“I hate Game 7.”
An elevator full of Southern California hockey fans grumbled in agreement this morning to the bold proclamation made by one in reference to the bitter battle sure to ensue between the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings as the two teams fight for a ticket to the Western Conference Finals in Anaheim tonight.
Despite a lineup of players on both sides proclaiming nothing but excitement to the media, Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau perhaps said it best in a press conference Friday morning by explaining Game 7 is a situation where players can either be nervous or they can embrace the opportunity. Naturally, the coach hopes his squad of Ducks can do the latter.
One might place the blame on Anaheim for not ending this series when the team could have, but with the battle that has ensued between the two over the course of the past two weeks, did anyone expect anything less than Game 7?
The Kings seemed to have the series in a stronghold after winning the first two games at Honda Center last week, but they failed to make progress on the team’s own ice, allowing the Ducks to win the next three games. But Anaheim failed to clinch the series on Wednesday night due to strings of lazy puck movement, defensive breakdowns and unsuccessful puck dumping in the offensive zone, so the Battle for Southern California moves forward into a do-or-die finale to see which team will move on to face the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks and which team will start those rounds on the golf course a bit early.
While Los Angeles comes into tonight’s game with the momentum of Wednesday night’s win, the Ducks have something far stronger working for them — an entire season of momentum born from a string of come-from-behind wins leading to the team grasping the best record in the Western Conference.
Yes tonight’s game is a clean slate, but whatever it is that motivates this Anaheim team to never give up, regardless of whatever deficit or injury may come their way, is going to play to the Ducks’ advantage over the defensively heavy Kings.
Anyone can sit and pinpoint facts and statistics that show Anaheim as the better team. But then again that same person can sit and pinpoint statistics that could also show Los Angeles as the better team. Both have made it this far for a reason.
But it is that little something extra — character, drive, “unfinished business” — that can play in the Ducks’ favor tonight. Because the little bit of magic that has willed the Ducks through all obstacles this season is an intangible factor even the strongest blue line in the world can’t touch. And if that piece in Anaheim’s game shows up tonight, the Ducks are moving on to the next round.