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.
Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin had the big highlight early in the game on Saturday night, but it was New York Rangers rookie Jimmy Vesey that ended up stealing the show.
Vesey scored a pair of goals for the Rangers — the first multi-goal game of his career — to help lead his team to a 4-2 win in Washington.
Even though he had never played a game in the NHL before this season, Vesey was still one of the most sought after free agents this summer after he completed his college career at Harvard. He eventually signed an entry level deal with the Rangers, and given how much attention his free agency saga generated it seemed hard to believe that he could ever match the hype. Especially given the track record of players signed as free agents coming out of college (it’s not a great one).
It’s obviously still very early in his career, but so far Vesey has not disappointed in New York.
Saturday was by far his best performance of the season, scoring both of his goals just three minutes apart in the second period. The first goal tied the game at two to help erase a two-goal deficit, and then his second goal proved to be the game winner.
It was also a heck of a play.
Rick Nash would add an empty net goal late in the third period to put the game away for the Rangers while Henrik Lundqvist stopped 26 of the 28 shots he faced.
For Washington, the loss is its first regulation loss of the season and snaps what had been a three-game winning streak.
After being held without a point in his first two games of the season, Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin has now scored a goal in three consecutive games.
That includes his goal on Saturday night in the first period against the New York Rangers.
It’s one that will probably make the personal highlight reel for Ovechkin, but it certainly won’t make the highlight reel for Rangers defenseman Marc Staal.
To say that this head-to-head matchup turned out to be a mismatch would be … well … a bit of an understatement.
As Ovechkin crossed the blue line into the Rangers zone he started to toe-drag around Staal, only to stop midway through and just rip it from outside the circle, using Staal as a screen and beating Henrik Lundqvist for the goal.
It is probably not a good sign when the defenseman has his back to the shooter when the puck is released.
That goal gave the Capitals a 2-0 lead.
The Detroit Red Wings will be without veteran forward Justin Abdelkader on Saturday night when they host the San Jose Sharks.
The official word from the team is that he is sidelined with a lower body injury.
He will be replaced in the lineup by Andreas Athanasiou. Athanasiou has appeared in three games this season and yet to record a point.
He was not only in the lineup on Friday in the Red Wings in their 5-3 win over the Nashville Predators, but also scored his first goal of the season and played a season-high 17:55.
After scoring 19 goals and recording 23 assists in 82 games in 2015-16 the Red Wings signed a seven-year $29.7 million contract extension.
According to general manager Ken Holland (via Helene St. James) he is expected to be back in the lineup on Tuesday.
OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) Former Montreal Canadiens coach Jacques Demers has been hospitalized.
Demer’s director of parliamentary affairs confirmed Saturday that the 72-year-old Demers, a Canadian senator, had been admitted to a Montreal hospital, but couldn’t immediately provide any details.
Demers had a stroke in April. He was at the Canadiens’ home opener Tuesday night, smiling in a wheelchair while handing a torch to captain Max Pacioretty to close out a pregame ceremony.
Demers led the Canadiens to their last Stanley Cup in 1993. He also coached Quebec, Detroit, St. Louis and Tampa Bay in the NHL, and Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Quebec in the WHA.