Corey Perry‘s double-overtime goal Friday in Anaheim capped the Ducks’ greatest comeback in franchise history and gave the team a 3-2 series lead over the Edmonton Oilers.
But seasoned Ducks fans knew it was not time to celebrate yet.
They’ve been burned before.
The Ducks’ last four seasons have ended by blowing a 3-2 playoff lead and losing Game 7 on home ice. After experiencing a 7-1 thrashing in Edmonton in Game 6 Sunday, the Ducks are headed down that familiar road.
The Ducks have won the Pacific Division in every year since the 2012-2013 season, but the home ice hasn’t done them much good.
Last season, the Ducks took a 3-2 lead in the first round over Nashville, but dropped Games 6 and 7. In 2015, it was Chicago in the conference finals. In 2014, the Ducks leapt out a 3-2 lead over Dallas in the first round and moved on, with a clinching victory in Game 6 at Dallas. However, in the following round, they blew a 3-2 lead over Los Angeles. And in 2013, they lost Games 6 and 7 of the first round to Detroit after going up 3-2.
All four Game 7 losses came at home.
History has a chance to repeat itself for the fifth time Wednesday in Anaheim.
But the Ducks don’t put much stock in history.
“You know what? I don’t care,” Ducks left wing Andrew Cogliano told reporters after Game 6 when asked about the team’s grim playoff history. “Sorry, I just don’t care. I think we’ve played hard this series. We’ve been in this series right from the beginning. I think it’s going to come down to one game.”
When a reporter asked John Gibson “Can this team embrace a Game 7 the way it should be embraced, given the history of Game 7s with this team?” the Ducks’ goalie responded “Yeah, why not?” with a smile.
“Because you’ve lost the last four,” the reporter answered.
“What’s your point?” Gibson asked. “Yeah, it’s a history, exactly. If we look at what happened tonight (the 7-1 loss), that’s history too, right?”
Gibson was pulled from Game 6 after allowing three Edmonton goals in the first 8:25.
“Each year’s a new year; each day’s a new day,” Gibson said later in the interview. “If you look at what you did in the past, you’re not going to get anywhere. I mean if you look at the guys that won in the past, they’re not looking about that. They want to win.”
“I knew you were going to bring that up,” Ducks captain and center Ryan Getzlaf said with a smile, when a reporter brought up the same topic his teammates had been faced with: the team’s history in Game 7s. In the team’s 12 prior trips to the playoffs, they’ve gone 2-6 in Game 7s. They’ve had worse luck at home, with a 1-4 mark in Game 7s in Anaheim. The Ducks have never won a Game 7 after losing Game 6.
Getzlaf shrugged. “It is what it is,” he said. “I mean, our team is — we’ve got half the guys in here that haven’t even been here for that stuff, so we’re going back with a preparation to get ready for a big game. Doesn’t really matter what the situation is. It’s a matter of it’s win or go home.”
Only four players on the Ducks’ roster were around for all four Game 7 losses, though it’s a core group: Getzlaf, Cogliano, Perry and defenseman Cam Fowler.
The Ducks coach Randy Carlyle echoed the same sentiment. “I look at it as it’s not the same group,” Carlyle said reporters after Sunday’s Game 6 loss. He went on to joke “I wasn’t here. So don’t pin any of the Game 7s on me. Simple as that.”
In fact, the last time the Ducks won a Game 7 — way back in 2006 — was under Carlyle’s first tenure as the team’s coach: a road victory against Calgary in the first round. Carlyle was fired part-way through the 2011-12 season and replaced by Bruce Boudreau. The four-straight Game 7 losses came under Boudreau’s reign. The team converted one of five 3-2 playoff leads under Boudreau. They are 2-0 under Carlyle, including defeating Detroit in six games in the Western Conference Finals in 2007. The Ducks would go on that year to defeat Ottawa in the finals to win the Stanley Cup.
In all eight of the franchise’s Game 7s, the team that scored first won.
This series has been anything but conventional. The first four games were won by the road team. The Ducks’ losses in Games 1 and 2 were their first back-to-back regulations losses since the first two games of the regular season. The Ducks mounted a miraculous Game 5 comeback, scoring three times in the final 3:16 of regulation and scoring a fourth unanswered goal in double-overtime. The Oilers then started Game 6 with six unanswered goals, all coming in the first 20:45 of play.
If you’re looking for coherent patterns, you’ve got the wrong series.
As for the guys on the ice, they couldn’t care less about what’s happened in the past.
A reporter asked Gibson, regarding Game 7: “Do you think you guys are due?”
Gibson replied: “We’ve gotta earn it.”
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