ANAHEIM – Forget the maligned team name and colors, the inauspicious first few years. Forget the losing seasons, the heartbreaking Game 7 losses, the bad streaks, the injuries, the suspensions. Forget it all.
The Anaheim Ducks are the 2007 Stanley Cup champions.
The Ducks played exactly like a team on the brink of a championship, completely outperforming the Ottawa Senators on their way to a 6-2 victory in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final in front of 17,372 euphoric fans at Honda Center.
Many of those screamers had been with the team since its start as the Mighty Ducks back in 1993. But this team has never looked mightier than they do now, earning a 4-games-to-1 triumph over the Senators and becoming the first team from California to win the Stanley Cup.
“Obviously, we have to wait a long time for something unbelievable,” said Teemu Selanne. “And it really makes it even more special. And I can't imagine to be getting the win in our own home building. I'm so proud of my teammates. We've been like brothers. And we have had one dream together, and that's why it's so special.”
With the Ducks comfortably ahead 6-2 in the third, the crowd chanted along as the seconds ticked down to zero. When they finally hit that magic number, Ryan Getzlaf looked like a little boy on Christmas morning as he shook his hands in the air to flip off his gloves and wrapped himself around Giguere. The rest of the Ducks soon joined them as every member converged near the boards in jubilation.
Moments later confetti was falling from the rafters and captain Scott Niedermayer was holding the silver chalice above his head. Niedermayer passed it first to brother Rob, the guy he came here to play with before last season.
Niedermayer won his fourth Cup and his first Conn Smythe Trophy.
"He's one of the assistant captains, maybe not quite the seniority, but I figured I'd use my rank as captain to make that decision," Scott said. "I thought it would be pretty special to be able to do that."
Soon every Duck was taking his turn skating around the Honda Center rink with the Cup over their heads, showing it off to the adoring throng in the seats.
Before holding the Cup, Scott Niedermayer grabbed another trophy, the Conn Smythe as the MVP of these playoffs, the first time he has won it. He is no longer the only Ducks player to have ever won a Stanley Cup. He won three with New Jersey (including the ’03 one in seven games over Anaheim). He is the only active player with four, but he would be the first to admit you always remember your latest.
“This one,” Niedermayer said after things had calmed down, “is pretty special.”
Niedermayer led a defense that carried Anaheim throughout the season had its biggest game when it counted. Anaheim checked, poked, pressured and hit its way to holding Ottawa to a paltry 13 shots on goal. Meanwhile, the Ducks converted an amazing six of their 18 attempts at the net.
The Ducks came out of the gates in Game 5 exactly like a team playing a clinching game would hope to. Just 3:41 into the game, Andy McDonald took a routine shot from the right circle that slipped through Emery and ignited the Honda Center crowd.
With 2:29 left in the period, Rob Niedermayer guarded the puck down the right wing and got off a backhander that slipped under Emery’s right arm and bounced over the line.
That was one of just five shots in the period for the Ducks, though their conversion percentage was impressive on their way to a 2-0 lead. Meanwhile, Ottawa only shot three times in the period, all of which were knocked away by Giguere.
Ottawa had no choice but to recover in the second and they did just that, but each of their two goals were offset by Ducks goals. The Sens struck for the first time in the game 11:27 into the period on a goal by Daniel Alfredsson, the victim of boos all night long by the Honda Center faithful. Alfredsson, of course, took a shot at Scott Niedermayer at the end of the second period of Game 4.
Alfredsson incensed the crowd even more when he cut the Ducks lead in half, taking a Peter Schaefer pass in the slot and wristing it at the net. It deflected off a sliding Corey Perry and got past Giguere.
But that unfortunate bounce was nothing compared to the one Ottawa suffered with 4:16 left in the period. As defenseman Chris Phillips attempted to head up the ice from the back boards, the puck hit the back of Emery’s skate and he accidentally kicked it backward into the net. Travis Moen got credit for the goal, being the last Duck to touch the puck.
But as much as Ottawa could have rolled over after that devastation, Alfredsson wouldn’t let them. On a Ducks power play, he took the puck from Ryan Getzlaf, charged the net down the right wing and flipped it over Giguere.
That made it just 3-2 Anaheim, but not for long. Just 50 seconds later, with the Ducks still on the man advantage, Andy McDonald passed back to Francois Beauchemin, who was just crossing the blueline. Beauchemin unleashed a one-timer that deflected off Ottawa d-man Anton Volchekov and flew past Emery.
At 4:01 into the third, Moen got a more deserving goal that essentially put the game away and brought the Cup to Anaheim. Scott Niedermayer took a shot from the right circle that Moen expertly redirected from the slot.
A the 12:37 mark, Ottawa’s Antoine Vermette had a chance to spark a desperation run when he was awarded a penalty shot after Todd Marchant hooked him from behind on a breakaway. But when he tried to go backhand on his way to the net, he whiffed on the puck.
That kept the Ducks’ 5-2 lead intact, and the final 14:59 became an Anaheim skate into hockey immortality. When Corey Perry pounced on a loose puck and ripped it by Emery from the slot, it was just the icing on the most delicious cake the Ducks have ever tasted.
“I couldn't believe it,” Selanne said when asked how he felt when he lifted that Cup, the first of his 15-year career. “And so much hard work, so many years to dream about that moment. So I don't know what to say. It was so emotional and, obviously, I was so happy that my parents were here, my brothers, my friends, and there's so many people who deserve this as much as I do. So it was very special.”
Fellow veterans like Giguere, Chris Pronger, Todd Marchant, Sean O’Donnell and Brad May also touched it for the first time. Then there are the guys like Samuel Pahlsson, Rob Niedermayer and Andy McDonald, members of that ’03 team that came so close, only to watch another team hold the trophy aloft. There are the youngsters – Chris Kunitz, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Dustin Penner, who hope this Cup is the first of many. And there are the less-heralded like Beauchemin and Moen, who don’t make many headlines, but play as much a part of this title run as anybody.
Each had distinct roles on this fantastically cohesive Ducks team, but each of them now have one thing in common.
They are champions.
“Deep down in your heart you know you are a champion and you can win it someday,” Marchant said. “Sure enough, it came true.”
By securing their first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history, the Anaheim Ducks also become the first team from California to win the Stanley Cup. Their appearance in the Final marked just the fifth time since 1926 that a West Coast team competed for the Stanley Cup. The Ducks are the first West Coast team to win the Stanley Cup since the 1925 Victoria Cougars and the first U.S. team to win it since the 1917 Seattle Metropolitans.
Rob and Scott Niedermayer are the first set of brothers to win the Stanley Cup together since Brent and Duane Sutter won with the 1983 New York Islanders (they also won Cup with Islanders in 1982).
The Ducks are undefeated at home (7-0) in Stanley Cup Final contests and 8-0 at home in series-clinching games (4-0 in 2007, 3-0 in 2003 and 1-0 in 1997).
The Ducks are the first team since the 1989 Calgary Flames to have one player or fewer to have previously won the Stanley Cup. Scott Niedermayer was the only Ducks player who has previously won the Cup with the 1995, 2000 and 2003 New Jersey Devils. The 1989 Flames entered the Stanley Cup Final without a single player who had previously won a Cup.
The Ducks had five rookie players on their roster who competed in at least three 2007 playoff games. The last Stanley Cup championship team to have more than five rookies compete in at least three playoff games during a postseason run were the 1986 Montreal Candiens, who had eight. Below is a list of the rookies on the Ducks Stanley Cup winning roster that competed in at least three playoff games in 2007:
1 - 0 ANA
2 - 0 ANA
2 - 1 ANA
3 - 1 ANA
3 - 2 ANA
4 - 2 ANA
5 - 2 ANA
6 - 2 ANA
Holding the stick