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Selanne: Battle for Stanley will empty the tank

It's been nearly three years since Teemu Selanne hoisted the Stanley Cup for the first and only time in his career following the Anaheim Ducks' two-month-long playoff run in 2007, yet he still seemed exhausted while merely discussing the postseason grind.

If there is a more difficult trophy to win in sports, Selanne would sure like to know about it.

"It's something you can't really describe," he told NHL.com. "It's a war. It's a grind. After two months of playoffs, we were so tired. We didn't have any energy left. You are so empty when it's over, physically and mentally. The tank is empty."

The Ducks posted a 16-5 postseason record to become the first California team to capture the Cup, knocking off the Ottawa Senators in five games in the Final after series wins against Minnesota, Vancouver and Detroit.

"My back hurt and my brain was numb, too," Selanne said. "It was funny, before warm-ups, we had like eight guys waiting for the doctors to give them a pain shot. You got to be really hurt not to play in the playoffs, especially in the Final.

"I think what really helped us that year ... the year before when we lost in the conference finals (to Edmonton), we tried to remind each other, 'Remember that feeling.' When you go this far and you lose ... we felt that we had the better team. I think that really helped us, to remember that feeling, that there's nothing worse than losing. We were so close.

"I mean, you play 82 games and then you start playing playoffs. It's amazing how the little things -- one little thing -- can turn the whole series around. It's amazing that some teams can do that year after year after year. It's something you can't really describe. We didn't have that many injuries that year. One injury can change the whole thing."

Selanne contributed 5 goals and 10 assists in the championship run. Winning the Cup was extra special for him because it took 14 NHL seasons, 1,041 regular-season games and 86 playoff games to accomplish the feat.

"Absolutely," he said. "It took me so long to even get the chance. After we won, I remember one of the younger guys saying, 'Oh, this is going to be easy. I'm going to win three or four more of these.' Hey, you better enjoy the moment because 90 percent of the guys will never get the chance again."

"After we won, I remember one of the younger guys saying, 'Oh, this is going to be easy. I'm going to win three or four more of these.' Hey, you better enjoy the moment because 90 percent of the guys will never get the chance again." -- Teemu Selanne

Selanne said the longest season of his career -- he played in all 82 regular-season games in 2006-07 -- took so much out of him that he came close to retiring. He finally returned late the following season and played in the final 26 games.

"That's why I thought for sure there's no way I can play hockey again," he said. "It felt impossible. But then you get the energy back. The passion came back, and that's why I came back."

Now, with a salary cap in place, there is more competitive balance than ever throughout the NHL, making it more difficult just to qualify for postseason play.

"There's parity every year and it's getting harder and harder just to get into the playoffs," Selanne said. "There are always three or four teams that deserve to be in the playoffs, and they don't get in because the races are so tight.

"You have no idea how hard it is to win in this League."

Winning the Stanley Cup, even harder.