The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Posted: 02/16/2014 3:59 PM | Comments: 0
Last Modified: 02/17/2014 2:39 AM
SOCHI, Russia - Drew Doughty cruised deep into the Finland end, looking for an offensive opening.
Behind him a Canadian forward slipped into his position. And when the Finns headed back the other way after Doughty's foray, the Los Angeles Kings defenceman raced back, crumpling a Finnish player into the boards en route.
In three games at the Olympic hockey tournament, the 24-year-old from London, Ont., has four goals on eight shots and has been a treat to watch. Two of those goals came Sunday night in Canada's 2-1 overtime win over Finland.
Only Austria's Michael Grabner, with five, has more goals than Doughty, who is tied with American sniper Phil Kessel after the preliminary round.
Doughty is third in points, tied with Sweden's Erik Karlsson at five, behind only Grabner (six) and Kessel (seven).
"He sees it, gets it, what's going on. Doesn't seem to force things to generate offence," Canadian coach Mike Babcock said of Doughty. "He just plays the game. A heck of a player."
Shea Weber also has scored twice, meaning Canada's defence has accounted for six of the team's 11 goals.
While Weber did his damage with booming shots, Doughty has just picked his spots — finding times to sneak in and beat the goalie with a well-placed wrist shot.
"He's skilled," said captain Sidney Crosby. "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."
While the compressed offensive zone and tenacious European defences have taken away some shots from the blue-line, the situation here has helped Doughty, a slick skater and good decision-maker.
The ice surface is 15 feet wider but the blue-line is six feet further in than in the NHL. And the goal-line is two feet further out from the boards.
That means a lot of traffic down low and a tangle of players in the middle. There are paths for a player like Doughty.
"There's no ice for us forwards in the middle," said Matt Duchene. "So they (defencemen) are coming in late and we're making plays or they're picking up loose pucks.
"(Doughty) is a tremendously skilled defenceman. He has the skills of an elite forward in the NHL and he's showing it right now. He's getting the best looks of anybody right now and he's converting."
Added Carter: "I'm sure he likes a little extra room that's for sure. A guy with as much skill as he has, when he gets a little bit of space, it's unbelievable what he can do. And there's a lot of room out there."
Doughty, who has eight goals in 59 games with the Kings this season, has no explanation for his Olympic scoring outburst.
"I don't know what's going on. I don't score like this in L.A. at all," he said. "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, so (I'm) just trying to get my shots through and on the net."
Kings forward Jeff Carter, who set up the winning goal Sunday, isn't surprised at Doughty's performance.
"No, not at all," he said. "I see him every day so I know what he does.
"He's full of confidence, he plays loose, he's not shy to make plays or try and make plays. You combine that with the skill set he has and it's pretty unbelievable."
Doughty, a veteran of the 2010 Olympics, says he's comfortable with the European ice and enjoying it.
"My first game, I thought I struggled a little bit especially in the first period, but ever since then, I've been comfortable," he said. "I'm ready to go. I'm used to the ice sheet.
"I'm used to playing with these guys. I'm just excited now. I forget about everything that's going on around me and I'm just focused on my game and having fun. "
Babcock has paired Doughty with Marc-Edouard Vlasic of the San Jose Sharks.
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