So perhaps you’re not a Bruins fan at all and you’re not exactly gung-ho in rooting for Boston to win their first Stanley Cup since 1972. You’re looking at the Vancouver Canucks and not really falling in love with them either. Either you’re weirded out by the Sedin twins or you’re harboring ill feelings toward Roberto Luongo for being the winning goalie during Team Canada’s run to the gold medal over Team USA in the 2010 Olympics. If you’re an American hockey fan, getting warm and cozy even for one series with the Vancouver Canucks might be a bit difficult.
Ryan Kesler is here to tell you that it’ll be OK if you root for Vancouver because of him.
Kesler is a Livonia, Michigan native who spent his formative years playing hockey with the United States National Under-18 team and then for a year at Ohio State University. While we’re pretty sure Jim Tressel had nothing to do with him being there, Kesler’s season at Ohio State was good enough for Vancouver to pluck him out of Columbus and get him working in their system with the Manitoba Moose. While Kesler spent a year and a half with the Moose, upon graduating to the NHL he’s turned himself into one of the NHL’s best two-way forwards, ultimately turning in his best pro season this year scoring 41 goals and adding 32 assists this year and a Selke Trophy nomination for best defensive forward.
In the playoffs, Kesler is perhaps the leader for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP right now after scoring seven goals and 11 assists through 18 games in the playoffs. A point-per-game pace at anytime is great to see, but in the playoffs that’s the sort of thing that helps win you hardware. Add all that to his appearance in the 2010 Olympics with Team USA and you’ve got yourself a player that the American version of Don Cherry would be awfully proud of as a “fine American boy.”
Joining Kesler as Americans fighting for the Cup for Canada are backup goalie Cory Schneider (Marblehead, MA), forward Chris Higgins (Smithtown, NY), and defensemen Keith Ballard (Baudette, MN) and Andrew Alberts (Minneapolis, MN). While Boston’s Milan Lucic might be in a weird position as a native of Vancouver trying to win the Cup against his hometown team, Schneider being a Marblehead native and former goalie at Boston College makes life a little conflicted for him too.
Such conflict could be squared away though thanks to Kesler as he’s been a dominant force on the Canucks second line and as a penalty killer and defensive shutdown center. If he can help rein in David Krejci or Patrice Bergeron while scoring goals he’ll be a legend in Vancouver and back home in Michigan too.
After establishing himself in the Swedish league, Anton Lindholm will head to North America.
The Colorado Avalanche announced that they have signed the 21-year-old defenseman to a three-year, entry-level contract. They selected Lindholm in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
More of a defensive defenseman, Lindholm only registered four assists in 30 Swedish league games with Skelleftea AIK in 2015-16, but he also had a team-high 85 hits despite missing a chunk of the season due to injury. During the playoffs he helped his team reach the SHL Finals by leading them in both hits and blocked shots.
That was his second full campaign with Skelleftea AIK. The next step for Lindholm will likely be for him to continue his development in the AHL.
PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.
Bob McKenzie shares his memories of Tragically Hip singer Gord Downie, who apparently was a big hockey fan. (TSN)
Don Cherry discusses John Brophy’s toughness after the former Leafs coach recently passed away. (Sportsnet)
A look at Vincent Lecavalier‘s career. (Greatest Hockey Legends)
The perils of flip-flopping goalies in the playoffs … although it worked out for the Penguins at least last night. (The Hockey News)
Speaking of which, will the Blues get burned for switching back to Brian Elliott in Game 6 tonight? Here’s a preview:
Sidney Crosby has a chance to join a very rare club of clutch goal-scorers if he can win it for Pittsburgh in Game 7:
Hot take: the Pittsburgh Penguins probably won’t deal with a goalie controversy going into Game 7.
(Ugh, that’s a failed hot take … you can’t use “probably” in those things, right?)
Matt Murray was fantastic at times during Game 6, much like his counterpart in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s net in a 5-2 win. Granted, there were some tense moments during the Bolts’ late-game push:
Much has been made about experience, especially from those calling for Marc-Andre Fleury earlier in this series. It’s telling that the praise Murray draws sure sounds like what you’d expect from a “veteran.”
“He has a calming influence,” Sullivan said. “He doesn’t get rattled. If he lets a goal in, he just continues to compete. That’s usually an attribute that usually takes years to acquire that, and to have it at such a young age is impressive.”
Thanks in part to Murray’s efforts in Game 6, he’ll get a chance to prove his resolve in something new: a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final.
Once again, his teammates seem pretty confident in this elimination situation.
The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to sleepwalk through the first two periods of Game 6, and waking up in the final frame wasn’t enough to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins.
On the bright side, at least the Lightning aren’t in denial about that weak first 40 minutes.
It seemed like everyone on the team more or less admitted as much in unison.
Brian Boyle added that he felt like the Lightning tiptoed around this game. Jon Cooper often provides great quips, yet he was pretty matter-of-fact in this case.
Many will linger on this disallowed goal for Jonathan Drouin, which would have provided a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay in the first period.
Let’s face it; that moment came pretty early in the game. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’re not pinning the loss on that setback.
Now they must set their sights on competing throughout Game 7 … and maybe earning some bounces of their own in the process.
Read more about Game 6 here.