The euphoria of four straight wins to earn a playoff spot is over, and now it's time to focus on the real task at hand: beating the Anaheim Ducks.
This being the last playoffs the Wings will spend as members of the Western Conference, it's likely the last time that they will play against any of these teams barring a meeting in the Cup Finals. While a lot of focus was on Chicago given the likelihood that the Wings would finish 8th, Edmonton kicking the ever-loving shit out of Minnesota opened the door to the 7th seed and an easier first round opponent in Anaheim.
This will mark the 6th time these two teams have met in the playoffs, remarkable considering the Ducks have only been around since 1993. For comparison purposes, the Wings have met the Blackhawks three times since the Ducks became a team.
The Wings lead the overall playoff head-to-head matchup 3-2. However, this will mark the first time the Ducks have been the higher seed, meaning they get to play the part of the favorite this go around.
Before we look ahead to what is going to happen this year, we thought it would be fun to take a look back and remember the previous 5 series these two have played against each other.
The Season of Destiny for the Wings involved a second round matchup with the then-Mighty Ducks, who were in their first playoffs ever. The Wings had taken care of St. Louis (again) in the first round while the Ducks beat Phoenix in a series no one cared about.
The Ducks were a typical plucky expansion team, relying on a couple of superstars and great goaltending. They pushed the Wings to OT in 3 of the 4 games, but the Wings came out on top, advancing to play the Avalanche in the Western Conference Finals.
Favorite Moment: Brendan Shanahan blatantly interfering with the Duck defenseman to score the series winning goal (skip ahead to 1:44).
I will freely admit: I remember very little about this series. The Wings were fresh off back-to-back championships and obliterated the Ducks in a very forgettable series.
Since this was a nothing series, here's video of Steve Yzerman scoring a hat trick in Game 1. It would be 10 years before we were happy watching a Wings-Ducks playoff game again.
Fast forward a few years. The Wings have won their 3rd Cup in 6 years and still boasted a stacked lineup. They enter the playoffs as the #2 seed despite Yzerman having missed the majority of the season after knee surgery. They take on a Ducks team that no one really expected to do anything, and it was thought that the Wings should cruise to the Conference Finals pretty easily.
Then they got Giguere'd.
To this day I have nightmares about this series. J.S. Giguere literally stopped 9,476 shots in 4 games, allowed only 6 goals, scored 4 himself, ate one of Chelios' children, and pooped on Gordie Howe's stall. When I think back to all the goalies that have stymied the Wings in the first round, this makes me curl up in the fetal position, sucking my thumb and wanting my blankie.
Seriously, he stopped 98% of the shots he faced against the Wings. 98%.
This series marked the first time the Wings and Ducks were equals in terms of seeding. Ranked first and second in the West, respectively, this was the first time that the Wings were not considered the overwhelming favorite.
This was the series that started the whole "rivalry" because it was the first time that Wing fans considered the Ducks to be more than just a pesky first round opponent. From Corey Perry telling Pavel Datsyuk he's "going to get it" to Chris Pronger elbowing Tomas Holmstrom and earning a suspension, this was the series that gave the Ducks their reputation in the eyes of Wing fans.
However, the memory of this series that will always sear my brain is Andreas Motherfucking Lilja giving up the puck to Teemu Selanne in OT of Game 5. The Wings had absolutely dominated that game but stupid Giguere was doing his stupid thing of being good against the Wings in the playoffs and then a fluke goal with less than a minute left tied it. Then Lilja brain farts the puck to one of the best players ever and the series was over. Game 6 was a formality. That series ended when Lilja blew it. I still hate him for it. Stupid Lilja.
What is it with the Wings playing the Ducks after winning a Cup? In the previous 5 meetings before this year, the Wings were defending champion 3 times.
The Ducks were the 8th seed in 2009 but only because they had massively underachieved for most of the season. Truth be told, they were a very dangerous team heading into the playoffs and proved it by upsetting the President's Trophy-winning Sharks in the first round.
This series was a brutally physical matchup that I believe cost the Wings the Cup. The punishment that the Wings took at the hands of the Ducks combined with going the full 7 games wiped out what little energy they likely had, so thanks a lot you assholes for ruining our shot at another back-to-back championship.
Because we all hate him now, here's Dan Cleary doing a thing and scoring the series winning goal.
So what is going to happen this year? Looking back, here's how the series have gone:
Wings in 4
Wings in 4
Ducks in 4
Ducks in 6
Wings in 7
Since it's obvious that each team wins twice before the other team wins, that means the Wings are going to take this year's series. I'm not going to say that the Wings are going to duplicate what happened 10 years ago when the Wings were the 2 seed and the Ducks the underrated 7 seed with nothing to lose, so I won't predict a sweep. Wings in 5 sounds much nicer anyway, since it hasn't happened yet.