Hockey / Sports

Game 7 for all the Kings and Ducks

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- You wanted this all along, you die-hard Ducks and Kings supporters and the hockey fans that love a good border war. And you're getting what you always imagined.

Two teams who have shared Southern California for 20 years finding out over six nascent playoff games that precious little separates them. The greatest divide has been the 30 miles in between.

This Game 7 had to happen. Honda Center. Friday night. Winner takes all.

"I think it's good for this area," Kings captain Dustin Brown said. "There's a lot of excitement, and probably a lot of nervous people.

"Neither team wanted a Game 7, but from a fan perspective and Southern California perspective, it's probably good for the growth of the game."

There have been dueling car flags on the streets and battling billboards along the freeways. Perhaps some split households, too, with Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf enjoying the sight of a strolling couple adorned with opposing jerseys.

The back-and-forth series is at its logical conclusion. The Kings came into Orange County and won twice, while the Ducks answered with two in downtown L.A. The Ducks set to advance after winning Game 5, the Kings staying alive by capturing Game 6.

Four games decided by a single goal. The other two separated by just two goals. The Kings with 13 goals in all, the Ducks' total the same.

It is down to one dealing a heavy dose of disappointment to the other for the right to face the reigning Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference finals that will begin Sunday.

"I think we knew what kind of team they were, coming from 3-0 down the previous series," Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano said Thursday. "We knew things weren't going to be easy or quick, and we'd have to fight for everything we got. So Game 7 is pretty fitting.

"It's one game, in our building, and we've played well here and we're comfortable here. It's going to be a great atmosphere."

Ah, Game 7 at home. It is the prize benefit that has been earned through success over a long 82-game season. Except it is an anchor that the Ducks and their coach, Bruce Boudreau, have to shake free from.

A year has passed, but the Ducks still regret their tepid 3-2 loss to Detroit on their ice. And then there's the black mark on the Boudreau File � a 1-4 Game 7 record with all of the losses at home.

They're not running away from either. The Ducks have used that lowlight as motivation for a record-breaking season while Boudreau simply says, "I'm due."

"It means I've gotten there five times, right?" Boudreau said, chuckling. "You can't pretend it's not there. I think it's a tremendous opportunity for players rather than something you worry about.

"If you worry about what if we lose or what are people going to say, then you're going to lose. You've got to take this and say, 'Hey, listen, this is a great chance to be a hero.' And go out and be the hero."

Kings coach Darryl Sutter has been applying not-so-subtle pressure on his Southern California rival, doing so on Ducks goalie John Gibson after the rookie entered the series and won Games 4 and 5.

It is with full knowledge that his team is best when backed up against a wall, going 5-0 in elimination games in these playoffs. San Jose had four chances and couldn't finish, while the Ducks � the West's top seed � failed in their first.

"I think both rivals, especially the one team that had 116 points, would probably prefer not to play a Game 7, but the other team was prepared to play a Game 7 because we knew they were a tough team to beat," Sutter said. "And if we could get it to seven that meant we've done good things."

Playing in a Game 7 conjures up for those involved memories of imagining they were their favorite player getting the best of their friends on the streets, the rinks or the frozen ice ponds of their youth.

For Ducks winger Devante Smith-Pelly, while growing up in suburban Toronto, that player was former Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin.

"I've wanted to play in a Game 7 growing up," Smith-Pelly said. "Always wanted to score that game-winning goal. Obviously it's a bit nerve-racking, but I'm just going to try and have some fun."

Thinking back, Kings winger Justin Williams said it was always Game 7. And it was always the Stanley Cup Final.

"It's the same thing in any other sport," added Williams, who has five career Game 7 goals. "It's the last seconds of the game and the buzzer's coming down. It's the ninth inning and two outs. It's football and it's the fourth quarter.

"It's everything. It's you or them and that's what you relish as a kid, coming out on top."

That is what Teemu Selanne wants. But a loss would bring about the end of a thrilling 21-year NHL career that's destined to put the beloved Ducks icon in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The 43-year-old winger didn't address that possibility with reporters Thursday in a rare move for the usually chatty star. But the Ducks say that this Game 7 is about the whole and not one person.

Even the one who helped put Anaheim on the hockey map.

"We know that this could be everybody's last game for the season," defenseman Ben Lovejoy said. "Teemu is incredibly important to this organization. The Samuelis own the team, but Teemu has been the team. Forever.

"But this is bigger than Teemu. This is for our season. We need to be ready to go for everybody. For all 20 guys. For the hundreds of people that work for this team. This is obviously an incredibly important game."

Staff writer Rich Hammond contributed to this story.

(c)2014 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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KINGS, DUCKS


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