Going into the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, it seemed like the Boston Bruins were confronted with a pick-your-poison proposition. The feeling was that they’d either get shredded by the Sedin twins’ cycling game or fall victim to Ryan Kesler facing lesser defensive matchups much like the Nashville Predators did in Round 2.
Yet through five games, it seems like they haven’t been victimized by either of the Vancouver Canucks’ one-two punches very often. While they’re creating the odd chance here or there, Henrik and Daniel Sedin are getting bottled up by the Bruins’ responsible two-way forwards and the dynamic D duo of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg. It would seem like that focus would open the door for Kesler, but it’s quite possible that he is simply too banged up to take advantage of what might normally be beneficial matchups.
While Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault said that “he’s fine” and was just receiving some rest, NHL.com notes that Kesler missed his first “non-optional” practice on Sunday. His absence probably emboldens many who wonder if Kesler is far from 100 percent, pointing to a possible groin injury suffered in Game 5 against the San Jose Sharks as a chief problem among other bumps and bruises.
Despite the Bruins’ reputation for strong defense (which admittedly has been shaken at times in the playoffs), many people think that injuries are the main explanation for Kesler’s Cup finals struggles. He has zero goals and just one assist – on Raffi Torres’ Game 1 winner – in five games against Boston. Those away games really hurt his plus/minus (-4 in those two losses, -3 overall in the last round) and his frustration is apparent in the 33 PIM he collected in the last three games.
That being said, Kesler is fighting through whatever pain and hindrance he’s dealing with quite admirably. He’s still receiving plentiful ice time and continues to win a nice amount of faceoffs on most nights. It’s a bit reminiscent of his performances against the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round, although he was able to collect more points in that series.
The Canucks have managed to get this far in this series with limited help from their star players, who must range from “running out of gas” to nursing injuries (or just bottled up by great defense). Yet if Vancouver wants to avoid a high-pressure Game 7 in front of what could be a fragile bunch of Canucks fans, they might need some more heroics from Kesler, a player who once seemed like a shoo-in for the Conn Smythe Trophy.
They’ll probably settle for him merely playing in Game 6, though.
Tuesday’s Dallas Stars – New York Rangers almost seemed destined to be a wild affair, and so far, the two teams aren’t disappointing.
For one thing, Chris Kreider and the Rangers were open about “not forgetting” Cody Eakin‘s hit on Henrik Lundqvist, something Eakin realized heading in. The Stars had their own irritations coming into this game, as they clearly weren’t happy with their loss to the Buffalo Sabres and their shaky play overall.
So, yeah, plenty of reason for this to be a rowdy affair.
Kreider is delivering in particular, with the most memorable moment being his strange fight with Eakin, which you can see above. SBNation’s Pat Iversen points out that Kreider probably should have been ejected for hitting Eakin with a piece of his equipment, a violation of Rule 53.
As many know, Kreider has even more of a reputation for “interacting” with goalies, as he did once again with Antti Niemi:
The Stars currently lead the game 5-3, so it’s been a busy one on the scoreboard, too.
Down 2-0 to the Buffalo Sabres, the Toronto Maple Leafs are off to a shaky start on Tuesday. Still, their concerns likely revolve the most around the health of defenseman Morgan Rielly.
As you can see from the video above, the young Buds blueliner was shaken up by an awkward spill into the boards.
It’s too early to know if he avoided injury or might miss some time, but there’s at least some concern that he might have aggravated an issue from before his NHL days:
We’ll need to wait and see, but with his offensive skills and overall importance in mind (average just under 23 minutes a game this season, more or less in line with his breakthrough year in 2015-16), the Maple Leafs are crossing their fingers that this isn’t anything major.
The Chicago Blackhawks need to put a tough weekend behind them; maybe the Colorado Avalanche are just what the doctor ordered.
Colorado is clearly ranked last in the league, whether they believe they have some assets in the likes of Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog or not. Perhaps there will be a few scouts on hand to see how such potential Avs trade targets perform against a contending team?
It’s rarely a dull night when the Blackhawks roll out talented players like Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin and Jonathan Toews – among others – so it should be a good time on NBCSN on Tuesday.
You can watch online or via the NBC Sports App. Click here for the livestream link.
Tyler Ennis‘ return to the Buffalo Sabres lineup on Monday after a 30-game absence seemed like a breath of fresh air. Tuesday, then, represents letting the air out of the balloon.
The Sabres announced that Ennis wasn’t out for warm-ups heading into tonight’s Sabres – Toronto Maple Leafs game. It certainly gives the impression that his groin injury isn’t fully healed.
Ennis contributed a goal to Buffalo’s 4-1 win against the Dallas Stars on Monday and nearly scored another in “lacrosse” style:
When healthy, he’s been a 20-goal, 40+ point player for Buffalo lately, so he was missed. The team tweeted out Ryan O'Reilly‘s comments about Ennis’ return mere hours ago, so you get the impression that it was a surprise for many:
Maybe it’s just a minor setback?
Update: The Sabres deem it a “precautionary scratch,” according to John Vogl of the Buffalo News. So maybe file this under minor setback. We’ll see.