NHL Western Conference Final: Chicago vs. Anaheim – Game 7

Andrew ShawTwo big players in the Ducks-Blackhawks game tonight will be taking centre-stage, Ryan Getzlaf and Jonathan Toews. They will have to take their game to the next level if they want to bag a game 7 that will punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final. It’s quite probable that both of them would agree that the pain of a Game 7 defeat in the Stanley Cup playoffs doesn’t really go away. And so to avoid that tonight, they’ll have to put it all out there on the ice and hope their team takes the victory lap around the ice.

These two amazing players will most likely use any failure they have had in the past, and use that experience to get better while they wait for their chance to take hockey’s ultimate test. They know game 7s well. Last year, both the Anaheim Ducks and the Chicago Blackhawks exited the playoffs with a loss in a seventh game. Finishing your season in such a dramatic way is a memory that still stings. So when they’re facing off for Game 7 of the Western Conference finals tonight at Honda Center, they will try like hell to put that nagging feeling behind them, and by getting to the big dance.

“It’s happened too often the last couple years,” Ducks forward Corey Perry said. “But you win (Saturday) night, and people start talking about something different. We’re not focused on the past. We’re focused on (Saturday) night, starting something different. It’s one game to go play for the Stanley Cup. It doesn’t get any more exciting than that.”

“You learn a lot from losing.” – Duck’s Ryan Getzlaf

The 2015 playoff run for both teams has not been easy. This round has provided two weeks of brilliant, exciting and bruising hockey. It’s a true battle of the Titans. Jonathan Toews and Ryan Getzlaf, as captains are surely not planning on saying much to media or in the dressing rooms pregame, before the Blackhawks and Ducks meet for the final time. Both captains have already stated that their clubs don’t need any extra motivation to put this remarkable series to rest.

“We’ve been through the experiences now,” Getzlaf said Friday after a tough Ducks practice. “We have to use them the way we need to. That’s the biggest thing. I’ve always believed that you learn a lot from losing.”

There is another big personality in this series that has an exe to grind. He’s the guy with the perpetual scowl. A tough personality who holds no punches, seems to have been built for this game. The Anaheim Ducks believe Ryan Kesler is built specifically to help carry them through a game like tonight’s finale. Kesler seems built for a Game 7 with everything on the line, a trip to the Stanley Cup finals hanging in the balance.

Of course no team can advance to the Stanley Cup finals because of one player. Today’s game is too fast, too complex with the lines separating success and failure too thin for it to be that simple. But these games can be determined by a star, a leaders, by a players who does not shrink from challenge but rises in the face of it.

And that player would be someone like Ryan Kesler.

“He is a force to be reckoned with when he’s on his game,” one team executive familiar with Kesler’s evolution told media pregame. It doesn’t seem to matter if Kesler doesn’t have the sunniest of dispositions, “when the chips are down, he’s a performer,” said the exec. “These are defining moments for guys like him. This is a real opportunity for him. It’s the type of game where he could have a huge impact.”

Kesler told reporters at practice, “I don’t think it’s about X’s and O’s anymore,”I think it’s about who wants it more and who is ready to out-compete the guy across from him. Whoever that is, is going to win the game.”

Who wants it’s more, the Ducks or the Blackhawks? That’s to be seen, but neither is going down without the fight of their lives.

“You try to will your way to the win,” Toews said. “And given that passion we have in our team, we’re feeling pretty good about our chances.”

We are feeling good about their chances, but the math tells us, the Ducks are just too good to lose now.

Our Pick: The Anaheim Ducks