Written by: Larry “The Nucks IceMan” Johnson
Say what you will about who wears the “C’ for the Canucks but Ryan Kesler in my mind, has always been the epitome of what a leader should be. He has passion, drive to win, grit, is an elite player and when healthy, shows up in the most important time of the season – the play-offs.
Even though he had no goals in the play-offs until last night’s game in Nashville, he had still contributed in all of the other areas on the ice. In elevating his game to such a level, his line had become the Canucks number one line.
The Predators coach Barry Trotz, acknowledged this on several occasions over the last three games, by matching Nashville’s top D-men in Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, against Kesler’s line. To me, Ryan Kesler is the face of the Canucks and what this team stands for.
To say Kesler was on a mission last night would be an understatement. The stats don’t show the whole picture because he had more than one hit that was credited to him. Just ask the Predator D-men who had to battle with him all night in front of their net.
He led the team with six shots on goal, had two goals and an assist, was the best player on the ice and although was on the ice for a goal, negated that in the plus/minus column by one of his goals for. Possessed would be a better word for Kesler last night.
It was as though he put the team on his back to lead them to victory, by scoring the over-time goal. He has had many outstanding games in this season’s play-offs already, but none finer than this performance.
Kesler is now tied for the team lead in points with eight and is tied for second in the +/-, with a plus 3. In the Nashville series he has catapulted his face-off average to 56.7 percent. That’s a full 10 percent higher than where he was in the Chicago series.
If you want a player that leads by example, you need not look much further than Ryan Kesler. But is he going to be enough?
On another matter – and I hope I’m wrong about it – I don’t think the Canucks can go much further in these play-offs without the Sedins contributing. I’m not alone in this thinking either. Even Don Cherry and Mike Milbury from HNIC, have voiced their opinions several times on that very topic during the play-offs.
In the +/- column, the Sedins were a minus again last night (-2), Henrik is tied with Christian Ehrhoff at -6 (team worst), followed by Daniel at -4.
Although they apparently played better last night, as was the comment from their coach Alain Vigneault, they still did not score. How can the Canucks advance with a one-line team – again?
The consensus going into these playoffs was that, with a healthy Kesler and Alex Burrows; the Canucks had at least two scoring lines. If not for the unfortunate accident to Manny Malhotra, they would have had three.
Now with the Sedins disappearing on the score sheet in the goals column, and the third line (2 goals) without Malhotra, the Canucks are back to a one-line team. No team advances deep into the play-offs without more than one line, even if your goaltender stands on his head.
It’s great that we’re not talking about Roberto Luongo’s goaltending in a negative way, but Luongo can only keep the goals out, he doesn’t score them. The way this series is going, he would have to keep the Predators to a goal a game.
It has finally been divulged by the media that Mikael Samuelsson is indeed playing with an injury. Apparently he has a groin issue. Not something that comes as new news; it just has been made official.
If it’s one thing that I’ve heard about groins, is that they don’t heal properly without rest. Why then is Samuelsson still playing, if the groin problem is going to relegate him to the fourth line?
No wonder Canucks management pulls their collective hair out over Alex Edler. It’s because of the lack of consistency. One game per series he’s displaying his size and punishing the attacker, making the proper reads, looking like an all-world D-man and the rest of the series, the complete opposite.
The moment that he goes back to his stick checking ways, he becomes a problem on the back-end.
Not sure what’s wrong with Christian Ehrhoff, but he is having a real bad play-off. Sorry, make that plural, as in play-offs. Another player that is soft on the defense. When you play him and Edler together, you’re asking for shifts to be played in the defensive zone.
Maybe Ehrhoff is playing hurt. No, that doesn’t make sense, because the Canucks have two to three other D-men that could fill in for him. Now that’s not a bad idea!
On the positive side is the Kesler line, the defense pairing of Dan Hamhuis (+3) and Kevin Bieksa (+3), Luongo (.963 Sv% in the Nashville series), the third line and yes even the fourth line from last night. Cody Hodgson and his line-mates did not get scored on.
Looking forward to Thursday’s game it will again be another one goal affair. This time Luongo will mirror Pekka Rinne and steal a game for the Canucks. Nashville will look at this game as a must win, and the Canucks should prepare for an all out assault.
Photo Credits – AP, Getty Images and Yahoo Sports!
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Filed under: Vancouver Canucks