|The Ducks clinched their third straight trip to the postseason by knocking off the Kings 2-1 in a shootout Wednesday night. |
Not a Stanley Cup Playoffs mainstay in the first decade of the franchise’s existence, the Ducks previously would have had a much more demonstrative celebration upon clinching a spot in the postseason.
Times have changed for a club that now breeds consistency, made evident by the third straight playoff berth it secured in Wednesday’s 2-1 shootout victory over the Kings. Like last season, when the team secured its first Stanley Cup title, the bar has been set much higher by the new-era Ducks.
“Ten years ago it was different,” said Teemu Selanne, who is in the third year of his second stint with the team, the first coming from 1995 through 2001. “It would have been a bigger deal back then. The biggest goal for the season was making the playoffs. I don’t think I heard anybody say a word about that last night. The whole thing has changed here now. That’s the least what we can do at least how we feel. We know how much it takes. Everything is about winning in this room and that’s a great feeling.”
Spending nine of his 15 NHL season with the Ducks, which prior to the ownership and management change of 2005 had only made the playoffs on three separate occasions (‘97, ‘99, ‘03), Selanne is grateful to be a part of the current run.
“It’s never easy to build a good hockey club,” Selanne said. “Going through all those years where we didn’t really have a good team, you really appreciate the times when you have this kind of team and situation that we have here.”
Upon coming to the Ducks in 2005-06 as a rookie head coach in the league, Randy Carlyle and his staff set a goal to establish the team as a perennial power. So far, that ambition has been realized in a major way.
“Our mandate when we first came here was to develop solid organizational skills that would help us be a competitive hockey club and provide that for our fans because they have been very loyal to our group since we’ve been here,” Carlyle said.
Maintaining a winning club has not proved easy for many teams in the league, including 2006 champions Carolina, who missed the playoffs after finishing 11th in the Eastern Conference last year. Edmonton, which fell to the Hurricanes in seven games in that ’06 Final, finished a disappointing 12th in the Western Conference.
“We’ve had our own challenges this season,” Carlyle said. “I’m not sitting here and saying we feel bad that we’ve got 96 points. We’ve established a style that we have to play and a gameplan that we have to put in place. Then you have to outwork people and you have to get a few breaks along the way. This hockey club has never been one to shy away from the work ethic.”
Once again in position to contend for a title, the Ducks say the accomplishment of three consecutive appearances in the playoffs extends past their locker room.
“I think the pride starts from the ownership and the organization,” Selanne said. “I think it carries over to the players. They want to build a good team around here. When it comes from there, everybody’s on the same page. With this organization, it’s a big family. The family has a dream and a goal and it’s to win.”
Said Carlyle: “It’s not easy to win in the NHL. It’s an organizational accomplishment. It’s not just the hockey team. We’re setting goals and we’re going to try to continue to reach them. We have a chance to compete in the playoffs. There’s no better feeling.”
Good news for the Ducks on the injury front was the return of center Ryan Getzlaf (upper body injury) and goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere (back spasms) to practice at Honda Center on Thursday. Each took part in the roughly one-hour session and spoke briefly afterwards about the possibility of playing in Friday’s game against Pacific Division-leading San Jose.
“Everything went well today,” said Giguere, who has sat out the last three games. “I feel okay and I’m ready to play. We have great trainers here and they did a great job of getting me back on track. It’s a little stiff in the morning still, but every day it’s better. I don’t anticipate anything worse tomorrow.”
Getzlaf, who missed the past two games, said, “Today was definitely a progression day. I did a little more passing and everything, so we’ll see tomorrow morning. Everything is going the way we want it to and moving forward toward the game.”