It wasn't long ago that Francois Beauchemin was one of the young guys on the Ducks' defense, paired with a veteran who covered for him and taught him about the intensity that playoff hockey demands.
Beauchemin, the hard-hitting defender, meshed well with Scott Niedermayer, the slick skater and offensive catalyst, as the Ducks reached the Western Conference final in 2006 and won the Stanley Cup in 2007. Niedermayer has retired after a Hall of Fame career but Beauchemin, after a two-season detour to Toronto, is again a fixture on defense for the Ducks in a new role.
Now a month short of 35, Beauchemin is the mentor to a kid — budding star Hampus Lindholm. Their collaborative efforts were crucial to the Ducks' first-round playoff sweep of Winnipeg and they had an impact at both ends of the ice Thursday in the team's 6-1 rout of Calgary in the opener of their Western Conference semifinal series.
There's symmetry to the way Beauchemin's career has come full circle, though he insisted parallels to his partnership with Niedermayer aren't exact.
"Hampus is a way better player than I was. And Scotty is a way better player too. I don't think you can compare any of that," Beauchemin said Saturday, after the Ducks practiced in advance of Game 2 on Sunday night at Honda Center.
"I'm trying to do what I've learned by helping him. Talk is the most important thing on the ice. When you know what's coming behind you and you know what you're going to do with the puck, when you get it that makes your life a lot easier."
Beauchemin's communication skills were one reason Coach Bruce Boudreau paired him with Lindholm. The other reason was triggered by Boudreau's first glimpse of a teenaged Lindholm at rookie camp.
"We thought Hampus was going to get killed because he'd have his head down coming around the net and someone was just going to clock him," Boudreau said. "Beauch is a guy that makes people aware out there. He's always talking."
Beauchemin's message these days centers on the urgency of seizing the moment.
Like teammates Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, Beauchemin believed the early success he enjoyed with the Ducks would continue and the team would be a perennial Cup contender. That didn't happen, for reasons that include salary-cap problems, Niedermayer's retirement and the difficulty of balancing speed and brawn.
"2007 seems forever and 2006 seems like yesterday. I remember playing that series against Calgary," Beauchemin said, referring to the Ducks' seven-game, first-round victory over the Flames in 2006. "We don't have a chance every year. The last two years we've lost Game 7 at home and they have been really tough losses to swallow. But you build off of that. You try to correct the mistakes that you've done and not do them again."
Finally assembling formidable teams that lost to Detroit in the first round in 2013 and to the Kings in the second round last spring reinforced the truth that talent alone won't guarantee postseason success.
"You try to tell these guys, 'I won my second year and most of you guys it's your second year. You're only 21, 22, 23, but you might never go back to it again,'" said Beauchemin, who led the Ducks this season with an average of 22 minutes and 44 seconds' ice time and is their postseason leader at 23:06.
"Sometimes they don't get it, but you try to repeat to them, 'I'm telling you, it might not happen next year.' Because they're so young, it's unbelievable the chance that they have right now. You try to make sure they know it."
Lindholm always listens, and it shows.
"Especially my first year, he really helped me out. I felt real safe having him behind me there, that even if I made a bad play he will come in and recover," the 21-year-old Swede said. "Now, in the second year, we help each other both ways. If he goes up I cover for him, and the opposite. We started to learn each other more and more and that's helping us to be successful."
And Beauchemin will remind them seizing this moment will enhance their chances of succeeding as a team.
"We have enough character in this room that we know we're not going to win 6-1 every night. They're going to be better. We need to be better," he said. "It's not like we're going to let our foot off the gas. We need to improve. We need to keep pushing it and keep working at it."