Despite missing the playoffs the last two seasons, the Anaheim Ducks have been one of the more successful NHL franchises over the past 15 years. The pinnacle of the Ducks’ history was winning the Stanley Cup in 2007, but the team has been close a few more times.
The Ducks have lost in the conference finals three times since the 2005-06, including twice in seventh game heartbreakers.
Looking back, the first-round of the 2005-06 playoffs in Western Conference was wild. All four lower seeds won their series, including the Ducks, who were the No. 6 and defeated the third seeded Calgary Flames in seven games. The legendary Teemu Selanne opened the scoring early in the second period, and goalie Ilya Bryzgalov held the fort the rest of the way, making 22 saves, leading Anaheim to a 3-0 win.
The Ducks dominated the Colorado Avalanche in the second-round, outscoring them 16-4 en route to a sweep. In the Western Conference Final, Anaheim ran into the red-hot eighth seeded Edmonton Oilers. The Ducks fell behind 3-0 in the series, before head coach Randy Carlyle decided to start J.S. Giguere in net to change momentum. Anaheim stayed alive with Game 4 win, and the series came back to Orange County. The Ducks outplayed Edmonton, but goaltender Dwayne Roloson was sensational, backstopping the Oilers to a 3-1 win to clinch the series.
In 2014-15, Anaheim was loaded. General manager Bob Murray added center Ryan Kesler in the offseason, who was the perfect addition to the Ducks’ stacked forward lineup. Kesler, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry led the team to a 51-24-7 record, which was good enough to win the Pacific Division. Anaheim rolled through the first two rounds of the playoffs, sweeping the Winnipeg Jets in the opening series, and then dispatching the Calgary Flames in five games to advance to the Western Conference Finals.
The series against the Chicago Blackhawks was big-boy hockey. The Ducks took Game 1 to get the early advantage. Game 2 went to a third overtime, where Marcus Kruger scored with less than four minutes to go in the period, giving the Blackhawks a 3-2 win to tie the series. Simon Despres scored his first career playoff goal in Game 3, which ended up being the game-winner, as Anaheim hung on for a 2-1 win. With a chance to take a 3-1 series lead, Game 4 was also an instant classic. Brent Seabrook scored just 7:38 into the third period to give Chicago a 3-1 lead. The Ducks would come roaring back, getting goals from Kesler, Matt Beleskey and Perry in the span of 37 seconds to go up 4-3.
Unfortunately Patrick Kane tied it back up with less than eight minutes to go to send the game to overtime. The game went a second OT period, where Antoine Vermette ended it just over five minutes, evening the series at 2-2.
Anaheim had a 4-2 lead with less than two minutes to go in Game 5, but Blackhawks’ Captain Jonathan Toews scored twice in 1:12 seconds, to tie things up. But, Beleskey would save the day for the Ducks, scoring the winner just 45 seconds into overtime, giving Anaheim a 3-2 series lead.
Chicago would take over from there, winning Game 6 by a score of 5-2 to take it to a deciding seventh game. The Blackhawks jumped out to a 4-0 lead, the the Ducks never recovered, losing the game 5-3, and the series.
The Ducks would get back to the Western Conference Finals in 2017. With the same core intact Anaheim rolled to another Pacific Division title. The Ducks would sweep the Flames in the first-round, but the series was closer than it appears. Anaheim won the first three games by a single goal, before finishing the job with a 4-1 win in Game 4. The second-round matchup against the Oilers was a hard-fought battle.
Edmonton won the first two games in Anaheim, but the Ducks would return the favor, winning both road games to even the series at 2-2. It looked the Oilers would win Game 5, but another miracle happened. The Ducks were down 3-0 with less than four minutes to go, but Getzlaf, Cam Fowler and Rickard Rackell would each score, tying the game at 3-3. Perry would play the hero in Game 5, scoring 6:57 into the second OT to give the Ducks a 4-3 win. The Oilers smoked Anaheim in the sixth game to tie up the series, taking it to Game 7. It was a close-knit affair that was tied 1-1 going into the third period. Nick Ritchie would score the game winner just 3:21 into the third period, and the Ducks would hang on for a 2-1 win to advance to the Western Conference Finals.
The Nashville Predators would end Anaheim’s run. The series was tied 2-2, but the Preds would be too much to handle from then on. Goalie Pekka Rinne made 32 saves in Game 5, leading Nashville to a 3-1 win. Then, Colton Sissions had a hat trick in Game 6, helping the Predators to a 6-3 win.
Although the 2006 team was a fun story, it doesn’t stack up to the 2015 and 2017 squads, either of which could have went all the way.
Which team out of the three do you think was the best Ducks squad not win a championship?