By the time the Anaheim Ducks' streak of games without a regulation loss in 2006 had reached double digits, Sean O'Donnell sensed something special building inside their dressing room.
Every championship team develops it. The sting of losing in the Western Conference finals the previous spring instilled an edge that had been absent, an unfulfilled feeling that still nagged the Ducks as they established an NHL record by beginning the following season 12-0-4.
"We felt like getting so close the year before that made it Stanley Cup or bust," recalled O'Donnell, the recently retired former Blackhawk who was a defenseman on the 2006-07 Ducks. "We won some games we shouldn't have won early — like the Hawks did against Calgary last week. You need some luck sometimes. We felt like that was our year."
The Ducks proved themselves right by finishing the season even better than they started — with a Stanley Cup title. When O'Donnell compared the Ducks' unbeaten start in '06 to the Blackhawks' 10-0-2 record to open this season, the veteran of 17 NHL seasons saw one significant difference.
"Even after our streak was over we had 65 games left to play, so it was a speck of the season," O'Donnell said. "You're 25 percent through (this season). The way the Hawks historically play at home, it's a huge benefit. I think this will help them more than it did us (in 2006) because a shortened season makes it harder for people to catch up."
O'Donnell only spent last season wearing the Indianhead sweater. But that was enough time to suspect that as much as this year's schedule favors the Hawks, last year's calendar inspires his former teammates. Memories of 2011 won't hurt either.
"I'm not in the room right now, but that team knows it is too talented to have two first-round exits back-to-back," O'Donnell said. "You can blame the first one on a Stanley Cup hangover and last year on a hot goalie. Bottom line, they were both first-round exits. I always felt that team, when playing the right way, would be very, very hard to beat. And they're showing that."
Blackhawks' start evokes comparisons to '07 Cup champion Ducks
Chicago Tribune | Feb 12