The Ducks are either thermodynamically impervious to momentum, or, even more useful in the NHL playoffs, they have short memories. Goldfish-short. Short enough to win four separate games this postseason that they trailed by two goals, or to come back from an 0-2 hole in the conference semis, or to forget a 7-1 blowout and four straight years of Game 7 nightmares to advance to the West finals. Or, last night, to dominate for 53 minutes or so and then give it all up, and then come back out in overtime and get the win, against all inertia.
“I think the last three or four years, we’ve obviously gone through a lot, more downs in the playoffs than ups,” goaltender John Gibson said. “But I think we just learn from that and I think now that we have a sense of calmness and we have the ability to always regroup.”
The OT winner from Corey Perry to tie up the series was ugly and fluky and counted just the same.
Predators coach Peter Laviolette called it a lucky bounce, and yes, it was, but Perry knew what he was doing, even if he didn’t have that specific outcome in mind.
“I was just trying to create traffic or create a balance and create havoc in front,” Perry said. “And that’s what they say in overtime: You throw it on net, never know what’s going to happen.”
Perry, who turned 32 this week, hit a wall this season and had been invisible for much of this Nashville series. But even with everything trending down, he hasn’t lost the instincts for doing the right thing, especially in sudden death. Perry now has four career overtime playoffs goals, trailing only Joe Sakic, Maurice Richard, Glenn Anderson, and Patrick Kane. Three of Perry’s OT winners have come in the last month.
These Ducks have underachieved the last few years, and many of the obstacles they’ve had to overcome even in this run have been of their own making, but experience, at least, only trends in a positive direction. Despite being the youngest team still alive in the playoffs, the core of the Ducks has been together for a while, and been through some shit. Perry and Getzlaf have been here forever. Fowler and Vatanen have grown into their primes. Cogliano and Kesler have been here long enough to get sick of spring disappointment after spring disappointment. It’s a veteran team, and if previous playoff failure has made them hungrier, it’s also taught them how to power through it.
“We have a good core of leadership in here,” Nate Thompson said. “Even our younger guys have been through it, too, and we know how to handle ourselves and we did a good job of it and came out and took care of business.”
There’s a good anecdote in this Sportsnet story, about a USA Today reporter asking a question of Ducks coach Randy Carlyle in his postgame press conference. “A lot of talk now in the league is about the younger players taking over. But in this game…there’s Corey Perry making a big play. Is there still an advantage to being an old-timer?” Unnoticed by the reporter, Perry had slipped into the room, and quietly laughed and expressed his incredulity.
These veteran Ducks have gotten very good at shooting themselves in the foot and even better at limping on undeterred. There’s value in everything learned through experience, but maybe nothing more valuable than the ability to forget things when necessary.