By AJ Manderichio
He may not have an official postseason game under his belt, but Ducks defenseman Josh Manson
knows the emotional rollercoaster a chase for the Stanley Cup brings.
The son of former NHL defenseman Dave Manson still smiles when thinking back to watching his dad lace up the skates and chase an elusive Stanley Cup.
“My biggest memory was with Dallas [in 2000],” Manson says. “I was just old enough there to take it in and remember what was going on. I don’t remember the first few series, but I remember the excitement around the rink, how loud it was. I remember I didn’t have to go to school certain days, when the games went into triple-overtime.”
Manson recalls the swing of emotions following games, no matter the outcome. “I just remember the feeling of the games when they would win,” he says. “But when they were in the Final against New Jersey, and they lost in Game 6, I remember the feeling of the how it was, how down they were and how close he got. You want to be able to make the most of the opportunity, because you never know if you’ll be able to get another chance.”
Manson has certainly earned tonight’s opportunity, when he will make his first-ever playoff appearance in Game 1 vs. Nashville. The process started during July’s Prospect Development Camp, when he wore the ‘C’ for two Futures Games against the San Jose Sharks. Then came the infamous fight with noted heavyweight Milan Lucic in the preseason, a sign the 24-year-old rearguard would be a tough customer.
“I knew I needed to build if I wanted to maintain my spot here,” Manson says.
The regular season saw Manson cement himself as a regular fixture in the lineup. He skated in 71 games, scoring five goals and adding 10 assists. He doled out 158 hits – and blocked 67 shots – while averaging more than 18 minutes a night.
The physical play is expected from the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Manson, but what wasn’t expected was his fit with Hampus Lindholm. Together, the two allowed the fewest Corsi-Against per 60 for any pairing in the NHL, minimum 100 minutes played together. They also drove possession, finishing third in Corsi-For percentage among defensive pairs in the NHL, trailing only LA’s Jamie McBain-Jake Muzzin and Brayden McNabb-Drew Doughty.
While the regular season numbers are nice, Manson knows the playoffs are a different animal. As a Black Ace last season, he witnessed firsthand the emotional ride – and physical demands – each series requires.
“It’s a grind,” he remembers. “Each game is so important and so vital that you can’t have an off game. It can cost you. It’s a really hard Cup to win. It’s the hardest trophy to win in sports. My dad went 17 years – and a career – and got so close a few times.
“It’s just an exciting time, and any time you can be a part of it, you want to make the most of it. I have that chance here.”
When the team hits the ice in a few hours, greeted by a throng of screaming, orange-clad, towel-waving fans, Manson knows instinct – and adrenaline – will take over.
“You know, no matter how tired you might be going into a game, once the puck drops, you don’t feel anything,” he says. “You’re so excited, your body finds a way to get the job done. I’m just excited for that feeling here. I can’t wait.”