As time wound down in a 3-1 defeat in Nashville, there was a collective grown emanating from a population of fans who dwell on the West Coast. Stop me if you've heard this one before, an Anaheim team gets a 3-2 series lead, turns in a mediocre game 6 effort, Game 7 is on home ice. We've seen this too many times before. Detroit in the first round, three years ago. Los Angeles in the second round, two years ago. Chicago in the Western Conference Final, last year. Anaheim fans have seen three postseasons end with Game 7 defeats. Three postseasons end with other teams' fans celebrating in our arena. Three postseasons of dashed Stanley Cup dreams. Forgive us for not being optimistic about the most exciting of playoff scenarios.
Still, it's hard to ignore the poetics of the situation. In a playoffs that saw San Jose face Los Angeles for the first time since the Kings overcame a 3-0 series deficit and the Blues were forced to face Chicago...again...in the first round, it's hard to think that the Ducks facing a game 7 on home ice was anything but inevitable. It has been a postseason of exorcising demons. The Sharks toppled the Kings. The Blues beat the Blackhawks to get out of the first round. It's only right that the Ducks face a Game 7 on home ice; they've earned this opportunity to shake off the failings of the past.
No one expected the Ducks to dodge a game 7 this postseason; there are just too many good teams between them and the Cup. Of course, it's doubtful anyone anticipated it happening in the first round. But why not now? The Predators handed the Ducks a disappointing defeat in 2011. The Ducks were poised to take a series lead, when a late goal by Weber forced overtime at the Ponda Center. The Predators have always been a bother for the Ducks. It makes sense that they would go 7 games. It makes for a promising opportunity. The Ducks can conquer their fear of game 7s and do away with an underrated rival.
Reputations are on the line. Boudreau can't continue to win divisions, but fail in the playoffs. Getzlaf and Perry can't allow the narrative that they no-show at crucial times to continue. Murray will not be able to continue to deflect responsibility onto his players. At some point, the fingers will start pointing at the GM.
I am not sure of the merit in facing a fear, only that fears cannot be indefinitely avoided. Game 7 was always going to come for us. It was always waiting to cast a shadow on the joy of postseason hockey. The Ducks cannot wallow in that shadow. They must step into the light. The key to accomplishing a difficult task is to fearlessly step forward. It is far better to face Game 7 now than to push it deeper and deeper into the playoffs. The Ducks must overcome this final hurdle if they are ever to be taken seriously as a contender. This Game 7 will change the course of the franchise. As Ducks fans, all we can do is watch, cheer, and have faith that the Ducks will deliver. It's what being a fan is all about.