drew Doughty earlier this season could sense a change in his demeanor when the Stanley Cup Playoffs began.
Doughty's eyes seemed to light up when the games took on heavy meaning, and he spoke with more focus about loving this time of year -- the intense matchups with teams in a seven-game series. Doughty isn't necessarily bored with the regular season; it's just that he loves a stage.
At the 2010 Winter Olympics, Doughty was the poster boy for Team Canada when he took the Canadian flag and skated around the ice after the gold medal game. He was all of 20.
It was a coming-out party for Doughty as a premier young defenseman in the NHL. But he knew his career wouldn't be complete without a Stanley Cup, and he crossed that off his list Monday at age 22.
"In a way, but I think this is more rewarding," Doughty said when asked to compare his gold medal to winning the Cup. "Creating a bond with these guys over the whole year and then finally winning it over such a long period of time is huge."
Doughty played a game-high 27:31 in Game 6, including a whopping 9:34 on the power play. He finished the Stanley Cup Playoffs with four goals and 12 assists with a plus-11 rating in 20 games after a regular season that, much like that of the Kings, didn’t get going until February.
Go back even further and Doughty was a non-entity on the Kings, having missed training camp because of a prolonged contract negotiation. He got missed five games with an upper-body injury in October. More important, Doughty said earlier this season that he butted heads with assistant coach John Stevens on his play.
Doughty dropped off steeply from his Norris Trophy finalist season of 2009-10, and observers questioned his health and conditioning. But Doughty asserted himself under coach Darryl Sutter, who seemed to take a hand-off approach with Doughty and let him ride it out.
Sutter often said he treated Doughty like he was one of his kids, and there was at least one father-son moment this season like when Sutter scalded Doughty for glimpsing a TV in between periods. Although he acts like most 22-year-olds, Doughty has wisdom to know that it is that journey through the good and bad times that makes winning the Cup that more enjoyable.
And yes, that 82-game season counts, too.
"The guys start from day one in training camp," Doughty said. "We worked so hard together, we create bond. We're with each other so much of the day and so much throughout the week. To win for the hardworking group and guys that you love is huge.
"[It's] pretty emotional. There's so many things going through my body right now I don't even know what to say. Just to do it with these guys is amazing. I already won one and I want to win another one. I don't even know what to say."
Doughty was off to celebrate with his teammates. At some point, he would take time out for one quick change.
"I'm not liking this beard," he said, "It's coming off tonight."