Anaheim Ducks: Counting Down the 30 Greatest Moments (20-16)

With the Anaheim Ducks celebrating their 30th anniversary this season, now is the perfect time to look back. In the last 30 years, the Ducks have made history — from the Disney days to winning the first Stanley Cup in California and the decade of contention that followed – and there is no shortage of moments that have amazed fans and propelled the franchise to new heights.

This is the third installment of the countdown. Previous entries can be found here:

20. Smith-Pelly Ties it Late in Dallas

The Ducks squared off against the Dallas Stars in the first round of the 2014 Playoffs. The series was back-and-forth through the first five games — the home team had won each game to that point and a 6-2 win for the Ducks in Game 5 gave them a one-goal advantage overall. Game 6 followed the same script as the previous five games, as the Stars maintained a one-goal lead in the final minute inside American Airlines Arena in Dallas.

A Stars win would have sent the series back to Anaheim for Game 7. While home cooking already had a huge impact on this series, the Ducks probably wanted to avoid a winner-take-all game. Since their Stanley Cup run in 2007, three of their four playoff series losses came in seven games.

With coincidental minor penalties clearing up a little extra space on the ice and goaltender Jonas Hiller on the bench for the 5-on-4 advantage, the Ducks began to pound away at Stars netminder Kari Lehtonen. A Corey Perry shot-pass towards Francois Beauchemin at the top of the crease led to an eight-man scrum for the puck, with four jerseys apiece within a foot of Lehtonen. Sprawled on his back and without his stick, Lehtonen could only watch as the puck trickled to Devante Smith-Pelly, who had been patiently waiting to the side of the goal crease. In a moment of patience that felt like an eternity, Smith-Pelly waited for the puck to barely exit the crease, giving him the clearance to elevate his shot over Lehtonen’s pad.

The Ducks closed out the series less than three minutes into overtime. Earlier in 2023, Smith-Pelly lent his acting talents to Anaheim’s social team to help recreate the moment in a way that really drove home how patient he was with the shot.

19. Hiller Dominates the Sharks in 2009 Postseason

Earlier in this countdown we highlighted the fight between Ryan Getzlaf and Joe Thornton to start Game 6. The Ducks were fortunate enough to hold a 3-2 series lead going into that game in large part due to the goaltending of Jonas Hiller. The Sharks were a top-10 scoring team during the regular season, but Hiller was phenomenal, stifling the Presidents’ Trophy winners and allowing only 10 goals throughout the entire series.

Related: Revisiting Ducks’ 1st Round Upset of Sharks in 2009

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Hiller had two shutouts during the series, including a 35-save effort in a 2-0 Game 1 victory to stun the San Jose faithful. He posted a .957 save percentage and 6.61 goals saved above average. His performance during the 2009 Playoffs left little doubt that he was the man in the net for Anaheim moving forward, as the Ducks traded their Cup-winning goaltender Jean-Sebastian Giguere to Toronto during the following season.

18. Ducks Win First Division Title in 2007

Division title banners aren’t the most coveted piece of fabric hanging around in the rafters, but they help tell the story of a franchise. The Ducks started the 2006-07 season on a torrid pace, earning points in their first 16 games. Nearly a third of their entire season’s losses came during a 10-game stretch before the All-Star Game, and they entered the playoffs with only three regulation losses in the final 20 games. This remarkable consistency was enough for the Ducks to win the Pacific Division by three points over the Sharks for their first division title in 13 years as a franchise.

Of course, the 2007 postseason added an additional banner as the franchise’s first of its kind, but we’re way too early in the countdown to mention it. Those playoffs will be well-represented in our top-10 moments.

17. Giguere Wins the Conn Smythe

Consolation prizes often stink. To be so close to an ultimate goal and fall short, having a trophy placed in your hands while the loss is still stinging is an awkward feeling. The Ducks, specifically Jean-Sebastian Giguere, faced this exact scenario after a 3-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. With Devils fans on cloud nine and waiting for the Stanley Cup presentation, Giguere was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs.

The MVP of the playoffs shouldn’t necessarily be reserved for a Cup winner, but this is overwhelmingly the case. How rare is a non-Cup Conn Smythe winner? Giguere is still the last player with such a distinction, and it only happened four times before him. While Devils fans could reasonably make a case for Martin Brodeur to have won the award, Giguere was more than deserving. Anaheim was a classic Cinderella story through the 2003 postseason largely in part to their goaltending. Before the Final, Giguere built a resume that included sweeping the defending champion Detroit Red Wings and holding the Minnesota Wild to a single goal in the Western Conference Final.

16. First Playoff Series Victory in 1997

Despite a 1-9-2 start to the 1996-97 season, the Mighty Ducks used a huge push starting in late February to make the postseason for the first time in franchise history. In his first full campaign in Southern California, Teemu Selanne took over the scoring mantle from Paul Kariya as the duo scored 109 and 99 points, respectively. After a top-10 finish in the Vezina voting a year prior, Guy Hebert had the best season of his career, riding a .919 save percentage to a fourth-place Vezina finish and even receiving a fifth-place vote for the Hart Trophy. After finishing no better than fourth in their division, the Ducks’ 36-33-13 record was good enough to finish second in the Pacific Division.

Teemu Selanne Mighty Ducks of Anaheim
Teemu Selanne, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Mar. 28, 2006 (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NHLImages)

Their first-round opponent was the Phoenix Coyotes in their first year since relocating from Winnipeg. The series was hard-fought by both teams, with the Ducks winning the first two games at home before the Coyotes rattled off three straight wins to take a 3-2 series lead into Game 6. With their season on the line, Kariya scored the overtime winner to force a decisive seventh game.

Selanne, in a matchup that was technically against his old team, scored eight points in the series, including the primary assist on Kariya’s overtime winner, and Hebert pitched a Game 7 shutout as the Ducks closed out their first playoff series victory in front of their home crowd. The Ducks would get swept by the eventual Cup-winning Detroit Red Wings squad in the second round.

We’ve made it through the first half of the top 30 moments in Ducks history. The next group of five entries will come out later this week, including the time those previously mentioned Game 7 demons were finally put to bed.

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