Rest? What rest?
The Ducks savored their uplifting Game 7 victory last night, but today it was right back to business. Though they didn't skate, the players convened at Honda Center to prepare for their next opponent, the Nashville Predators.
The quick turnaround time between series has them opening Game 1 of the Western Conference Final tomorrow night, less than 48 hours after they eliminated the Edmonton Oilers on home ice. It was arguably the club's most complete performance of the playoffs - a dogged, determined 60-minute effort that didn't seem to dip even after giving up the opening goal just minutes into the game.
Executive Vice President/General Manager Bob Murray praised the club's resilience in the face of adversity. "The group of people in that dressing room, the way that game started last night, they didn't miss a beat," Murray said to reporters. "You have to tip your cap to the guys in the dressing room. Our defense is probably as young a defense that was among the 16 teams in the playoffs. This group has learned. You have to give them all the credit in the world."
Murray also credits the team's leadership group for collectively rising up and learning from previous experiences. "I'm very happy for them," he said. "Sometimes you want more and you know there's more from people, and they've realized it. [They] were outstanding. I'm more happy for them than anything."
Though rest and recovery is always important during an extended playoff run, Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf told reporters that going from one series immediately to another isn't necessarily a bad thing. He said lengthy breaks could sometimes contribute to over-relaxing or even over-preparing for their next opponent. Nashville last played on Sunday, a series-clinching Game 6 victory over the St. Louis Blues at Bridgestone Arena.
The Predators enter this series with the best win percentage in the playoffs (8-2, .800). Their only two losses came against the Blues. (They swept the Chicago Blackhawks in the First Round). Anaheim ranks second with a .727 win percentage (8-3 record).
"It's going to be a big-time challenge for our group," said Cam Fowler. "They seem to be playing as well as anybody right now. They're ultra-aggressive in everything they do. We're going to have to make sure we're on top of our game. We've seen teams with aggressive defensemen who like to push the pace of the play, so we kind of have a mindset for that. It's something we're going to have to be aware of."
If the Ducks have proven one thing during their playoff run, it's their ability to overcome adversity. They've pulled off two improbable comebacks - first in Game 3 at Calgary and again in Game 5 at home against Edmonton - and also erased a 0-2 series deficit for the first time in club history. Prior to Anaheim's series win, NHL teams had an all-time series record of 48-309 when losing the first two games of a series (13.4%).
"Having that mindset of always thinking we have a chance to come back, that's been the difference this year," Ryan Kesler said to reporters. "The coaches have done a good job of being positive on the bench. It breeds confidence in our group, and we just go with it."