May 6, 2011, 12:08 AM EDT
If you ask many hockey people, Ryan Kesler is just as big a part of the Vancouver Canucks’ success as the Sedin twins. Some will even say that he is their true MVP.
He’s also a wildly different player than those Swedish siblings. While Henrik and Daniel Sedin aren’t likely to make an impact on a game if they aren’t scoring (or creating a lot of chances), Kesler’s two-way play and agitating presence requires attention even when he’s not lighting up the scoreboard.
After struggling to score goals for a big chunk of the playoffs (but doing just about everything else), Kesler is finding the net against the Nashville Predators. His tendency to draw penalties and score heart-breaking goals is making him perhaps the first true villain for the still-relatively-young Predators fan base.
Vancouver 4, Nashville 2; Canucks lead series 3-1
Kesler drew a penalty (and plenty of ire) in overtime of Game 3 before scoring the game-winner on the ensuing power play, but that image won’t live on in hockey history. Not compared to his absolute beauty of a game-winning goal from Game 4. Rather than spilling a bunch of digital ink explaining his great defense-splitting move, I’ll just let you enjoy the footage in its jaw-dropping glory.
Yup, that’s pretty amazing. Kesler’s goal (and boisterous celebration) was the only truly captivating moment in this muck-and-grind Game 4. Let’s give you a quick rundown of how it all happened, though.
An “explosive” first period
Christian Ehrhoff‘s point shot gave Vancouver a 1-0 lead in the first period, although the biggest moment of interest revolved around Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne‘s angry reaction. Rinne thought that Alex Burrows interfered with him on that goal, but if you ask me, Burrows was far enough outside the crease that the goal was OK.
Joel Ward is becoming quite the success story in this year’s playoffs. He tied things up with less than minute left in the first period. To give you an idea of how tight this series has been, the opening frame’s two goals provided more offense than the three previous games’ first periods combined total of just one.
Predators don’t give up
Alexander Edler gave the Canucks a 2-1 lead through the second period, but the Predators have been a resilient group in this series. Cody Franson‘s point shot beat Roberto Luongo to make it 2-2 early in the third, even if the two teams’ non-reaction reminded many of the confusion surrounding Patrick Kane‘s 2010 Cup-winning goal.
That 2-2 tie set the stage for Kesler’s star-making moment. He forced a tired Ryan Suter to take a holding penalty and then scored that gorgeous goal. Henrik Sedin finally scored his first playoff goal on an empty net and also provided two assists, but the Sedin twins weren’t as effective as their improved stats would indicate in this game.
Maybe that’s a blessing in disguise, though, as Kesler is carrying the mail himself.
Outlook for both teams
The Canucks must feel great about their 3-1 lead, but they better not take Game 5 lightly. They took their gas off the pedal in the first round and were an overtime period away from humiliation. Vancouver seems content to sit back on leads in individual games, too, so they need to avoid taking this situation for granted.
That’s especially true if the San Jose Sharks make short work of the Detroit Red Wings. A well-rested Sharks team would be a tough match for them anyway, but if Nashville forces an extra grinding game or two, it could be a big problem. The Sedin twins obviously need to get it going, as well.
The Predators cannot be happy right now, but they can find solace in how close these games have been. Chicago was close behind Vancouver and broke through when the Canucks relaxed. Obviously it wasn’t enough to win that series, but if Barry Trotz needs to find a light at the end of the tunnel, that might be it.
Perhaps Nashville could steal Game 5 and then see how it goes? We’ll find out Saturday night on Versus at 8 p.m. ET.
Sep 1, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT
Easy to see why.
Sep 1, 2014, 9:01 PM EDT
Edmonton wants to assess Leon Draisaitl, it seems.
Sep 1, 2014, 7:33 PM EDT
Sixteen of their first 21 games are on the road.
Sep 1, 2014, 6:05 PM EDT
Part two of today’s Labor Day posts.
Sep 1, 2014, 4:22 PM EDT
Part one of two Labor Day “theme” posts.
Sep 1, 2014, 2:55 PM EDT
The new Penguins bench boss previously coached the young defenseman.
Sep 1, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
The 25-year-old has been fighting for playing time since he broke into the NHL.
Sep 1, 2014, 12:10 PM EDT
He might pick an opening game starter after that, but the battle for the top spot is likely to extend into the season.
Sep 1, 2014, 10:46 AM EDT
Will they have contracts by the start of the season?
Sep 1, 2014, 9:25 AM EDT
Last season’s experiment ended with Penner being traded.
Sep 1, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Monday’s collection of links.
Aug 31, 2014, 11:01 PM EDT
He continued to follow their summer moves after he was fired.
Aug 31, 2014, 9:44 PM EDT
The late creator of Peanuts was a big hockey fan.
Aug 31, 2014, 8:26 PM EDT
The Colorado defenseman is still a restricted free agent.
Aug 31, 2014, 7:03 PM EDT
“I think that would make it a little more equitable for match-ups.”
Aug 31, 2014, 5:41 PM EDT
He spent the 2013-14 campaign in the KHL.
Aug 31, 2014, 4:22 PM EDT
He served as an assistant general manager in Los Angeles before coming to Philadelphia.
Aug 31, 2014, 3:02 PM EDT
After matching a career-low in goals during the 2013-14 season, he’s hoping for big things with the Coyotes.
Aug 31, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
Add depth to blue line in Albany.
Aug 31, 2014, 12:03 PM EDT
Hopes to play in the NHL in 2014-15.
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