LOS ANGELES - Kings defenseman Drew Doughty can verify that losing used to have its rewards as an NHL player in Southern California.
"Back in the day, we could pretty much roll in anywhere, and there was no way anybody would know who you were. No possible way," Doughty said. "Now, it seems like everywhere we do go now we are getting recognized. ... It's more like when you are home in Canada."
Doughty has played a major role in making the Kings more recognizable and and giving the franchise a stronger presence in the marketplace since they won the Stanley Cup in 2012. He's an engaging, witty personality and he's a dominant defenseman, similar to the impact Denis Potvin had with the New York Islanders.
One of the New York Rangers' primary missions in Saturday's Game 2 (7 p.m. ET, NBC) will be figuring out how to diminish Doughty's effectiveness.
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It's a given that goalie Henrik Lundqvist will have to play Conn Smythe Trophy-quality hockey for the Rangers to win this series. But it's not as simple to say that goalie Jonathan Quick is the Kings' most important player.
Unquestionably, Quick is essential because of the position he plays. But Doughty is a critical component of the Kings' hope of a second Stanley Cup in three seasons because he triggers their offense, fortifies their defense and fuels their passion.
The Norris Trophy is given to the top regular-season defenseman, but if postseason play were considered, Doughty would be a finalist because of the way he has played this spring.
"(And) he's a long ways from being as good as he is going to be just because of his age," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said.
He's 24 and has won two Olympic gold medals with Canada, and he will have two Stanley Cup rings if the Kings win this series. He already has Hall of Fame credentials and he might have 15 years left in his career.
"That guy can play and play and play every night," said his defensive partner Jake Muzzin. "He's a freak."
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Muzzin theorizes that with all the playoff and Olympic games Doughty has played in recent years, the defenseman is in the top three in the NHL in minutes during that span. Doughty is averaging nearly 28 minutes per game over the 22 games in these playoffs.
"He still brings energy and still has energy throughout the game," Muzzin said.
Doughty also offers offensive magic, as he showed in Game 1 with a sweet between-the-legs move for the tying goal in the 3-2 overtime win.
He is physical. He is vocal. He is the guy on the bench pounding his stick to get officials' attention so he can point out their errors in judgment.
Doughty is also the guy who answers the questions for the news media most nights whether his team wins or loses. He holds himself accountable.
"Sometimes I get down on myself and don't play my best games," he said. "But my teammates have helped me with this and now I see myself as one of the leaders of this team."
He's honest in his self-appraisal. He concedes that he misses the days when he could be anonymous in LA because he liked doing what he wanted in his free time "and not get in trouble for it."
The change in the number of times players are recognized has been drastic, he said.
"The beards we have don't help," Doughty said.
But he certainly is not willing to trade his championship ring for anonymity.
"I'd rather have the problem and be a winner," Doughty said, "than not to have the problem and lose."