ANAHEIM — A dressing room is not the way they portray it in the movies.
When you are Ryan Getzlaf, one of the great captains in our game today, it’s not about the Knute Rockne speeches, or challenging every player who brings less than his best.
“I’d rather calm people down that try and get them up,” he said Wednesday, after being the best player on the ice in a 3-2 Anaheim Ducks overtime win.
The Detroit Red Wings had owned the second period, and taken a 2-1 lead in Game 5 here at the Honda Center. Then Anaheim received a five-minute power play when Daniel Winnik cranked Dan Cleary into the boards.
In a 2-2 series, this was a moment.
A moment where the series could shift, where a 3-1 lead in the game could turn into a 3-2 lead in the series, which shifts back to Joe Louis Arena for Game 6 on Friday night. The Ducks had to kill that power play, so Getzlaf raised his game just that little bit more.
“It’s what he’s been doing for us all year,” said Anaheim’s Francois Beauchemin. “He’s our captain, he’s out leader. Every game we have needed him to be big, he has been.”
These are the playoff moments when leaders lead, and after helping kill more than four minutes of the power play Getzlaf stole a puck at the blue-line and would have gotten away on Detroit defenceman Brendan Smith had Smith not stuck out an arm and held Getzlaf.
“He’s a great leader,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau would say later, “and when he’s going he’s a tough man to stop. I thought he brought ‘er tonight. Guys followed. That’s what captains do.”
Getzlaf drew the penalty that ended the Detroit threat, and then waltzed in mid-power play, with 32 seconds left in the second period, picking the top corner for a goal that left Anaheim tied at two after 40 minutes.
“Drew a penalty scored a goal,” said veteran defenceman Sheldon Souray. “Went in, patience, patience, patience, and puts it right where he wants to. That’s what great players do.
“He’s won, he’s a champion, he’s a leader … He’s doing what we expect him to do.”
Having been totally outplayed in the second period, the Ducks room must have been wild during the second intermission, right?
“It wasn’t,” argues Getzlaf. “That’s what I’m preaching the entire time.
“We’re trying to stay level-headed the whole time. It’s one of the hardest things in the playoffs because there are so many ups and downs.
“It’s taken a while,” the Olympian added of his development as a leader and captain. “I’ve been through a lot. I got to win at a young age, which helped.”
It makes sense that in the charged world of playoff hockey you’d want more controlled calmness than frenetic energy. That you’d want precise execution, not just a bunch of guys playing on adrenaline.
And if that’s what you want as a captain, then the best way to get it is to play that way yourself.
“More than anything, he goes out and he backs up what he says in here,” said Souray. “The leadership group has kind of pushed the right buttons this year, and the young guys have been huge contributors.”
And thus, the Ducks have forged the kind of chemistry that makes this a special season thus far. They weren’t just good in the regular season, the Ducks were fantastic as the No. 3 team in the entire league behind Chicago and Pittsburgh.
They came under the radar, and even this series has been played in some anonymity, while the big market teams like Toronto, Los Angeles, Boston, New York and Chicago steal the spotlight. But Anaheim looks good, and now they are a win away from turning a fine regular season into a playoff run of at least two rounds.
“We thought so at the beginning of this,” said Souray. “We didn’t think we would steamroll Detroit, they’re a great team that plays hard and is battle tested. We just need to stay composed, stay the course, the way we have all year.”
At this rate, “all year” might last a couple more weeks for Getzlaf and the Ducks.