Commentary

At this stage, Koivu just wants to win

Ducks' veteran traded goals, attention for chance at Stanley Cup

Updated: May 9, 2014, 9:13 PM ET
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

LOS ANGELES -- Saku Koivu interrupted the question about four words into it.

"Yeah, let's not get that far," the veteran Ducks center chuckled Friday.

Oh c'mon, Saku, play along, will you? After all, it's not completely out of the question that the Anaheim Ducks and Montreal Canadiens meet up in the Stanley Cup finals, right?

"To be honest at this point, being down 2-1 here in this series, you're worried about tomorrow's game," the former Habs captain told ESPN.com.

"But obviously, people want to speculate and bring up different scenarios and what could happen ..."

Just for the fun of it, we persisted. Given the emotional return Koivu had to Montreal a few years ago with the Ducks, one can only imagine what it would be like if somehow the Ducks and Canadiens found their way to the promised land this June. The 39-year-old native of Turku, Finland, fought and survived cancer while wearing the famous Blue Blanc Rouge uniform. A Cup final against his former team would be something else.

"In one way, it would be amazing and unbelievable when you think about what I've gone through the years that I was there," Koivu said. "At the same time, that would be a really emotional two-week stretch. First of all, if we could get to a final, it doesn't matter who we'd play, we'd be happy to be there. In one way, it might be easier to play Boston, Pittsburgh or New York, but it would be a pretty unique scenario if that did happen (playing Montreal in the Cup finals)."

Just like the Ducks have their hands full down 2-1 in their series with the 2012 Cup champion Kings, Koivu's old team in Montreal has another epic battle raging with Original Six rival Boston.

And yes, Koivu is keeping tabs.

[+] EnlargeSaku Koivu
Eric Bolte/USA TODAY SportsSaku Koivu spent 13 seasons in Montreal before moving to Anaheim before the 2009-10 season.

"Yeah I mean especially here in the West, they play around 4 p.m., so we've been watching the games," Koivu said. "I know how crazy it gets in both those cities but especially in Montreal at playoff time. It's a fun time there and it gets pretty intense. Those series were really heated in the past. With Boston winning the last game it's getting real interesting now as well."

Koivu knows all too well what a Habs-Bruins series entails, not only being part of two upset series wins over the favored B's in 2002 and 2004, but having done so in 2002 after missing 79 games because of his cancer battle. Few will ever forget Koivu's clutch moments as Montreal beat out Boston that spring.

"When I came back that year, and we found a way to win, there are a lot of very emotional memories there," Koivu said. "On the other hand, the last time we played Boston in the playoffs when I was there we lost four straight (2009). A lot of playoff memories for sure playing Boston."

Back then, Koivu would have been the media focal point day in and day out, part of the responsibility of wearing the 'C' in that passionate hockey market.

To be around the Ducks here in the playoffs, one realizes what a night and day existence it has become for Koivu, who gets to go about his daily routine with not that much media attention. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Cam Fowler and forever Duck Teemu Selanne get most of the media spotlight here, which is certainly fine with Koivu. While he stressed that he and his wife cherished their time in Montreal and would never want it to have been any different, the switch to the relative anonymity of Southern California five years ago felt right.

"When we signed in Anaheim, we wanted to see something different," said Koivu, who came to the Ducks in July 2009. "We saw really where hockey is the focal point of life and every day, it was an amazing, amazing experience in Montreal. I learned so much by being there and being a captain there. But at the same time, it was such a breath of fresh air to come to Anaheim and California and really just being able to focus on your own thing, and being assistant captain first to Scotty [Niedermayer] and then to Ryan [Getzlaf] and help them behind closed doors. ... I've been enjoying it here."

Koivu, who wears an 'A' on this sweater, has impacted younger teammates, no question.

"It's been phenomenal," linemate Andrew Cogliano said Friday. "He's helped my career out very much. He's been a guy I've been able to learn from the last couple years. We've become very close and done a lot of things together in terms of playing together, special teams, whatever. He's a guy that has really helped me out in the last couple years. He's really shown me how to the play the game the right way. I think when things in my career turned around it is because I started to play a game you need to play to be successful in the NHL, and a lot of that comes from playing with him."

Koivu's role, of course, has changed. He no longer carries a team on his shoulders. He and Cogliano are the key pairing on the team's checking line.

"It's been different, it hasn't been easy, when you're used to 18 years of being a power-play and go-to guy," Koivu said. "You crave being in those situations, you want to be a difference-maker. But you have to look at the big picture. The way I see it, I just want to do everything I can to make this team better. If that means at this point in time, winning a defensive one faceoff or shutting someone down or blocking a shot, maybe chip in a goal every know and then, but if we have a chance to win a Stanley Cup, that's why I'm here. I haven't won it. My life is not going to be different if I score a few more goals or not. But if we win, that's what matters at this point."

Koivu is living in the moment. The decision on whether he wants to play another year or not will wait.

"There might be another year, or this might be it," he said. "It's really 50-50 at this point. I certainly don't see myself going to the East Coast just for another year. If things work out here, maybe, but it might very well be the last one, too."

There's a nine-year-old, soccer-playing daughter and seven-year-old, hockey-playing son to consider as well.

"It's fun to be part of that," said Koivu, his smile as bright as can be. "Those are the things when you get older and your kids are growing up, you don't want to miss those years. These are the big years you'd like to share in with them."

Win a Stanley Cup and that decision would be all too easy.

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