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.
Jul 28, 2015, 10:30 PM EDT
Jul 28, 2015, 9:38 PM EDT
Potentially a move to Switzerland, or the Czech League.
Jul 28, 2015, 8:39 PM EDT
Returning him to Rochester for a third time.
Jul 28, 2015, 7:39 PM EDT
Washington d-man is expected to miss the next two weeks of offseason training.
Jul 28, 2015, 6:26 PM EDT
Swiss winger came over from Calgary at last year’s deadline.
Jul 28, 2015, 4:39 PM EDT
Nice payday after posting a career-high in goals this season.
Jul 28, 2015, 4:23 PM EDT
“When you look at the structure of our salaries and our cap, it’s important to get those bottom-six cap hits in better shape.”
Jul 28, 2015, 3:21 PM EDT
With the Nurnberg Ice Tigers.
Jul 28, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT
Winning bid to be decided by the end of the year.
Jul 28, 2015, 1:45 PM EDT
“When the games mean something, that’s when he’s at his best.”
Jul 28, 2015, 1:21 PM EDT
The Blue Jackets have done well. The Canucks have not.
Jul 28, 2015, 12:34 PM EDT
Probably looking at another year of junior hockey.
Jul 28, 2015, 11:56 AM EDT
Busy day for Pittsburgh.
Jul 28, 2015, 11:40 AM EDT
Jul 28, 2015, 10:40 AM EDT
Could be a top-six winger. Could be a third-line center.
Jul 28, 2015, 10:08 AM EDT
Arbitration hearing scheduled for Thursday.
Jul 28, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
25-year-old didn’t file for arbitration, hoping instead to sign a long-term contract.
Jul 28, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
In the form of a cool $100,000.
Jul 27, 2015, 9:29 PM EDT
But are any teams mulling his return?
Jul 27, 2015, 8:21 PM EDT
Where he’ll work as a community liaison.
- Flyers re-sign Couturier: six years, $26 million 22
- Benning calls Sutter a ‘foundation piece’ for Canucks 21
- Here’s a chart that shows which teams have been good/bad at drafting 33
- Penguins sign Fehr to three-year, $6 million contract 20
- Trade: Penguins send Sutter to Canucks for Bonino, Clendening 53
- NBC Sports to broadcast 105 NHL games in 2015-16 58
- Wilson signs with Preds, leaving just four arbitration cases to go 5
- Rangers sign Stepan — six years, $39 million 62
- Deal with the Devils: New Jersey re-signs Larsson to six-year contract 14
- Stepan seeks $7.25M in arbitration, Rangers counter at $5.2M 24
- Post expansion, could NHL realign with eight divisions? (138)
- He’s baaaaaack: Leafs pull a stunner, hire Lamoriello as GM (Updated) (84)
- Bettman says NHL would have to ‘consider’ putting Quebec City in the Western Conference (67)
- Rangers sign Stepan — six years, $39 million (62)
- NBC Sports to broadcast 105 NHL games in 2015-16 (58)