Capitals fans, don’t read this ... Ducks fans thrilled to have finally broken a playoff curse, hello.
Four straight seasons Anaheim had taken a 3-2 series lead, only to drop Game 6 on the road and then Game 7 at home. On Sunday, with a 3-2 series lead, the Ducks went into Edmonton and got pasted. Last night, with everything lined up for yet another crushing Game 7 loss, the Ducks...won. They came back from an 0-2 series hole, and a deficit just 3:31 into the elimination game, to win 2-1 and advance? Whose Ducks are these? Maybe all past is just prologue, eventually.
“I don’t want to say relief because we expect to do what we did,” Ryan Getzlaf said. “But it’s a fact that we don’t have to talk about it anymore. That’s a good thing.”
To a man, the Ducks all said they didn’t panic when they went down a goal early, and credited the fans for staying into it. Nick Ritchie, who eventually scored the winner in the third period, even said the team somehow relaxed and started playing better after going down 1-0.
And maybe it’s no coincidence that the game-winning goal came from a 21-year-old who hadn’t been around for any of those playoff runs. Ritchie’s a big boy, and he’s a lot more likely to hit you than deke you, but Randy Carlyle wanted a more physical presence on the top line. In the second period, Carlyle shuffled his lines to move Ritchie up alongside Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Getzlaf did the work carrying the puck in, and Sami Vatanen hustled to get it along the boards, but Ritchie did the right thing in finding space and rifling a wrister past Cam Talbot.
“That’s one thing that Randy’s always been effective with, making in-game changes,” Getzlaf said. “He has a great attention to detail throughout the game and that’s what he’s here for.”
The Ducks will open up the Western Conference Finals at home against Nashville on Friday, and they are slight favorites. And yet it feels a little like everyone’s just keeping the Campbell Bowl safe until Edmonton is ready. The young Oilers went deeper and looked closer to complete than anyone expected, which means we can probably accelerate the timeframe for them to reach domination.
How stirring are these quotes?
“I don’t think anyone thought we’d be here, one period away from the conference finals,” said goalie Cam Talbot. “I’m proud as hell to be a part of this group right now and I’m looking forward to the future with this team.”
“You look at any team that’s won, and it starts with a disappointment,” said young captain Connor McDavid. “We took a huge step forward. If we’d have told you we’d go seven in the second series, back in September, I don’t think anyone would have believed it. We’ll be back.”
“We won’t have to answer that experience question anymore, which is nice. Come next season, we’ll find ourselves in a similar spot, and we’ll be able to look back on this, feel that disappointment, and know…how much that sucked.”
I look forward to the Oilers and Maple Leafs meeting in the Finals every year for the next decade.