Kesler went into BEAST MODE on his game winning goal.
Then he showed the Predators faithful his best Byfuglien impression.
(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
Game Review: Western Conference Semfinal Game 4 – Canucks @ Predators
The Vancouver Canucks played arguably their most dominant game against the Nashville Predators last night. And it was a well-worn cliche that finally got them there.
On Thursday, the Canucks’ best players were their best players. And once again, #17 led the way.
Ryan Kesler was the best player on the ice for the second consecutive game. He was electric again last night, creating chances, winning key faceoffs, working the power play, and generally controlling the puck. His game winning goal was arguably the Canucks’ highlight goal of the playoffs so far.
As for the team overall, there was a lot more good than bad. The PK, despite allowing 1 goal, was terrific again, allowing very few opportunities. The Canucks power play also marked, on Kesler’s beauty GWG. Luongo was solid again, stopping everything he could see tonight. And 5 of the 6 defense were on their game, and then some.
That leads me to me my next point. The one defenseman who was not on-game tonight was Aaron Rome. Rome was hideously, frightfully, abysmally, woefully bad last night, turning the puck over countless times in precarious positions and taking a terrible slashing penalty to put his team 2 men down. He must, must, must be benched for game 5. His play today was inexcusable and there’s no way he deserves to stay in after handing over the puck time and time again to the competition.
Rome wasn’t the only weak point though. The entire fourth line looked terrible as well as was directly responsible for the Predators’ second goal. Tanner Glass did nothing of value, Mikael Samuelsson continued his string of mysterious passes into nothingness, and Cody Hodgson looks petrified every time he touches the puck. I don’t believe Hodgson carried the puck into the offensive zone one time during the game.
Rome, Glass, Hodgson and Samuelsson were awful. Torres, Hansen, Raymond and Bieksa were good but not great. Everyone else was terrific. If you’re going to have four players off their game, you’d pick your fourth line and your 6th defenseman, and that’s what happened tonight.
Other than Kesler going into full beast mode, the Canucks key to success is that they continue to keep the Predators’ best players off the score sheet. From Jeff Paterson via Twitter, the Canucks have held Fisher, Hornqvist, Kostitsyn, Weber, Tootoo & Smithson without a point thru 4 games. We know that the Preds don’t have a real sniper and only score goals by committee. So when you shut down the committee, you’re going to find success. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Kesler has 3G 3A for 6pts in the two games in Music City. No, that doesn’t hurt at all.
Finally, the Sedins look like they got back on track over the past two games. While Daniel didn’t really struggle, Henrik certainly has been and looks like he’s hurt as he keeps stretching his leg and looks uncomfortable from time to time. But tonight, the Sedins were able to work their cycle on two noticeable occasions, and Henrik ended up with a goal and two assists to get off the schneid. While they didn’t bust through the door with a breakout performance, they at least opened the door and took one step through it. It’s time for them to walk all the way through. And if they forget which way to walk, all they have to do is follow Kesler’s path.
The Predators look like they’re running out of gas. You know when your car is on its last drops and starts to stutter and shake? That’s the Predators right now. They came out for small fits and flurries, but were mostly chasing the Canucks all night. If not for Joel Ward and Pekka Rinne, the last two games would have been far most lopsided. The fact that the Canucks don’t seem to need to worry about either Weber or Suter must be alarming and surprising to them, but they’ll take it. You take any advantage you are handed, and Weber and Suter running out of juice is a big plus for the Canucks.
Three Big Stats
Here are my top 3 stats from last night’s game:
1. One defenseman on each team figured very prominently on the stats. Christian Ehrhoff has 1G 2A 3Pts +2. He was on ice for every non-empty-net goal last net. Shea Weber had no points, no SOG, -2, 3 giveaways, and was on ice for 3 goals-against.
2. 6 points. 3G (both game winners) 3A in the last two games for Ryan Kesler. What else can you say about him? Right now, he has to be considered a Conn Smythe candidate.
3. Third line centers in the faceoff circle. For both teams. They were both BEASTS. Max Lapierre was 9 of 14 for 64%, while Mick Spaling was 9 of 12 for 75%. Dominance.
Three Big Moments
Here are my top 3 moments from last night’s game:
1. No doubter for #1. Ryan Kesler’s GWG from last night. Simply awesome.
2. Henrik Sedin’s empty-net goal. NOT because Henrik finally scored. This is a highlight because of everything leading up to the goal itself. Henrik just happened to benefit. Henrik wins the draw back. Kesler rings it HARD around the board. Meanwhile, Burrows JETS to the far corner and chips the puck out while Henrik zips up ice to take the chip-pass from Burrows and calmly slides it into the empty net.
3. Cody Fransen’s tying goal int he third period. It’s a big moment because it was so bizarre. It took 2 to 3 seconds for ANYONE on the ice to realize the puck had actually gone in. And boy did it go in. That was a (air quotes) LAAAYYYYZZZEERRRR.