We would be remiss to write a Ducks-Wings playoff preview without mentioning the storied history between these two clubs. If you ask a Wings fan to describe his hate for the organization, he will write many words about the collection of "douchebags" that populated the 2003 WCF and 2007 Stanley Cup.
The seeds of the Ducks' "douchebaggery" were not planted in 1997 and 1999, when the Wings swept the Ducks in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. In '97, the then Mighty Ducks had made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history and beaten Phoenix in seven games. They valiantly took the Wings overtime in three of the four games but came up short each time, losing to the eventual Stanley Cup champions. The '99 series can best be described as a curb stomping at the hands of the defending champs. As such, the hatred only went one way (from Anaheim to Detroit) until the 2003 WCQF.
The Wings were, once again, the defending Stanley Cup champions, and the two seed in the West; the Ducks were the seven seed. The series had everything that made the Ducks great: overtime heroics from Paul Kariya and Steve Rucchin, Jean-Sebastian Giguere gamely facing 64 shots in Game 1, Luc Robitaille's shot pinging off a crossbar (heehee). And when all was said and done, the Ducks, the little franchise that could, swept the Princes of the NHL.
This was not how things were supposed to work in the NHL. The Ducks were a relatively young team, created to capitalize on the popularity of a series of children's movies. The Red Wings were an Original Six team, the default team for every bandwagon NHL fan, and employed some of the greatest players of the era (Yzerman, Fedorov, Shanahan, Lidstrom etc.). After sweeping the Wings, the Ducks would go all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final before losing the Cup to the New Jersey Devils. But at least the Wings had been defeated.
The next great Ducks-Wings playoff series was the 2007 Western Conference Final. The Wings had struggled in the postseason since being swept by the Ducks four years ago. After Games 1 and 2, the series was tied 1-1. During Game 3, Chris Pronger boarded/elbowed Tomas Holmstrom. There was no penalty called during the game, [Ed. Note: Rob Niedermayer was ejected by referees who clearly didn't see what happened, but it was later rescinded -CK] but Pronger was later suspended by the league, and the Ducks were forced to redouble their efforts in Game 4 without their best defensive defenseman. No problem. The Ducks hung five on the Wings, and the game-winning goal was scored by a 22 year old named Ryan Getzlaf. In overtime of Game 5, Teemu Selanne capitalized on a fortuitous Andreas Lilja turnover, forced by Andy McDonald, to give the Ducks a 3-2 series lead [Ed. Note: THE GREATEST GOAL IN DUCKS HISTORY. PERIOD. -CK]. And in Game 6, the Ducks completed their victory with a 4-3 win on home ice.
We would see the Wings again in the 2009 Western Conference Semifinals. This time, we would not fare so well, and the enduring image of the series is Jonas Hiller losing sight of Dan Cleary's puck at the goal line, resulting in a 4-3 victory for the Wings in Game 7, and the series. [Ed. Note: Heartbreak rivaled only by the aforementioned Stanley Cup Final loss. Ok, I'll stop now. -CK]
We have not seen the Wings in the postseason since then, and to be honest, this is both the best and worst postseason matchup that we could possibly ask for. Best, because it is one last chance (before realignment) to rekindle the storied history between these two clubs. Worst, because the Wings have dominated us this season. Stay tuned for a post on that coming soon...