Ryan Kesler's diving all over the ice a bad sign for Canucks
Canucks fans should step back from the ledge after dropping Game 1 to the LA Kings Wednesday night. It’s never good to lose the first game in a series, and it is especially not good when your leading goal scorer is on the sideline and doesn’t look likely to return anytime soon. But the Canucks should have enough skill, determination and experience to get passed the Kings.
The more concerning thing about Game 1, and a way bigger deal than all the penalties and the still-struggling powerplay, is the play of Ryan Kesler. Diving all over the ice trying to draw penalties is the sign of a player who isn’t 100 percent healthy and is looking for any advantage he can give his team. The head-snap after phantom contact in front of Kings’ goalie Jonathan Quick, and the flop in the neutral zone after getting up with tangled with Mike Richards were especially egregious examples, but Kesler was looking for calls all night.
When Kesler is at his best he doesn’t need the theatrics, he just puts his head down and outplays the guy lined up against him. Last night, he was outplayed by Richards, and despite his two points looked a step slow and two steps desperate.
For the Canucks to make another long playoff run, they will need Kesler, who took over the series against Nashville last year, at his Selke Trophy best. They need him shutting down whomever he plays against, killing penalties and scoring goals.
Last night showed that he just might not be up to the challenge physically. The lingering effects of, and too early return from, offseason groin surgery look to have Kesler looking desperately for any advantage he can get.
While this behaviour is embarrassing and isn’t winning him any fans in the referee fraternity, the bigger concern is the switch everyone expected him to flip come playoff time might be unavailable this year. There is no doubt Kesler is one of the best two-way forwards in the game when healthy, but last night presented a lot of evidence that we might not see him at 100 percent until next season. If that’s the case the Canucks have no chance of repeating last year’s run, let alone getting the one more win it would take to hoist Lord Stanley’s mug.