Ducks Look to Claw Back
Not many teams have come back from 2-0 deficits in Stanley Cup Playoff history, but several Ducks veterans have been a part of that feat
By Adam Brady
|"Most veteran guys have been through those situations before in the playoffs where you don’t play your best, where you’re down, but you’re not out," Pronger said. "I think the character that’s been shown in this locker room all season long will come out tomorrow night."|
The discouraging numbers were bandied about practically as the seconds were ticking down on Anaheim’s 5-2 loss to the Stars in Game 2 of this Western Conference Quarterfinals series. In Stanley Cup Playoff history, only 37 of 280 teams trailing 2-games-to-none (as the Ducks are now) have come back to win a best-of-seven series. And even if none of the Ducks had read a newspaper in the last two days, they are well aware of the task that confronts them.
But a few Ducks veterans know first-hand what it’s like to buck those odds, and two of them don't have to think back too far to remember. Doug Weight was a part of the 2006 Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes team that dropped Games 1 and 2 at home in their conference quarterfinal matchup with Montreal before storming back and winning four straight.
“It was similar," said Weight, who was in the lineup for last Saturday’s Game 2 after being a healthy scratch in the opener. "Montreal came into our building that year and won 6-1 in the first game. We lost in (double) overtime (6-5) in the second, but we were really down quite a bit going into the third period. A number of the boys got together after the game, and we mentioned that we'd been through the year, been through some ups and downs, and this was no different. We're looking at the same thing here now. It's definitely doable"
|"I feel confident," Giguere said. "I know I’ve got what it takes to be successful in this league and I know this team has what it takes. We’ve just got to put it together.”|
That same postseason, Pronger’s Edmonton Oilers paved the road to meeting those Hurricanes in the Final by taking down San Jose in the conference semis. They too lost the opening two games (though they were on the road in San Jose), and came back to win four straight to take that series and then defeat the Ducks in the conference final.
“I’m sure there are four or five guys on this team who can tell a story like that,” said Pronger following the Ducks’ Monday afternoon practice at a public rink in the town of Farmers Branch. “But it’s easier to think about the present moment than to talk about a series back in the day where we did this or we did that. Most veteran guys have been through those situations before in the playoffs where you don’t play your best, where you’re down, but you’re not out.”
Pronger is right. Scott Niedermayer, winner of his fourth Stanley Cup last year, was with the 1994 New Jersey Devils team that lost the first two games of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Boston before coming back to win four straight.
Fellow defenseman Mathieu Schneider has done that same things twice, with Montreal against the Quebec Nordiques in 1993 and with the Kings against Detroit in 2001.
"That third game is pivotal," Schneider said. "If we win, it puts a lot of pressure on them to win the next game. I think the pressure kind of evens out after that."
Weight's Carolina team is also part of another interesting piece of statistical history. Of the teams that dropped their first two home games of a Stanley Cup Playoff series but won Game 3, nine out of 18 have come all the way back to eventually win the series.
"We have to inch our way back into this series, regardless of what Dallas has done," Weight said. "Credit is theirs, but last time I checked, it was best out of seven."
And while the Ducks have looked subpar in losing Games 1 and 2, Pronger is confident his team can follow that same path.
“I think the character that’s been shown in this locker room all season long will come out tomorrow night, and we’ll prove to ourselves that we can play to a higher level,” Pronger said. “We know we can. We’ve just got to go out and perform.”
Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who like his teammates has yet to play to the level that helped the Ducks capture the Stanley Cup last season, insists he remains self-assured.
|“We have to be better and we know we can be better,” said Scott Niedermayer. “And that starts tomorrow night. We just have to go out and play our game.”|
“There is no reason why as a team we shouldn’t have confidence,” Giguere said. “We were one of the best teams in the league after Christmas. We played very well after Teemu and Scotty came back. We were very strong and played very well defensively and did what we needed to do to be successful. We should have a lot of confidence. I feel confident. I know I’ve got what it takes to be successful in this league and I know this team has what it takes. We’ve just got to put it together.”
That starts with tomorrow night’s Game 3 at American Airlines Center, where if the Ducks are at all focused on recent history, then can find solace in this: Dallas has lost six of its past seven postseason games at home. But the Ducks have some work to do if they're interested in continuing that trend.
“We have to be better and we know we can be better,” said Scott Niedermayer. “And that starts tomorrow night. We just have to go out and play our game, and play it as well as we can.”
Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle has seen his team pull itself out of the muck before in his three seasons in Anaheim, and assures doubters they can do it again.
“Our group has been in some waters before and we’ve had our fair share of adversity, not only in the playoffs previously but in this regular season,” Carlyle said. “We’ve been able to rally around one another and get things done. Our biggest game of the year is tomorrow and we have to be prepared to play the best game we’ve played so far.”
Checking line winger Rob Niedermayer did not travel with the Ducks to Dallas, and Carlyle reported that he is suffering from an “upper body injury” and will fly out from Orange County with team doctors tonight. His status for Game 3 is uncertain.
There has been also no update on the status of Corey Perry, for whom Thursday will mark six weeks of his recovery from a deep thigh laceration. Perry accompanied the team to Dallas and practiced at full speed today with the fourth line, which included Weight, Bobby Ryan, George Parros and Brian Sutherby. Brad May was moved to the top line with Teemu Selanne and Ryan Getzlaf, while Chris Kunitz, Ryan Carter and Todd Bertuzzi made up the second line. Todd Marchant skated with Travis Moen and Samuel Pahlsson on the third line.
More from Carlyle, from his session with reporters after practice this afternoon:
On Games 1 and 2 struggles,
A lot of it has to do with trying too hard. There is a fine line that you have to walk, and at times I think we’ve gone over the line. It’s not just discipline. The aggressiveness has gone over the line in certain situations, and it’s like we’ve been blinded by the puck being available versus taking the man. You don’t always have to be that aggressive. I think in some situations, we’ve stood around, where one guy is working really hard and not getting enough support from the second guy.
On the Dallas power play,
A lot of things have gone their way on the power play. You have to give them credit. They’ve worked on some areas. We thought we had resurrected our penalty killing from the last 25 games or so. We were above 90 percent. It so happens in the first game they had four power play goals and we’re reeling. The goals they scored the other night, one was a rebound where our goaltender had the ability to corral the puck and our defenseman batted it away from him. And then the other one, our goaltender was looking on the other side and the shot went glove side. Those things are going against us at this point, but if we’re going to make some adjustments and try some different things. I’m sure they will too. That’s what the playoffs are all about. You have to be able to adjust and make changes on the fly, and this group if quite capable of doing that.
I thought that our power play took energy away from us. We had two power plays back to back at the beginning of the third period, and we had a couple of chances, but we didn’t really sustain any momentum. Then we had a hooking penalty halfway through the period and they scored on Modano’s goal. It was like we were trying too hard to get that goal back right away and we changed the way we were playing. That was disappointing for us.