Post-season heroes come in all forms from the star player to the unknown fourth-liner. We all know the exploits of the great playoff performers. However, we hardly hear about the unlikely playoff heroes. These unlikely post-season stars can contribute in many ways. Contributions could be for an entire playoff run, a series, a game or even a goal. These unlikely heroes have made big plays that no one expects. This series looks at all of these unknown stars. These are the unlikely Anaheim Ducks playoff heroes.
Anaheim Ducks Playoff Heroes
Before the Moment
Jean-Sebastien Giguere and his stellar 2003 Stanley Cup playoffs are easily one of the dominant stretches of goaltending in the last 20 years. However, his performance came somewhat out of nowhere for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Giguere played for the Calgary Flames prior to joining the Mighty Ducks in June 2000. He finally got the starting job in 2001-02 but had his first winning season in 2002-03. The Montreal native went 34–22–6 and earned eight shutouts. Anaheim got a post-season spot and was the seventh-seed going up against the defending Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.
However, Giguere put together one of the most dominating runs for a playoff goalie in a year. He set a record for most saves by a goalie in his post-season debut with 63 in Game 1. The Mighty Ducks won a 2-1 triple-overtime barn-burner, which set up the team’s Cinderella run. Anaheim stunned Detroit in four straight games to sweep the champions in one of the biggest upsets in a while.
The Mighty Ducks goalie continued his hot run with a 60-save performance in Game 1 of the second round against the Dallas Stars. Anaheim went on to win the first game in five overtimes en route to a six-game series victory. Giguere saved his best series for the Western Conference Final by giving only one goal against the Minnesota Wild in a four-game sweep. He set a franchise-record shutout streak of 217 minutes and 54 seconds that was surpassed by Ilya Bryzgalov in 2006.
Anaheim fell to the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup Final, but Giguere hung in there with future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur. Giguere’s performance was enough for him to get the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP despite being on the losing team. He’s the last player to accomplish that feat and did so what a 15-6 record, 1.62 goals-against-average and .945 save percentage.
Giguere would get his hands on a Stanley Cup as he was a starter for most of the games in 2006-07. He missed the opening part of the playoffs due to the birth of his child but wrested the starting job from Bryzgalov. Giguere would eventually lose his job to Jonas Hiller and would be sent to the Toronto Maple Leafs. He ended his career with the Colorado Avalanche in 2014.
Before the Moment
Nick Ritchie was in his first full season playing for the Ducks in 2016-17 after appearing in 33 games in 2015-16. The Orangeville, Ontario native had a solid season with 14 goals and 14 assists as the Ducks made the post-season. Anaheim got to the second round, where it took on the Connor McDavid-led Edmonton Oilers. It was a rough start for the Ducks as the Oilers got the first two wins. However, Anaheim clawed their way back into the series and had a 3-2 series lead. Edmonton routed Anaheim to set up a pivotal game Game 7 at the Honda Center.
Andrew Cogliano cancelled out Drake Caggiula‘s early goal in the first period with a second-period tally. Anaheim had plenty of talented playoff scorers like Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Jakob Silfverberg and others, but Ritchie got the series-clincher. The Ducks had not held a lead in any of their previous five Game 7s before Ritchie’s goal. Ritchie got into the slot and roofed a shot over the shoulder of Oilers’ goalie Cam Talbot to seal the deal. Anaheim would hang to win Game 7 and advance to the Western Final.
Anaheim’s run would end at the hands of the Nashville Predators in the last four and it wouldn’t make the post-season again in Ritchie’s time with the team. His production also fell off and he’s battled injuries off and on. This is why he’s lumped into the Anaheim Ducks’ unlikely playoff heroes. He would be dealt to the Boston Bruins for Danton Heinen at the 2020 trade deadline.
Before the Moment
Sean O’Donnell had a long 17-year career in the NHL and got to play with stars like Wayne Gretzky while with the Los Angeles Kings. O’Donnell was a solid stay-at-home defenceman that was tough in his own end. Anaheim acquired the defender from the Phoenix Coyotes and the trade deadline in 2006. He wasn’t a known goal-scorer, but he’d make one count against Calgary in the 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Mighty Ducks and the Flames were locked in a pivotal Game 4 of the Western Conference first-round series. Game 4 went to four overtimes before O’Donnell ended affairs in an emphatic fashion. The Ottawa native beat Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff with a blast from the top of the left-wing faceoff circle. His goal gave the Mighty Ducks a 3-2 win and tied the series at two games each.
Anaheim would lose to an unlikely Edmonton squad in five games in the Western final. However, O’Donnell did win a Stanley Cup next season with Giguere for the team’s only crown. The defenceman would retire after scoring 31 regular season and six post-season goals.