Over the last few games there's been plenty of praise thrown around for the Los Angeles Kings' fourth line.
That line struggled for consistency a few weeks ago but has found their feet over the last few games.
Drew Doughty is the latest in a long list of players to praise this line and gave a big shout out to the play of Carl Grundstrom.
"I think Grundy's (Grundstrom) played awesome," said Doughty. "And Kup (Rasmus Kupari) too and, obviously, Arthur (Kaliyev) is a threat to score every time he's on the ice. But I've really been impressed with Grundy, he's been playing great, playing hard. He's probably the hardest guy at forward to play against when you play against out team. Because he's so physical and strong and Kup's a good two-way player. He's got offensive skills but he's really responsible defensively too and he's a big boy so we've got to get him throwing the body around a little more. And like I said about Arthur, he can shoot the puck. We're going to work on working on some other things in his game but he's also a key part to the line."
It's big praise coming from a player who's seen some extremely effective fourth lines. And Doughty's assessment of each player matches the eye test too.
Doughty rolled back the years Thursday, scoring a highlight reel goal early in the second after a great defensive play in the first.
"It's just, you're trying to milk him into a pass and make him think it's there," Doughty said of his defensive play in the first. "And then right when he does his fake, you put the stick in the lane and make that play."
"I mean, I used to do that all the time when I was younger," said Doughty on his goal. "I kind of put it on the backburner for a long time. I kind of learned that, to win hockey games I don't need to do that, I need to play a good two-way game. Yeah, maybe I should do it more often, I just had my opportunity to do it tonight and was able to pull it off."
This win gave the Kings their seventh win in their last eight games — with their one lose coming via the shootout — and defense has been the main component for that success.
"I don't think we've given up a ton of goals (over the last eight games)," said Doughty. "I'm not sure if that's correct but it feels like we haven't given up that many. And that's the way we have to win games, we're not a high powered offense. Yes, we're better at offense, but we still have to play good defense to win games and our goalies have both played great too."
Doughty was correct in his statement that the Kings haven't given up many goals in the last eight games. In seven of their last eight, the Kings have given up two goals or less.
"Yeah, that's what you're aiming for, two goals or less," said Doughty. "That's pretty impressive in that amount of games. So, we've got to keep that up, that's how you win in the playoffs. And that's where we want to get is to the playoffs and make a staple in it, not lose in the first round this year. And playing like this is going to help us a lot."
Doughty underplayed where the Kings are at in the standings. Making the playoffs seems like a given at this point, just one point off the top spot in the Pacific, on a winning streak, the Kings focus should now be winning the division. Even if that mentality switch hasn't happened in the locker room.
"I don't know if there's a single point, it kind of started feeling like that after Christmas or after that break we had," said Doughty. "We've been playing really well, even the games that we lost. I remember on that one road trip in New York, we lost a couple games there but we easily could have won those games. So, I guess it was kind of around that time. We've done a great job at the deadline. We're a really good team now, we have a lot of confidence in everyone on this team. We just have to stick to the game plan, when we get away from that, that's when we struggle. I think guys have bought in now and are ready to play it and we're going to be good with it."
Despite losing their leading scorer in Kevin Fiala recently. The Kings have scored four or more goals in their last two games. Life without Fiala looked like it could be rough with the Kings 2-1 loss against the Predators, but they've found a way to get it done without him recently.
"Yeah, I mean we all know how good offensively Kevin is," said Doughty. "But that gives other guys chances with him out of the lineup and other guys are stepping up. And, obviously, whatever line he's on is good, but we've got four good lines in my opinion. So, I don't think anyone put it on themselves to step up, it's just a good team effort and that's what's happening."
Todd McLellan has talked about how impressive the defensive performances have been from the Kings a lot recently and Thursday was no different.
"I go back to our numbers," said McLellan. "I don't even know what they are anymore; two, two, two, two, one, two, one, something like that, and it's hard to keep teams to two goals against or less consistently (and) we've been able to do it for a while. It means you're getting great goaltending, penalty kill is probably doing its thing and four lines and three pairs of defensemen are committed to doing things right. I look at the goal we gave up tonight; we did everything we wanted to do, or needed to do, it went off the refs foot and into the slot and they score. So, those are going to get built into games or series and you have to be able to overcome them. Just a complete commitment to doing what we need to do."
Off the back of the praise from Doughty, Grundstrom continued to get attention, this time from McLellan.
"Grunny, well he is a popular guy," McLellan said with a smile. "One, because his journey to where he is right now has been a tough one for him. He's been persistent, he's worked hard, he's endeared himself to his teammates and they really want to see him do well. He's come a long way, and his goal is a prime example. He takes a shot, he strips a puck, he wins a battle, he rolls out and shoots it again. Simple, straight forward, powerful, good teammate. Pretty good description right now of Grunny."
Grundstrom's goal wasn't the only impressive individual effort that led to a goal for the Kings either. Anze Kopitar's goal came off a between the legs tips from Quinton Byfield, and of course, Doughty's goal was brilliant. Given that Danill Tarasov looked unbeatable in the first, having those individual moments of magic is huge.
"Yeah, sometimes when the goalie is playing well you sometimes get too cute and think you have to make an extra pass," said McLellan. "You look at the goals we got, Kopi's was a real nice touch play. Carl's was a simple shot, Dewey bullied his way to the net. So, those were aggressive goals, shooting goals. That's good for us to have in our game right now at this time of the year."
Doughty's goal might have been a beauty, but McLellan was more impressed by Doughty's defensive play in the first. And thinks that might have been the better play of the two.
"Maybe more important (than the goal)," said McLellan of Doughty breaking up the two-on-one. "I think, maybe, the most important two minutes were the first two minutes. We start the game with a penalty 15 seconds in. And Drew, yes he had a nice goal, and he jumped into the rush today and those were really good things for him, we're happy for him. But he consistently breaks up those moments and he was out there for that penalty kill. That was probably the most important two minutes of the game for us. So we could get our feet underneath us and keep going."