On April 22, the Anaheim Ducks clinched the 2nd overall seed in the Western Conference. That night, the Ducks were also able to clinch the Pacific Division title for only the second time in the team’s history. The first time they claimed this title was in the ’06-’07 season when the Ducks also claimed the title of Stanley Cup Champions.
In their games since securing their playoff position, Coach Bruce Boudreau decided to rest some of his top players in order to keep them in prime playoff condition. Players like Ryan Getzlaf, Teemu Selanne, and Saku Koivu were all benched as healthy scratches in the following game.
However, as the Ducks faced off against the Phoenix Coyotes in their annual Fan Appreciation Night (the last home game of the regular season) at Honda Center on Saturday night, all of the stars were back in the Ducks lineup and ready to shine and put on a show for all of their admiring fans.
Selanne, who at 42 is currently the NHL’s oldest active player and has spent the majority of elusive career in Anaheim, voluntarily took the night to rest on Thursday against the Canucks. It was only the second time in the last two seasons that he was listed as a healthy scratch. The Finnish Flash, as he is so commonly called, has been teetering on the verge of retirement since the Ducks won the Cup in 2007. As every season comes to a close, Ducks fans fill Honda Center with boisterous chants of “One More Year!” urging their beloved number 8 to come back and play for another season. His typical response is along the lines of “I don’t know if I’m ready to retire yet. I’ll see how I feel in the offseason.”
He has returned in each of the following six seasons, averaging as total of 49 points per season. He had decided to rest as he has had trouble keeping up his energy level and finding the net as of late. But the night of rest served him well, as he played 17:46 in the game and scored a glove-side goal on Phoenix netminder, Jason LaBarbera.
“I thought he played his best game in a long time tonight,” Boudreau said of Selanne.
Another star that had a good night was Francois Beachemin, 32. Beachemin was also a member of the Ducks 2007 Championship team. In the summer of 2009, Beachemin signed a 3-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but was traded back to Anaheim in February of 2011. As an offensive defenseman, he quickly regained his position as a pillar of the Ducks defensive forces, netting 16 goals since his return, including entering Saturday’s game at +20 with 5 goals to date. However, he added his sixth to that on a power play point shot a mere 14 seconds into the second period.
The Ducks got a third goal from Bobby Ryan, but unfortunately the Ducks came up a little short as the Coyotes were able to put four on the board, including a hattrick from Radim Vrbata.
The Ducks will faceoff against the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs, which will commence on Tuesday.
“It’s the best time of the year now, starting right now!” Selanne exclaimed.
It may bode well for the Ducks as each of the two times they reached the Stanley Cup finals, they have faced Detroit along the way.
Will they be able to defeat Motor City and advance yet again? Tune in, to find out.