Ducks fans across the county are distracted at work and school, expressing their stress levels on social media and going through various superstitious rituals in the hours before tonight’s Game 7 against the hated Kings. But the Ducks themselves appear cool as … well, ice.
The vibe at today’s morning skate was loose, culminating with about 10 players and coaches crowding around goalie Jonas Hiller for a kind of friendly shooting competition – complete with over-the-top goal celebrations.
“We’ve got a really fun team, and we’ve been that way all year,” said Ducks forward Nick Bonino. “When the time comes, you’re focused and dialed in, but morning is a time to get loose and get ready for the game. You want to do what you’ve done all year.”
Despite the magnitude of playing their bitter rivals in a playoff series for the first time, Bonino says they’ve remained upbeat the entire time.
“I think we’ve had a great mood all series,” Bonino said this morning. “After we were down 2-nothing, you wouldn’t have known by the mood in our locker room that that was the case. We’ve had confidence all series, all season, and it doesn’t make much sense to abandon that now.”
While the Ducks would have loved to close out this series two nights ago in LA, after that game their focus quickly shifted to getting it done tonight. “After Game 6, we all probably wished we could have played Game 7 right away,” Bonino said. “We’re in a pretty eager mood and we’re excited to play. I can’t wait.”
Despite the fact that a loss tonight would make this his last game in the NHL, Teemu Selanne was his usual jovial self while surrounded by a gaggle of reporters in front of his locker. He was asked if former teammate Paul Kariya would be in the building tonight, just as he was (surprisingly so) for Selanne’s last regular season game on April 13. “Oh no no no, that was already a miracle,” Selanne said, drawing a hardy laugh from the gathering.
“You’ve got to enjoy this,” Selanne said. “It’s a very special time…The experience of facing this before, I really believe it’s going to help us now.”
Andrew Cogliano, one of the more intense Ducks, shared the sentiment of his teammates. “We were down 2-nothing in the series, and if someone gave us an option of going to Game 7 at that point, a lot of guys would’ve taken it.”
|“I think we’ve had a great mood all series,” Bonino said. “After we were down 2-nothing, you wouldn’t have known by the mood in our locker room that that was the case. We’ve had confidence all series, all season, and it doesn’t make much sense to abandon that now.” |
The Ducks know full well that home teams are 1-4 in Game 7s in this year’s playoffs, partly because those teams have come out of the gate timidly.
“At the end of the day, you have to seize the moment,” Cogliano said. “We just have to go for it. When you play safe, especially against good teams, you have no chance of winning. When we’ve been successful, especially in the playoffs, we’ve really pushed the issue. There’s nothing to be nervous about.”
The looseness extended this morning to head coach Bruce Boudreau, who despite making a small tweak to his forward lines, isn’t making dramatic changes for this one game.
“We don’t want to change anything to make it special,” Boudreau said. “I don’t want to sit here and act like I’m inventing the wheel and say, ‘Bruce, you’ve got to do something outlandish to win this game. Every game has been basically a one-goal game. We’ve just got to go out there and play just as hard as we have done, and hope we get the breaks and not them.”
Boudreau acknowledged that for anyone engaged in this historical series, they want it to go as long as possible, and hockey fans are getting their wish.
“I think for hockey people it’s a real exciting time, and it’s a real exciting time for California,” Boudreau said. “You either fear it or embrace it. We want to embrace it. We want to go after it.”