Drew Doughty is Team Canada's current star at Sochi Olympics
Defenceman shifts spotlight from Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz
SOCHI – Opponents have hammered Sidney Crosby on the ice, while in the fickle fan base back home some have hammered No. 87 for his lack of production (one assist) through three games at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
But the blame-game doesn’t stop at the skates of the Canadian captain. Chris Kunitz should be benched. P.K. Subban and Martin St. Louis should be in. Right now, there appear to be 1,000 ways some Canadian hockey fans have left their lover.
One player, however, who has avoided the slings and arrows is the Los Angeles Kings' skilful defenceman Drew Doughty. He scored his third and fourth goals of the Olympic tournament to lead Canada into the quarterfinals in a 2-1 victory over a tight-checking team from Finland on Sunday.
The bigger the stage, the better the kid from London, Ont. performs.
“I thrive for these opportunities,” said Doughty, who had scored only twice in 27 games before the break. “Some of it is I play in Los Angeles and people don’t see what we do there day-in, day-out. And I’m talking about our whole lineup. This is my chance to really show people in the East and all of Canada. I look forward to that opportunity.”
Canada is not the only team in this tournament that has had difficulty with the defence-first teams like Finland, which clog up the middle to try to harness the opposition's skill and speed. In their own end, these teams collapse around their goalie to prevent goals. Doughty has taken advantage of that tactic and has provided some much needed offence for Canada.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” said Doughty, when asked about his offensive outburst in Sochi. “I don’t score like this in L.A. at all. A lot of it is just my teammates. They’re doing a great job of getting me the puck. When you play with these high-skilled forwards, all you’ve got to do is find some room on the ice and they’re going to find you. I’m just trying to get my shots through and on the net.”
His Kings teammates love to ride the defenceman for his take on life. They call his observations Dewey-isms. One story goes that he asked what island was below the team plane shortly after a takeoff from Los Angeles. It was the Catalina Island, but a mischievous teammate told him “Hawaii.” More than a few minutes elapsed before Doughty caught on.
Natural athlete with 'incredible skill'
While some discussions points may be fuzzy to Doughty off the ice, he has been clearly one of the best with his instinctive ways on the ice.
“He’s full of confidence and he’s loose,” said Canadian forward Jeff Carter, who plays with Doughty on the Kings. “Combine his confidence and his incredible skill and it makes for a pretty dynamic player.”
Crosby added, “He’s skilled. He has a great shot. I think he’s really good at getting his shot through. They do a good job here of team defence and five guys collapsing to the net, so you have to have a combination of a good enough shot to get it through and obviously the hockey sense to make that decision when you do it. He’s done a really good job of that.”
Doughty is a natural athlete. His parents, Connie and Paul, both played soccer. They named their daughter Chelsea after their beloved Premiership soccer team in England. Drew was a goalie on the pitch, and a good one until he decided only to play hockey.
He won a world junior with Canada in 2008, Olympic gold in 2010 and a Stanley Cup in 2012. In Vancouver at the last Winter Games, Doughty was the youngest player on the team at age 20. It proved to be quite an education from the likes of Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger. No doubt this has been a benefit for Team Canada four years later.
“I was probably a little more nervous in 2010, that helped me out,” he said. “I was just a young guy there and had so many older guys around me that I didn’t know whatsoever. Everyone was a new face to me. I was nervous mostly because of that – not because of the fans and the pressure and the country. I was just meeting all these all-star players.
“It wasn’t liked I leaned on them for advice vocally, just watching them, that’s all I had to do. I learned so many things just watching those guys play. It helped me out for this one for sure.”