2003 is more commonly known as the year the Anaheim Ducks almost won the Stanley Cup. However, the road to the Stanely Cup Finals led them right through Hockeytown to face their biggest rivals.
The fierce rivalry between the Anaheim Ducks and the Detroit Red Wings began long before the 2003 Stanley Cup playoffs. In fact, the inception of the rivalry began on the very day the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim took the ice for the first time.
We all know the story. Detroit is up 7-1 near the end of the third period. Then, Red Wings defenseman, Steve Chiasson, took a penalty in the third period, sending the Mighty Ducks on a power play. Detroit’s Dallas Drake wins the draw, clearing the puck down the ice.
Alexei Kasatonov skates down the ice, taking possession of the puck and passing it to Anatoli Semenov. In a beautiful display of passing, Semenov sent the puck down low to Troy Loney. The captain rocketed the puck into the net past goalie Peter Ing, through the five-hole.
An Anaheim goal drowned out the deafening sound of what would be a 7-2 defeat at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings. Thus, a beautiful rivalry was born and thrived until the day the Detroit Red Wings were moved to the Atlantic Division.
The competition between the two teams heated up even more come time for the playoffs. Between 1996 and 2002, the Mighty Ducks had only qualified for the playoffs twice. Both times the road led them directly to Detroit.
In 1997, the Ducks had their first series victory over the Phoenix Coyotes, only to be swept by the Detroit Red Wings in the Semi-Finals. This included not one, but three overtime losses. Again, the Mighty Ducks were swept by the Red Wings in 1999, but this time in the Quarter-Finals.
When the Anaheim Ducks qualified to make the playoffs once again in 2003, it seemed as though the team had the winning formula. The team was led by Paul Kariya, Petr Sykora, Steve Rucchin, and Jean-Sebastien Giguere was between the pipes.
However, their second place status in the Pacific Division paired them with the first place Central Divison Detroit Red Wings. From previous experience, it did not look as though things would work out in the Anaheim Ducks favor.