By Kyle Shohara
|"It's a great game to be a part of. You just hope both mentally and physically, you're going to be ready and you get the little things done that are going to make you successful tonight."
-- Saku Koivu
The Ducks went through their game-day morning skate on this Mother’s Day in preparation for tonight’s winner-take-all Game 7 at Honda Center (7 p.m./Fox Sports West/ESPN 710).
In a series that’s gone win-loss-win-loss-win-loss through the first six games for Anaheim, the Ducks hope the trend remains in their favor as they battle the Detroit Red Wings in the final game of this series.
“It’s pretty much either you win and keep going, or you’re done,” Jonas Hiller said. “Everybody knows that in here. We definitely want to come out and show our best effort so far.”
From a goaltender’s standpoint, Hiller says bringing a flawless game is the key.
“You just can’t make a mistake,” he said. “Otherwise, it might cost you and your team. But at the same time, you try not to think too much about it.
“You try to enjoy it because at the same time, it’s a great thing. Not too many people are able to play in a Game 7. I’m definitely excited about tonight’s game.”
Saku Koivu has played in a few Game 7s over the course of his career, and the veteran center shared his thoughts on tonight’s game.
“They don’t come around too often,” Koivu said, in reference to Game 7s. “You play six games, a lot of emotions involved, a lot of things building up. And then you get to the point where the winner goes on and the loser goes home for summer break.
“You can sense that intensity among the media and the fans. Everybody’s talking about that. It’s a great game to be a part of. You just hope both mentally and physically, you’re going to be ready and you get the little things done that are going to make you successful tonight.”
A handful of the Ducks will be playing in their first-ever Game 7 tonight. One of them is 22-year-old Kyle Palmieri, who co-leads the team in postseason scoring with five points.
“I can’t really imagine it,” Palmieri said of Game 7. “I was lying down in bed last night, just thinking about it. It’s an incredible opportunity for us. For a lot of the guys, it’s our first time playing in a Game 7. There will definitely be some nerves, but at the same time once you get out there and the puck drops, it’s another hockey game.
“We’re a team that can’t play when we’re sitting back. Whenever we’re on our toes and attacking the other team, we’re a tough team to beat. Hopefully we can take that mindset into tonight.”
On drawing from prior Game 7 experience for tonight’s game: “I’ve been in a few in the last five years. Everyone is individually different because everyone is usually involved in a series that’s made their own story. Both teams are going to look to get an early start and not have to play from behind. With our team, our success rate of winning when leading after the first is good, so you want to have a good first period and get everybody into it.”
On any nervousness heading into Game 7: “If they’re going to be nervous, they’ll be nervous. The young guys who haven’t been through it are going to be a little more nervous than the guys who have been through it and understand it. You can tell them how we want them to play, and hope they do what they’re supposed to do.”
On what he expects from Hiller tonight: “He’s come up big all the time when we’ve needed him in pressure situations. I anticipate he’ll play a really good game tonight. The last thing I worry about right now, quite frankly, is goaltending. There are a lot of other things, whether it’s special teams or matchups that you sometimes worry about. But I’m not worried about our goalie.”
On what it’s like to coach in a series like this: “It keeps you in the game. You don’t have time to let your mind wander. You’re always looking at the other bench on who they’re putting on. You’re always looking at who’s not playing as well for you as you think, and maybe making changes at that time. You try to think three steps ahead, but it’s difficult. You’ve got to live in the moment at the same time as thinking ahead. I know at the end of each of these games I’m pretty whipped. It tells me that I’m having to do more thinking than I really want to do. Besides, when you’re trying to match wits with Mike [Babcock], who’s been in every pressure situation in the world, it’s not the easiest thing.”
Tonight will be the fifth Game 7 in Ducks history, the second at home. The only other Game 7 at home was over 16 years ago, on April 29, 1997 in the Conference Quarterfinals vs. Phoenix. The Ducks won that game, 3-0, behind 31 saves from Guy Hebert. David Karpa, Steve Rucchin and Joe Sacco scored goals.
The Ducks are 2-2 overall in Game 7s. Their other win came on May 3, 2006 at Calgary (Selanne with game-winner, Bryzgalov with 29 saves in the shutout). The club's two defeats came on June 9, 2003 in the Stanley Cup Final at New Jersey (3-0) and May 14, 2009 in the Conference Semifinals @ Detroit (4-3).