Anaheim Ducks: Past Success Planting Seeds of Confidence

ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 10: The Ducks celebrate after Anaheim Ducks Left Wing Nick Ritchie (37) scored the go-ahead goal in the third period during game 7 of the second round of the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs between the Edmonton Oilers and the Anaheim Ducks on May 10, 2017 at Honda Center in Anaheim, CA. The Ducks defeated the Oilers 2-1 to advance to the Western Conference Finals. (Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 10: The Ducks celebrate after Anaheim Ducks Left Wing Nick Ritchie (37) scored the go-ahead goal in the third period during game 7 of the second round of the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs between the Edmonton Oilers and the Anaheim Ducks on May 10, 2017 at Honda Center in Anaheim, CA. The Ducks defeated the Oilers 2-1 to advance to the Western Conference Finals. (Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

It has been a rough season for the Anaheim Ducks, but their past success can plant seeds of confidence going forward.

The holidays have come and gone quickly, and the decade is almost over. To all of who celebrated during this time of year, I hope you had a great holiday season. This article is going to be a lot like the Thanksgiving article I wrote. During the lean times, it’s always good to look at stories of the cherished past for the Anaheim Ducks.

This year has been an up and down year for us Ducks fans. We’ve had to deal with the fact that we have younger players in our ranks this year learning the ropes in the pros. Coaching has been called into question, and of course, there has been a barrage of injuries that have come at the most inopportune times.

We may be near the bottom of the Western Conference, but we’re not out by a lot. We may have to deal with another early offseason, but there is still room for a little bit of hope. I wanted to give set the stage and highlight the success the team has had in the past that can give us hope for the future.

Ducks Ground Winnipeg

The 2014-15 NHL playoffs were fun for the Anaheim Ducks, as they won the Pacific Division. Their reward: a first-time playoff matchup against the Winnipeg Jets; a team that only made the playoffs only once prior to that particular year. Although this series was done in 4, what most people don’t remember was how close it was. In Game 1, the Ducks had to come back and beat the Jets 4-2.

However, in Game 2, the Ducks really took flight, as they were down one goal heading into the third period. Patrick Maroon tied the game midway through, which led to even more drama. Just as they were about to go to overtime, Jakob Silfverberg provided the game-winner with twenty-one seconds left in the third period, and the Anaheim Ducks prevailed late, winning two to one.

Game 3 looked to be the first time in which the Jets would have a pulse in the series. Trailing two games to none, the Jets were off and running, scoring four goals in the first two periods. The Ducks looked down and out, but Ryan Kesler’s game-tying goal pushed the game into overtime.

Within five minutes, Rickard Rakell won the game on a deflected shot and the Ducks won Game 3 in comeback fashion. In Game 4, it wasn’t even close, as the Ducks closed down the Peg, completing the four-game sweep. It was then that the Anaheim Ducks showed their moxie and furthermore, they weren’t done.

Ducks v. Hawks Part 2

After dispatching Calgary in the second round, Anaheim made their first Conference Finals appearance since they won it all in 2007. This time, it was against the powerhouse Chicago Blackhawks. Like the movie predecessors, the Ducks and Hawks went back and forth. The Ducks prevailed in Game 1, but lost Game 2 in triple overtime.

The Anaheim Ducks restored order by winning on the road in Game 3, and were close to winning game 4 after trailing 3 to 1, scoring three straight goals to give the Ducks the lead. However, Patrick Kane tied the game up late in the third period, setting the stage for double overtime, and the Hawks got the W, Antoine Vermette scoring the game-winner to tie the series up.

That set up Game 5, and right away, the Ducks got on their horse and took a commanding three-goal lead, but the Hawks wouldn’t give up that easily, eventually tying the game at 4 going to overtime. It looked like another collapse was imminent, but in the end, the Ducks rose to the occasion, this time, an unlikely hero, Matt Beleskey, scoring the game-winner in overtime to give the Ducks a three-two lead in the series. Even though they lost the series in seven games, the Ducks showed that even on the biggest stages, they could rise to the occasion and gave us Ducks fans hope for a brighter future.

A Duck-Size Knockout in Big D

A year before, the Ducks played host to the Dallas Stars. These two teams had previous playoff encounters, in ’03, when the Mighty Ducks beat the Stars in 6 en route to the Stanley Cup Finals. The year after they won the championship, the Stars got their revenge, beating the Ducks in six games, and since then, they hadn’t played against one another in the playoffs. That all changed in the 2014 playoffs when these two teams finally reacquainted themselves.

The series was back and forth, the Anaheim Ducks winning the first two games at Honda Center, the Stars winning the next two in Big D, the Ducks reclaiming the series lead in emphatic fashion, setting the stage for an exciting game 6 in Dallas.

The Stars played well in the first period, scoring three of four goals to give the Stars a three-one lead heading into intermission. They added another goal to make it four to two heading into the third period. It looked like Game 7 would be a sure thing, with how the Stars were playing and the Ducks were struggling mightily.

However, the Ducks showed themselves once again, Nick Bonino cutting the Stars’ two-goal lead in half, then Devante Smith Pelly knocked in the game-tying goal to send the game into overtime. Nick Bonino would strike again to end the series and the Ducks would move on to the second round of the playoffs, leaving a Duck-size hole in Dallas.

Cooling off the Red Mile

When it comes to Canada, everyone knows of how Montreal and Edmonton earned their storied success, how Toronto has been a thorn to teams from the U.S. like Boston back in the day. However, in Western Alberta, Calgary gets forgotten because of their lack of success regarding the number of championships. Despite their lack of multiple championships, the Flames still fight for the rule of western Alberta against Edmonton. They also have been known to have recent success against everyone in the Pacific Division, except for one place…

You see, Calgary usually struggles against Anaheim, particularly at Honda Center. There was a time where the Anaheim Ducks won more than twenty games against the Flames at the Honda Center, combining wins from the regular and postseason. In the playoffs, the Ducks and Flames met in ’06, where the Ducks extinguished the Flames’ playoff hopes en-route to the Western Conference Finals. Then in 2015, the Ducks made quick work of the Flames to make the Conference Finals, Corey Perry scoring the series-winning goal in overtime in Game 5 at home.

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In the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, division rivals met once again. The Ducks won Games 1 and 2, protecting home ice yet again, going to the Red Mile, up two games and looking to make it more daunting for the home team in Alberta. Things took a dire veer left when the Flames played on their home ice early for the Ducks, as they trailed four to two heading into the third period. It looked like the Flames would finally burn the Ducks alive and get back in the series.

However, while the heroes change, the theme of the comeback never changes. Late in the third period, Anaheim made a furious rally, when Nate Thompson and Shea Theodore tied the game at four, forcing a key overtime to determine how the series would go. It didn’t take long for that answer to come. Corey Perry, who scored the game-winner in Game 5 to knock out the Flames two years prior, scored yet another overtime game-winner ninety seconds into overtime, cooling off the Red Mile and giving the Ducks an insurmountable three games to none lead. The Ducks would complete the sweep in Game 4 and go back to the Western Conference Semifinals, against another Canadian foe: the Edmonton Oilers.

The Ultimate Comeback

Whether it was against the Hawks or Iceland in the movies, or in 03 where the Mighty Ducks had comebacks galore, one would argue that despite those miraculous comebacks, the second-round playoff series against Edmonton would rank in the top ten for best playoff comebacks. The Anaheim Ducks wouldn’t have to come back just once, not twice, but three times in this hotly contested, drama-filled series. The Edmonton Oilers pulled off a first-round upset over the San Jose Sharks in six games. The Oilers were favored to win this series since they won three of five games in the regular season against the Ducks and they had the best player in the series: Connor McDavid.

The Oilers showed their power, beating the Anaheim Ducks in their house, and were returning to Alberta with a chance to strangle the Ducks out of the playoffs. However, the Ducks had different ideas, flipping the script on the road, responding to adversity when they gave up a three-goal lead before claiming it back to win six to three, cutting the Oilers’ series lead in half. Then in Game 4, the drama really went through the roof, the Oilers took the lead early, scoring twice in the first period. The Ducks responded, however, with three straight goals, and it looked like the Ducks would pull it out in regulation.

However, the Oilers wouldn’t go without a fight, scoring late in the third to tie it up, forcing overtime. It looked like the Oilers would finally take control of the series, but the Ducks once again showed that overtime was Ducks Time, as Ryan Getzlaf set up Jakob Silfverberg for the game-winner and the series was tied at two games apiece.

What people didn’t know was that as dramatic as that game was, nothing, I repeat, nothing would prepare both teams for the drama that laid ahead in the most dramatic Game 5 of the series. The Oilers took a three-goal lead heading into the third period. Things looked bleak, things didn’t look good at all, and it looked like all the prognosticators would finally be right, and that Edmonton would finally win the series in six back home.

What happened next is something that young and old Ducks fans will take to the grave: an improbable breath-taking, movie-style comeback for the ages. With 3:16 remaining in regulation, the Anaheim Ducks began their comeback, Ryan Getzlaf starting with a rocket inside the blueline to end the shutout, bringing the Ducks within two goals.

The drama picked up when Cam Fowler’s wrist shot soared past Cam Talbot and suddenly, hopes of Anaheim Ducks fans rose to the sky. Time started to dwindle, and with one last flurry, Cam Fowler’s shot finally hit the net, a mad scramble ensued and Rickard Rakell tied the game with a simple backhand shot that caused an absolute ruckus at the Honda Center. Everyone held their breath however as the review looked for goaltender interference.

The fans in the Honda Center took a deep sigh of relief when the refs deemed no goaltender interference took place, sending the game to overtime. It wasn’t until double overtime, however, for the comeback to be complete as Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry teamed up for the game-winner to give the Ducks the most improbable playoff comeback in franchise history.

Despite the improbable Game 5 win, the Ducks headed back into Edmonton knowing that it wouldn’t be easy to close them out. Right away, the Oilers completely bushwhacked the Ducks seven to one, forcing a Game 7 for the right to advance to the Conference Finals against the Nashville Predators. Game 7 wasn’t nice for the Ducks, as they hadn’t won a Game 7 since 2006.

The horrors and haunts picked up even more when the Oilers took a one-nothing lead on a Drake Caggiula goal early in the first period. After that, however, Gibson made sure that was the last goal they gave up and shut out the Oilers, giving the Ducks multiple chances to win this pivotal game 7. The Ducks got on the board in the second period when Andrew Cogliano dug the puck out of a scrum and banged it in, setting up all-time drama in the third.

Nick Ritchie, one of the more-maligned Ducks, proved to be the unlikely hero to break the Game 7 curse, banking a wrist shot past Talbot, giving the Ducks a two-one lead early in the third period. Both teams looked to make a statement, but in the end, the demons were exercised on their home ice and the Ducks completed the most daunting and improbable comebacks in franchise history. To me, it was one of the more impressive comebacks the Ducks made because they made people like Jeremy Roenick eat his words after the series ended.

Back to the Present

So, what do these stories have to do with the present? The answer is this: despite the trials that this team is going through, these examples of how the Anaheim Ducks have persevered in the past can be taught down to the current group of Ducks as to how to weather the storm right now. We may not make the playoffs right now, but hey, this year, we’ve had some good moments to be proud of, shootout wins and wins against some hard opponents. The seeds of confidence this year, I believe with the right leadership core, coach and belief from the fans can sprout to big wins down the road.

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