Game 4 tomorrow night is a must-win for the Anaheim Ducks.
“Wait, what? They’re up 2-1 in the series. They still have home-ice advantage even if they lose. They only lost one game!”
No, they don’t have to win Game 4 as a means of winning this series. They just need to play like they do.
The Anaheim Ducks enjoyed their best season in franchise history. Most wins, points, and goals scored ever. As Pacific Division champs and the first overall seed in the Western Conference, Stanley Cup aspirations have followed this team for most of the season.
That’s all fine and good when looking back on the season as a whole but Ducks fans who have been following them closely all season know there was more than one occasion when they didn’t look like Cup contenders. The 7-2 drubbing at the hands of the Calgary Flames on Mar. 12 stands out particularly. But that’s par for the course with all great teams. 82 games is a long season and you’re bound to have a stinker here and there.
But what separated the Ducks from the majority of the league were the games they had to win.
When they needed a big win against a top conference opponent on the road (both games in St. Louis for example) or had to beat a division rival to secure the division (Apr. 9 against San Jose) they won. They didn’t have to win those games to still achieve their ultimate goals but they knew the road would be much rougher if they didn’t. There’s not a player in that locker room who wants to head back to Orange County with the series knotted at 2.
It’s that killer instinct that failed them in their previous two playoff series. Just like this series Anaheim had home ice against Nashville and Detroit. They had to scratch and claw to even the series with Nashville and were poised to take Game 5 but couldn’t hold off a late Shea Weber shot and fell in overtime before losing the series in Game 6.
Against Detroit they had a commanding 3-2 series lead and were but a goal away from advancing in overtime of Game 6. Losing Game 5 against Nashville and Game 6 against Detroit didn’t knock them out of the playoffs those years but had they won those games things could have turned out much differently.
The Ducks have four more chances to win two games which include a couple more trips to Honda Center. Things don’t look bleak at all but they have the chance to put a stranglehold on the series if they win Game 4. This team has shown all year that when they believe they have to win the game, they do.
I’m sure they won’t say it out loud but I hope they all feel this is a game they can’t let slip through their fingers. Championship teams know when to stick a dagger in their opponent.
The 2007 Ducks did.
Ask any Ducks fan how big winning Game 4 in Ottawa was. I know they’re a long way from such a game but they have to treat every game like it’s the one that might decide the series because it just may be.
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