ANAHEIM, Calif. — It’s been five years since the Ducks were as close as they are to reaching the Western Conference Finals. It’s also been the same amount of time since head coach Bruce Boudreau was close to advancing past a semifinal round in the postseason.
Boudreau and the Ducks need only one more win against the Kings and to reach the conference Finals. It will be the just the fourth time in Ducks history and the first for their head coach. While Kings fans would like to believe that theory of repeating history is in play, it’s the Ducks that may have more emotion at stake as the teams prepare for tonight’s crucial Game 6.
Veterans Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu desperately want a Stanley Cup run. Selanne has a ring from 2007 but Saku has never made it to the final round of the playoffs. Boudreau, despite one of the best regular-season head coaching records for his service time, has never even made it to the Western Conference Finals.
"I think that all of us are in the same boat," said Ducks’ defenseman Ben Lovejoy. "A few guys in our locker room have won Stanley Cup rings but a bunch of them haven’t. We’re all desperate. We all want to be there, we want to do it for him but selfishly I want to do it for me to. From the beginning of the year, this is a team that we felt can compete for a Stanley Cup. We want to go out there and do that for Bruce but individually, we’re all selfishly wanting to that for ourselves too."
Koivu has given no indication that he will retire any time soon. At 39-years-old, the center is still very effective, typically playing against the opponent’s top lines. He already survived cancer, not he wants to withstand a deeper playoff run.
"Over my career, I’ve been in the playoffs — I don’t know the exact number — nine, 10 times but haven’t been able to go to the conference final or the Stanley Cup final," Koivu said. "Obviously winning tomorrow, I would get a chance to experience something that I haven’t been able to do so far. It would be a huge step for myself.
But at the same time you don’t want to kind of get ahead of yourself, you ty to keep all the focus on tomorrow’s game and this series. We’ll see happens."
Much was made about Boudreau’s postseason record before the postseason began. The Ducks owned the best record in the league all season but began to slip towards the end. The vivacious Boudreau — the polar opposite of his stone faced counterpart on the Kings’ bench in Darryl Sutter — but the consumate players’ coach has done one thing very well in the playoffs so far and that’s keeping his players’ excitement level in check.
With the Ducks utilizing the talent of so many young players, it’s an intangible that becomes extremely important.
"It’s impossible to lose a game and not feel like the sky is falling," Lovejoy said. "Down 2-0, guys can say that we were confident but you’re still down 2-0. At the same time, after these games, guys come into the locker room just shaking they’re so excited. We have earned these games.
"We try and stay level, not too high. But we are very excited about Wednesday night. It’s anyone’s game once again."
The Ducks are built like few other teams. But as the Kings can tell you, the postseason is a time that any other team can come in and ruin everything built. Whether it’s for Koivu, Selanne, Boudreau or anyone else, all of those factors will be in play Wednesday night at the Staples Center when the Ducks have a chance to do something special.
"As you go on, the steps keep getting harder and harder and harder," Boudreau said. "The one thing I have learned, in a very brief time, is that when they talk about the Cup being the hardest thing to win. We’re not even halfway there and realizing how tough it is.
"They’re right. This is a heck of a journey you have to make."