Though the players expressed their disappointment last night after dropping Game 6 to the Kings at Staples Center, the mood this afternoon after an optional practice was upbeat and relaxed.
The Ducks aren’t sulking in what could’ve been a ticket to the Western Conference Final. It was a reminder of how dangerous the Kings can be when put into an elimination scenario. Remember, they erased a 3-0 deficit in the first round to become just the fourth team in NHL history to win a series in such fashion.
The Ducks say they’re in a different place – a better place – now as opposed to their Game 7 vs. Detroit during last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. Head coach Bruce Boudreau said they entered that series with an awe factor because of their opponent. “We never thought we were as good as Detroit,” he said. “They had beaten us in three overtime games up to that point, and that experience of going through it will make them better suited for tomorrow.”
Defenseman Ben Lovejoy was a part of that team, and says this current Ducks squad is much more confident. “We’ve grown a lot since then,” he said. “We had another full season to get comfortable with each other. We’re playing a better game right now.
“Going into that series, we weren’t playing our best hockey. This year, we’re a much more confident team. We have some different players in higher profile roles. We’re a very confident team coming into this game tomorrow.”
Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf kept the mood light this afternoon when he crept into Lovejoy’s media scrum pretending to be a reporter, prompting Lovejoy to sheepishly say, “Hi, Ryan.”
Getzlaf is used to pressure-packed games, both in his NHL and international career. Getzlaf says he’ll use those experiences to lead his team through Game 7.
“Everything is amped up and you’re in a do-or-die situation,” he said. “The nerves are going to get to you a little bit, so you’re going to have to control your emotions. I’ve been in a lot of different situations, and I’ve been fortunate to be play in a lot of big games. That’s part of my job, to lead by example in those areas.”
Pundits and fans around the hockey world expected this series to go the distance.
“We figured at the start, it’d be a long series,” said Getzlaf. “But at the end of the day, it’s an exciting time. That first period is going to be important. Our main focus is to make sure everyone is involved.”
“This is exciting,” said Lovejoy. “We’re not pouting in the room. We knew this Kings team wasn’t going to be an easy out. They came out and played a very good game last night. We weren’t able to generate enough of a push.”
Lovejoy says they’ll leave it all on the line tomorrow night. “Last night, we were playing not to make mistakes,” he said. “That hurts us. We’re a team that needs to play an aggressive game. We can’t sit back and play a passive game, which we did last night. The results speak for themselves.”
Forward Andrew Cogliano says the team will, in a sense, throw caution to the wind tomorrow.
“We’re really excited,” he said. “Obviously we were disappointed last night with not closing it out, but we’re in a good spot. This is Game 7. We were down 2-0 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.
“At the end of the day, you have to seize the moment. 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.”