It was five years ago this spring that the Ducks seemingly steamrolled their way through the 2007 playoffs on their way to a Stanley Cup triumph. Those Ducks went 16-5 over the likes of Minnesota, Vancouver, Detroit and Ottawa, with a lineup that included three definite Hall-of-Famers and had at least one promiment hockey writer calling them the best team of all time
. A sample:
That Ducks team featured three sure-fire Hall of Famers in Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne; an incredibly potent kid line featuring Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Dustin Penner; two excellent goalies in J-S Giguere and Ilya Bryzgalov; tons of toughness and the premier shutdown line of Sammy Pahlsson, Rob Niedermayer and Travis Moen.
But as good as those Ducks were, it's fascinating to think how even they
needed some good fortune that postseason to earn the right to lift that Cup. That's the nature of hockey and the nature of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, how the smallest breaks, tiniest bounces can be the difference between getting your name on that Cup and being just a contender that came oh-so-close.
And if you're into anniversaries, you may just have been reminded of that fact yesterday. For it was on May 20, 2007 -- Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals in Detroit's Joe Louis Arena -- that made all the difference for that legendary Ducks team.
Unable to muster anything against Red Wings goalie Dominic Hasek, the Ducks were in desperation mode down 1-0 in the closing moments of the game, in danger of going down 3 games to 2. But Pavel Datsyuk was called for interference with 1:47 remaining and the Ducks pulled J.S. Giguere to give them a 6-on-4 skating advantage. And then this happened:
Scott Niedermayer's shot from the slot clicked off the stick of Nicklas Lidstrom and fluttered past Hasek with 47.3 seconds remaining to tie the game, with the usually graceful Niedermayer falling on his face just before getting mobbed by his teammates. It's unquestionably the biggest goal in Anaheim Ducks history, followed closely by this one:
In overtime, Wings defenseman Andreas Lilja turns the puck over with pressure from Andy McDonald, Selanne picks it up, goes familiarly to the backhand and pops the water bottle 11:57 into OT to give the Ducks the shocking victory. (I was in the building that day and five years later I can still recall the sounds of Detroit fans cursing and banging the backs of the seats in front of them after that goal.)
Two days later the Ducks won Game 6 at home -- another good break for that team, as Detroit clawed back from a 3-0 deficit and nearly tied the game in the closing moments of a 4-3 Anaheim win. Fifteen days after that, the Ducks were Stanley Cup champs.