While Ducks fans may still be reveling in last night’s gratifying Game 5 win over the Kings, the Ducks themselves quickly turned the page.
“About 10 minutes,” said Corey Perry today when asked how long the team celebrated the 4-3 win at Honda Center. “You celebrate after the game, but you know you haven’t won anything.”
Perry and the rest of the Ducks still have plenty of work to do, starting with a Game 6 at Staples Center they need to win to close out the series.
“It’s business as usual,” Perry said after a spirited practice at Honda Center. “We’ve got to go up there and win a hockey game. We don’t want to come back here and have to win a Game 7. We want to finish it out.
“We’re looking forward to it. We’re gonna get ready and play the same way we’ve been playing, and hopefully come out with the win.”
Like Perry, Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf is a veteran of the playoff process and knows that the focus needs to remain on the next step in the postseason ladder. “This whole process is slow, it’s long,” Getzlaf said. “We’re playing against a good hockey team that is never really out of it. So you go win by win, and try to get that fourth one as quick as you can. We’ll try to do that tomorrow.”
The Ducks are well aware of the resilience of this Kings team, which fell down 3-0 in its opening-round series with San Jose, yet clawed back to win four in a row and stun the Sharks.
“We know,” Getzlaf reassured the gathering of media. “They’re a great hockey team, and they’ve given us great games throughout the series. Obviously knowing what they did against San Jose was pretty special, and we know they’re not gonna quit.”
Perry echoed that sentiment, saying, “I know a lot of guys on that team, and they’re competitors. They don’t want to lose. They want their season to keep going. At the same time, we’ve got a lot of guys in this room who want to do the same thing. Our character and our will took over last night, and it really showed we can come out and play a strong 60 minutes. That’s what we’ve got to continue to do.”
The Ducks’ memories also harken back to the last time they were in this situation, when they had a chance to close out the Stars in Dallas in the first round. The Ducks came out slow in that game and needed a nearly miraculous comeback to win it in overtime and clinch the series.
“We’re very conscious of what happened in the first round, both with [the Kings] and with us against Dallas,” said defenseman Ben Lovejoy. “We came out and maybe played our worst game in Game 6. We weren’t ready, we were down right away, and it was a miraculous comeback. We probably didn’t deserve to win that game.
“We can talk about that, but we know that this Kings team is as resilient as they get. They’ve all won Stanley Cups, and they know what they’re doing. They’re not going to panic, and we need to come out and play our best game tomorrow night.
Added Getzlaf, “We were in a similar situation against Dallas, where we had an opportunity to close it out. Throughout the year we’ve done a lot of things well in seizing opportunities, so we’ve got to take advantage of that tomorrow.”
Despite having the advantage in the series, the Ducks know they can be better. They won Game 5 last night despite being significantly outshot by the Kings, 42-24. Two nights earlier, they took Game 4 despite going more than 25 minutes in the middle of the game without a single shot on goal.
“At the same time, after these games, guys come into the locker room just shaking, they’re so excited,” Lovejoy said. “We have earned these wins. I know a lot of people have talked about shots against, but I’m sure the Kings would trade their great shot totals for our wins.”
Getzlaf, Perry and Lovejoy are among the veterans in the locker room trying to assure the rest of the team remains focused on the task at hand.
“We try and stay level, not too high, but we are very excited,” Lovejoy said. “But tomorrow night, it’s anyone’s game once again.”
While the Ducks have plenty of elder statesmen to guide them – including four players who won a Cup with this team in ’07 – the play of their younger guys has been a spark, especially in this series. That includes 20-year-old rookie goalie John Gibson (wins in Games 4 and 5), 21-year-old winger Devante Smith-Pelly (leading the team in playoff goals with five) and 22-year-old defenseman Sami Vatanen.
Today, Lovejoy, always a favorite among media members for a good quote, held a mini soliloquy regarding those three youngsters:
“It’s been a pleasure to play with them,” he said. “We’ve gotten some great energy, some great play and some clutch play out of them. Devante has been awesome. I think he had 10 hits in the first game, and he’s scored big goal after big goal.
“Sami has come up and stabilized things. He’s so fast and he’s so good with the puck. He has been able to spark offense from the back end and he brings another asset to the team that perhaps we were lacking in the first two games.
“And then, nobody needs to talk about John Gibson. He’s been a pleasure to play in front of. He’s just made all the saves. He’s exactly what you want in a goalie. We do pride ourselves on playing team defense with six guys, and he’s been very good. He’s been better than very good in the two games he’s played. I’m sure you guys have talked plenty about him, and he deserves it.”