EDMONTON — “I knew you were going to bring that up.”
Ryan Getzlaf had barely begun to decompress from Game 6, his team pasted 7-1 in The Big E on Sunday night, and the press was already taking him down a road to four even worse nights — the last four seasons that have ended with Game 7 losses for Anaheim at the Honda Center for his Ducks.
“I don’t care,” said Andrew Cogliano, when the media scrum moved over to his side of the room. “Sorry. I just don’t care.”
John Gibson, the Ducks goaler, took his questioner on in a warm exchange:
Reporter: “Can this team embrace a Game 7 the way it should be embraced?”
Gibson: “Why not?”
Reporter: “Because you lost the last four of them.”
Gibson: “What’s your point?”
Reporter: “You have a history of losing Game 7s.”
Gibson: “It’s a history, exactly. If we look at what happened tonight (in Game 6), that’s history too. Each year is a new year. Each day is a new day. If you look at what we did in the past, you’re not going to get anywhere. Even the guys who’ve won in the past, they’re not looking back, they want to win now.”
So you get the picture.
The Ducks have developed an acute case of illness and fatigue when it comes to talking Game 7s in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They’re sick and tired of talking about the fact they’ve lost four straight since 2013. Five straight if you count that one back in 2009.
Hey, look at the bright side, Randy Carlyle. We could be talking about how the Ducks choke in Game 6s, a game they’ve now lost for five years running.
“I wasn’t here,” the Ducks coach said with a laugh. “So don’t pin any of the Game 7s on me.”
Carlyle was joking, but here’s the irony: You know what they say about a duck, that they look all calm and serene above the water, but underneath their legs are pumping away?
That’s what’s going on in Anaheim today, where the Ducks gave their players a day off of practice and away from the media. The last thing Carlyle needs is a bunch of smart-ass scribes reminding all his players for a second straight day about their Game 7 failings.
Meanwhile, up in Edmonton, they’re playing a different card.
Head coach Todd McLellan has trotted out “innocence” twice in two days, in reference to his young players. I’ve covered some hockey, and here’s what I know: When coaches use soft, esoteric words like “innocence,” they’re usually trying to sell you something.
“The group has been innocent,” he began. “We don’t have a past here. We don’t have a reputation for success or failure.
“We’re getting to develop our playoff reputation, and right now it’s one of the ability to come back. A scrappy group — never quit, never die — and responding to adversity. That’s a pretty good reputation to have.”
If you take the two expected 20-man lineups for Wednesday’s game, Anaheim has 43 games of Game 7 experience to Edmonton’s 19. Nearly all of the Ducks’ history was forged among this group, wearing Anaheim’s sweater and losing together. In Edmonton, where Milan Lucic’s 10 Game 7s all came as a Boston Bruin, it comes from somewhere else.
So you’ve got the Ducks with all kinds of Game 7 experience — all of it bad — versus Edmonton, with zero experience as a team. No ghosts, but nothing to draw on either.
“Sometimes it’s nice to be naive. Just go in there, kind of be stupid to it,” said power-play specialist Mark Letestu (yes, that’s what we’re calling him now). “You don’t realize what you’re in, how important the game is.
“We don’t have anything to fall back on,” Letestu continued. “What we’ve got is a team. We really rely on each other. There isn’t just one person we look at to be our catalyst. Every night it’s been different. A penalty kill, a power play, a goaltender.
“I think we’re ready. We’re confident we can beat this team.”
The Ducks, meanwhile, are multi-tasking. They have to beat Edmonton, sure. But we’re not so sure they don’t have to overcome the team in the mirror first.
“We’ve played hard this series,” Cogliano said. “We’ve been in this series from the beginning. I think it’s going to come down to one game and who wants it more.”
No, Cogs. It’s never just one game, in a Game 7.
There are lots of games being played here.