In Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, New York Rangers Chris Kreider caught Kings defenseman Drew Doughty in the face with the butt-end of his stick. Obviously, Doughty wasn’t happy about it. However, the way he responded to teammate Jeff Carter on the bench was even more a concern for GM Dean Lombardi.
Thus, the day after the Kings OT win in Game 1, Lombardi, who has been part manager, part surrogate father to his young club over the past few years, had a sit down meeting with Doughty.
“That stuff… the whole thing about emotions of players, as long as it’s about the right thing, which is about winning,” Lombardi told MayorsManor on Tuesday, when asked about the above mentioned chat. “It doesn’t bother me at all. The way this group is so tight, and to hear Mike Richards say it’s the tightest group he’s every played on, it’s the least thing I worry about. I think in Drew’s case, which I have seen, is that so much of the improvement of this being a better team… you forget how so many of these guys aren’t even in their prime. It was so overlooked with Muzzin and Marty and Kopitar and Doughty and all these guys – so many of them are better players than they were two years ago. Not only in terms of their attitude, but they’re physically starting to mature.”
From what we were able to gather from other sources, it appears one of the messages Lombardi wanted to get across with Doughty was the importance of composure in big moments.
For Lombardi, this has been a different ride to the Stanley Cup Final than what he experienced in 2012. Some may recall that soon after the team won the first Cup in franchise history, Lombardi was already preaching how the challenges will now switch to learning to win when there’s pressure and greater expectations.
“No question,” Lombardi responded when asked about this being different, just like he predicted. “I think the one thing you’ve learned is that just because you’ve won it once… all those [other championship winners] I talked to after the first one, they told me how different the challenge was after the first one. In a lot of aspects, the second one is even harder. One of them told me, ‘You’re not going to grasp it until you go through it.’ The bottom line is, there are different challenges. It’s not only expectations – it’s the teams you face, it’s being up 3-1 – because last time was 16-4. You look at all the difference challenges this year so far compared to the other year, you can see why the growth doesn’t stop. So far, they build on every one. What you see [our players] do, they build on each challenge and learn from it and take on the next one. It’s about the only way you can describe it… Meeting the new challenges, part of what they’ve gone through so far, is a reflection of their growth as players. Like I said, when you look at that team that won it, the upside of that team was you just look at their ages. A lot of them, their bodies still aren’t even mature yet. But as long as you keep the right focus, those things, like the situation on the bench there – because it’s all about the right thing. These guys, there’s no question how much they love each other, and that’s all that matters. Hey, you get into a fight with your brother once in a while, right?”
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