Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ducks Hoping for a Better Finish This Postseason

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ducks Hoping for a Better Finish This Postseason

Article excerpt

Ryan Kesler blocked a shot in front of the Anaheim Ducks' net in the waning seconds of their playoff opener at home Thursday night, and then the All-Star center simply sat down on the puck.

Three Calgary Flames frantically tried and failed to dislodge him from his casual perch. Only a referee's whistle for a delay-of-game penalty could get Kesler to stand up but by then, the Ducks' 3-2 victory had just 0.9 seconds left in it.

"I was in the slot. I didn't know what was around me," Kesler said with a wry grin. "I wasn't doing anything else but sitting on that thing. I was trying to (run the clock out). I almost did."

The play was comical to watch, but it also demonstrated a remarkable veteran savvy that has been hard-earned by several Ducks. Anaheim is hoping this is finally the year when its previous playoff disappointments will provide the knowledge necessary to go farther.

"This group has been together for a while, and we've been tested in a lot of different situations," said Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf, who had a goal and an assist. "We're going to have to earn everything. That's a great hockey team over there. We're going to have to continue to get better at certain areas, but we found a way."

The Ducks haven't always been able to find those ways. In fact, their struggles for playoff resilience have been their defining feature over the previous four campaigns, but they're hoping this year will be different.

They've infamously blown a 3-2 series lead and lost a Game 7 on home ice in four consecutive seasons, repeatedly failing to come up with the intangible advantages that could get them through. Anaheim was stunned in the first round by Nashville last season, leading to coach Bruce Boudreau's firing despite winning four consecutive Pacific Division titles and falling one game short of the Stanley Cup Finals one season earlier.

The Ducks added a fifth division banner this season under coach Randy Carlyle, who led them to their only championship a decade earlier. Carlyle hasn't made a wholesale overhaul of any aspect of Anaheim's approach, but he's counting on the Ducks' veteran leaders to show the intangible toughness necessary to get postseason victories. …

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