ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Anaheim Ducks liked what they did through those early third-period minutes of Game 6. It just took them too long to get to that point.
“I don’t know if it was nerves or waiting to see things happen,” said Ryan Getzlaf, “We were on our heels, not going forward, until we were down, to pour it on.”
The Ducks were pouring it on in that third period before Andrew Shaw thwarted their momentum, and their chance to close the series, in the Blackhawks’ 5-2 Game 6 victory. Now it comes down to Saturday night when the Ducks host the Blackhawks in Game 7 of the Western Conference Final.
Anaheim has been through this before. The Ducks have been asked and have answered questions about failing at Game 7s before. For them, however, it’s not about responding to previous Game 7s; it’s about responding to Game 6, in which they didn’t react to the Blackhawks’ onslaught in time.
“I think both teams in the first period [of Game 6] it was, ‘let’s see what the other team does before we react.’ And then we didn’t react and in 3 1/2 minutes they had three goals,’” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Once we scored, we thought, ‘oh, man, we’re in a hockey game. There’s a good chance they’ll score first, so we have to make sure we keep our composure, keep coming at them and not go, ‘damn, they scored. Woe is me.’
“We have to have a strong mental game tomorrow as well as a strong systemized game,” Boudreau continued. “[Being] mentally strong is going to be a big advantage for someone.”
The Blackhawks have used that mental toughness to get them through some critical series the past few postseasons. It helped get them out of the second round and to the Stanley Cup Final in 2013. It just about got them back there in 2014. As for the Ducks, there are enough players remaining from that 2007 Cup team, Getzlaf and Corey Perry among them, to know what it takes to advance at this juncture.
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“We were waiting for something to happen last game. Eventually it did. We were on the wrong side of it,” Perry said. “I mean, if we play the way we did in Game 5 at the start of the first period and continue that all the way through, we're going to be good. That's the way we have to play.”
The Ducks didn’t like how long it took them to react in Game 6. It was a far cry from Game 5, when they came out and dominated and the Blackhawks were the group that wasn’t reacting fast enough. The Ducks know they won’t get anywhere if they sit back and wait. They’ve got home-ice advantage and a chance to exorcise the demons of Game 7s past.
“When we play to our capabilities, when we push the pace and we're on our toes, we feel like we're a difficult team to compete with,” Cam Fowler said. “We need to have that mindset tomorrow regardless of the situation or the magnitude of where we are. We need to come out as the aggressors. We need to stick with what got us here and take that into tomorrow's game.”