He will likely get booed by fans every time he touches the puck tonight but, deep down, how much do Canucks fans miss Ryan Kesler?
A poll from The Province asked Canucks fans which player they miss most from the 2011 Stanley Cup Team. While Roberto Luongo garnered a good chunk of the votes, it was Kesler who came out on top.
It’s easy to see why the Canucks miss him. Any team would love to add a physical scoring centre who plays a 200-foot game. The hatred from fans is understandable after Kesler quickly jumped off the bandwagon before the wheels fell off. He wasn’t willing to stick around like the Sedins, Alex Burrows or even Kesler’s current teammate, Kevin Bieksa.
It’s the definition of a love/hate relationship. Although it’s easy to hate Kesler, Canucks fans must appreciate the 11 years he gave to the franchise. It gets even easier to miss him while he is in the midst of a career year.
The Ducks leading scorer isn’t Ryan Getzlaf or Corey Perry, but Kesler. He has done everything for the Ducks this year and looks nothing like the player that many expected to decline. While Bieksa is arguably one of the least impressive Ducks right now, Kesler is their MVP.
The Canucks are in tough tonight, even against a Ducks team that played last night. The Canucks were able to beat a physical Kings team, even though Los Angeles controlled the play over the final 40 minutes. However, the Kings were unable to generate any quality scoring chances — the Ducks’ 12th ranked offence shouldn’t have the same problem.
Anaheim Ducks at Vancouver Canucks
Rogers Arena – 7:00 p.m. PST on Friday, Dec. 30
Broadcast channels: SNP, FS-W
2016-17 Season Series: Oct. 23 – Vancouver Canucks 2 – Anaheim Ducks 4 Dec. 1 – Anaheim Ducks 3 – Vancouver Canucks 1
Anaheim Ducks: 18-12-7
Road Record: 8-8-5
Hot Players: Ryan Kesler (4 PTS in last 5 GP), Antoine Vermette (Three-game point streak)
Key Injuries: Sami Vatanen, Clayton Stoner, Simon Despres, Nate Thompson
Nick Ritchie – Ryan Getzlaf – Ondrej Kase
Andrew Cogliano – Ryan Kesler – Jakob Silfverberg
Rickard Rakell – Antoine Vermette – Corey Perry
Joseph Cramarossa – Logan Shaw – Jared Boll
Cam Fowler – Brandon Montour
Hampus Lindholm – Josh Manson
Korbinian Holzer – Kevin Bieksa
Vancouver Canucks: 15-18-3
Home Record: 11-6-2
Hot Players: Henrik Sedin (4 PTS in last 5 GP)
Key Injuries: Jannik Hansen, Erik Gudbranson, Derek Dorsett
Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Jayson Megna
Markus Granlund – Brandon Sutter – Loui Eriksson
Sven Baertschi – Bo Horvat – Alex Burrows
Brendan Gaunce – Michael Chaput – Jack Skille
Alex Edler – Troy Stecher
Luca Sbisa – Chris Tanev
Nikita Tryamkin – Ben Hutton
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]1)[/miptheme_dropcap] Despite the focus on Kesler, it will be interesting to see how he holds up on the second night of back-to-back games. Why does it matter for Kesler specifically? Head coach Randy Carlyle has been playing him a ton this season, averaging 21:41 of ice time through 37 games. Over the last five games, his ice time totals have been 24:28, 22:09, 25:00, 22:22, and 24:12 last night against Calgary.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]2)[/miptheme_dropcap] When you look at the Ducks’ current lineup, they have three lines that can scare you. Rickard Rakell and Perry make up the Ducks’ “third line,” even though Rakell leads the Ducks with 15 goals. Getzlaf is on the first line averaging almost a point per game, and we’ve already covered Kesler’s fantastic season centering Anaheim’s second line.
The Canucks have tried to do the same with the Sedins, Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi, along with Brandon Sutter and Loui Eriksson, but it hasn’t had the same effect. Their top three lines lack potency compared to Anaheim’s forward group.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]3)[/miptheme_dropcap] Even though the Canucks have racked up four wins in their last ten games versus Anaheim, they’ve been the inferior team. They’ve only scored 13 goals in their last 10 games versus the Ducks while averaging 21.8 shots per game.
After registering only 20 shots against the Kings, it’s hard to expect a giant offensive outburst from the Canucks. Part of their game plan has to be to shoot the puck more.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]4)[/miptheme_dropcap] Brandon Montour is slated to play his second career game tonight, after getting his début against Calgary last night where he led all Ducks defencemen with a 66.7% shot-attempt differential according to Corsica, and looked solid on a pairing with Cam Fowler. He has been fantastic in his last two AHL seasons, scoring 78 points in 93 games with the San Diego Gulls.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]5)[/miptheme_dropcap] Can the Canucks take advantage of playing another backup goaltender tonight? Jonathan Bernier is expected to get the start after John Gibson was in net for the Ducks’ win last night. The opposing team has routinely thrown their backup into match-ups against the offensively woeful Canucks. However, Bernier hasn’t looked good on the road this season. He has a 3.87 GAA and a .976 save percentage in 10 road games so far. Still, he has played well in four career starts versus the Canucks, winning three of those games with a 2.26 GAA and a .937 save percentage.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]6)[/miptheme_dropcap] Tonight marks the 800th career game for Alex Burrows. His incredible journey to the NHL has been well documented. He didn’t crack the QMJHL until he was 19 and paid his dues toiling in the ECHL. His hard work and tenacity have been evident throughout his Canucks career.
Burrows’ 800 game feat in a Canucks uniform is even more impressive considering he was a prime buyout candidate last summer. He has scored some of the most memorable goals this organization has ever seen, and there is no doubt that he has firmly planted his place in Canucks history.
KPU Journalism Graduate. Trevor has been writing for The Hockey Writers since October 2014. He has contributed articles related to the Ottawa Senators, Vancouver Canucks, and other issues/stories regarding the game of hockey. Trevor currently lives in White Rock, B.C.