Boudreau on Ducks' Game 7 loss: 'I'm not going to lie, it's going to hurt for a while'
As cliche as it sounds, history always repeats itself.
For the third straight season, the Anaheim Ducks were eliminated in a Game 7 on home ice. Maybe it's a curse or maybe their puck luck ran out. The third time was decidedly un-charmed as the Ducks turned in another dismal performance in a game with everything to play for and everything to lose.
The Chicago Blackhawks advanced to the Stanley Cup Final with the 5-3 victory over Anaheim on Saturday night at the Honda Center, the team's third appearance in the last six seasons. The Ducks have now made it further each and every year, but there's just something about Games 7 they haven't quite figured out.
"I'm not going to lie, it's going to hurt for a while," Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We truly believe that we're a different team and we had a really good chance of winning five more games. Didn't get done. We'll have to live with that for the summer."
How did this happen, yet again? That dominating Game 1 victory feels just as far back as Winnipeg. The Blackhawks exerted their will in two games where will was more influential than the forecheck.
"I don't know if we went in the other direction," Boudreau said. "But I do believe that the Blackhawks got better."
In Saturday's Game 7, the Ducks opened with a furious two-minute stretch that produced the best chances the Ducks would have all game. Yet somehow Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews scored the first two goals of the game. It was a huge haymaker of a blow to the Ducks, who weren't expecting it that early.
"You definitely have a lot of excitement coming into Game 7, you've been thinking about it a lot the last couple days," Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler said. "Then you get off to a good start and you're down 2-0 early, it's tough. But at the same time, it's a situation that for whatever reason, we felt comfortable in."
But the comfort level quickly diminished, and it only unraveled from there.
The lines were changed so drastically that Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry were broken up for a stretch. Chicago dominated in the faceoff circle. There was life for a brief moment when Perry scored to cut the Blackhawks' lead to 4-2, but Brent Seabrook scored only moments later on the power play.
It was then that the finality of it all began to sink in.
"For it to be over, I feel like I let a lot of people down. I think as a team we let a lot of people down," Fowler said. "We felt like we had a special thing going and for it to be over, it's a pretty surreal feeling, to be honest. It doesn't feel like we deserve to be done yet. But that's how it goes."
But this particular Game 7 was less about the game and more about the organization. Under Boudreau, they've gone from losing Game 7 in the first round to the being eliminated in the second-to-last round. It's a been a steady build-up.
But with build-up, often comes letdown. This defeat will no doubt linger throughout the summer and well into next season. Imagine how much fuel they'll have by this time next year.
"Game 7, what is it, two or three years now? We've gotta learn," said winger Patrick Maroon. "I guess you could say that we were one step closer to the Stanley Cup Final. And I guess you could say that we made progress, but we don't want to make progress -- you want the whole thing."
You could say Chicago is the better team with the better pedigree, primed for a championship run, but you could say that Anaheim seemed destined for a similar fate at one point, as well. And with the pieces they have in place and the cap space to re-sign key role players like second-line winger Matt Beleskey, the prospects for next season are exceedingly bright.
"Everything is over," center Ryan Kesler said. "It's the start of summer now and we're going to have to get over this and get ready for next year because I'll tell you right now, this group is not done. We have unfinished business."