Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, left, is congratulated by teammate Mike… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter understands the ways of the twentysomething male, the rare breed happening to play hockey for a living.
After all, his son Brett, who plays in Carolina's system, is 24 years old. Then there is his nephew Brandon, a year younger than Brett, who was Carolina's alternate captain this season and scored 17 goals and 32 points for the Hurricanes.
It's another way of saying that Sutter "gets" Kings defenseman Drew Doughty.
"Drew's a kid, right? I've got kids older than him," Sutter said of the 22-year-old. "Just trying to handle him like I would handle my children. Drew's an awesome, awesome kid. I've said that. He's an awesome kid. He's no different than any other kid that age."
In Sutter-speak, the word "awesome" is the highest form of praise.
They had one of those father-son type moments in the first round of the playoffs against Vancouver. It came during intermission of the only game the Kings lost in the playoffs, Game 4 at Staples Center.
"I went in, in between periods, to grab a drink and we had our TVs on in there," Doughty said. "And I was grabbing a drink, took a peek at the TV and he [Sutter] happened to catch me in there when I was looking at the TV. So I got in trouble for that. He yelled at me, so I made sure not to go in there anymore."
He understood every word Sutter said. Mind you that wasn't always the case for Doughty and his Kings teammates when the new coach showed up in Los Angeles just before Christmas. Sutter's inflections are hard to describe and his words often hard to hear.
"There were a couple of practices, we didn't know what the hell we were doing," captain Dustin Brown said.
Said Doughty: "I couldn't understand anything he said when he first came, so I made sure when drills were happening to be at the back of the line."
These lighthearted stories about Sutter are the kind you hear when a team is up 3-0 in a playoff series. Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals between the Kings and the St. Louis Blues is Sunday at Staples Center.
Doughty was one of the many reasons the Kings smothered the Blues, 4-2, in Game 3, breaking out with a goal and two assists.
"You've seen him at the top and you've seen him struggle," Sutter said. "There's not many guys his age in the league that play that position and play that many minutes and play that many situations. And so there is gonna be peaks and valleys."
Brown maintains that Doughty is a better player than when he was nominated for the Norris Trophy two years ago, when he scored 16 goals and had 59 points.
"Everyone forgets he's playing against the other team's top guys, especially in a playoff series," Brown said. "You've got guys trying to run him left, right and center. So last night he had a breakout game and it was huge for us on the offensive side of things.
"But I think everyone forgets how good he is at the other end of the rink. A lot of successes in the first series and this series have been in shutting down the top guys and he's a big reason."
It's all coming together for the Kings. Sutter is pushing the "right buttons," and getting his team "emotionally attached to games," Brown said. Brown is getting under the skin and into the heads of the Blues with his brand of physicality.
And, well, Kings defenseman Matt Greene has more points in this series than Blues forwards Alex Steen, T.J. Oshie and Andy McDonald. Greene has a point in all three games and said, dryly: "That's an accident."
The eighth-seeded Kings have flipped the script as the No. 2 Blues aren't used to pursuit mode. At least not since Coach Ken Hitchcock took over in early November.
"They're the hammer," Hitchcock said. "We're the nail. We've got to move the nail around a little bit so they miss. We've done a lot of good things the last couple of games. We're not built chasing games. We've been chasing the games and it's forced us into difficult matchups.
"We've got to try to get a lead and built our minutes from there. ... One of the problems that's happening is we're not built for coming from behind. We're built the other way."