By Kyle Shohara
On the eve of Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs, the Ducks took to the ice for a practice that had the look – and feel – of postseason hockey.
Honda Center’s ice is emblazoned with “Stanley Cup Playoffs” on each end, and the exterior of the building is wrapped in playoff-themed graphics. Meanwhile, the hallway outside the Ducks locker room was buzzing with a significantly larger group of television crews and media members eagerly awaiting player interviews.
And on the ice, head coach Bruce Boudreau led his team through a spirited workmanlike practice that lasted approximately 60 minutes.
The Ducks are a season removed from a heartbreaking first-round loss to the Detroit Red Wings, one that spawned the motto “Unfinished Business” throughout training camp and the regular season. Boudreau says last year’s early exit drove home the point that losing “isn’t fun,” but he feels his team is ready to take the next step.
“We’re ready and prepared,” he said. “They’ve played all year for this. We know we’re playing a really good opponent. I think we’ll make it a series.
“We’re deep, and I think we’ve proved we can play with most teams throughout the course of the year. The confidence that they can win is there.”
Teemu Selanne begins his final Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the 43-year-old, who was honored by the fans on Sunday night for his regular season finale, is eager to begin one last quest for a championship.
“This is the best time for hockey players,” he said. “You’ve got to enjoy every day and every moment. Every little thing matters. Even a little thing can turn the whole series around.”
Selanne uses the Francois Beauchemin-Jarome Iginla fight from the 2006 postseason as an example of how any one thing can change the momentum of an entire series. The Ducks were down, 3-2, in the series, when Beauchemin dropped Iginla with a vicious left a minute into the game. The Ducks wound up winning the contest, 2-1, then went on to blank the Flames, 3-0, in Game 7 at Calgary.
“The Calgary guys were big, strong and mean, and suddenly Beauchemin wins the fight,” Selanne said. “We felt they got smaller and weaker. We won the series. One thing here and there can make a big difference. That’s why the playoffs are what they are.”
Selanne says this current Ducks squad has that it factor that can take them as far as they want to go.
“I don’t think this team has any limits,” he said. “We can be as good as we want to be. It takes a lot of work and pride to do your job. In the playoffs, it doesn’t matter if you play four minutes or 25 minutes. Just do as good as you can, and give back to the team. You can’t ask for more than that.”
Ducks defenseman Stephane Robidas knew there was a chance he’d face his former team in the playoffs when he was traded to Anaheim on March 4 for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.
And while he’ll see plenty of familiar faces on the other end of the ice tomorrow night, the 37-year-old blueliner says he’s just happy to have a chance at a Stanley Cup. Robidas has played in 44 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, earning 15 points (3g/12a) with 42 penalty minutes.
“I’m just excited to be in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s been five years, and I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time. When I got traded here, I knew I was going to be in the playoffs. But it’s not about me. It’s about the Ducks.”
Robidas knows the Stars better than anyone else, and says they have skill up and down the lineup.
“They have lots of speed, skill, hard workers, good defensemen who can move the puck, and good goaltending,” he said. “They have good depth. They finished as the eighth seed, but you can’t take them for granted. It’s a good, young team.”
With the Ducks and Angels starting at the same time tomorrow night, fans are encouraged to arrive at Honda Center early to avoid traffic complications. In addition, there will be pre-game presentations that fans won’t want to miss.