Author: Cam Tucker

Kesler has ‘upped’ his game in the playoffs


It’s been almost 11 full months since the Vancouver Canucks traded Ryan Kesler to the Anaheim Ducks in a draft day blockbuster.

The Ducks are winning this trade.

The Canucks had a rebound season but it ended in disappointment with a first-round playoff loss to Calgary. The Ducks and the 30-year-old Kesler are in the Western Conference Final against the Chicago Blackhawks.

With four wins in this round, the Ducks would advance to the Stanley Cup Final. Should that happen, it would be Kesler’s second trip to the championship series in five years.

And he’s been a big part of the Ducks’ success this post-season, too.

From the Orange County Register:

Twenty goals and 27 assists were welcomed and appreciated over the 82-game schedule, but not the primary reason why Murray kept talking to Vancouver about acquiring him. He’s got four goals and five assists in the Ducks’ playoff games, but it’s more than that.

Kesler has been dominant in the faceoff circle, winning 63.7 percent of his draws. He’s an essential part of a penalty-killing unit that’s allowed only four power-play goals. And each of his scores has made a difference.

“There’s been a lot of moments like that,” Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Those are the things that probably stand out more for me than anybody scoring three goals or getting booed or any of those things.

“So far, what I’ve seen, he’s upped his game.”

Stamkos doesn’t mind winging it


Steven Stamkos can often be the center of attention with the Tampa Bay Lightning. It happens when you put up 51 and 60 goals in single seasons.

But, it appears sometimes a move to the wing can benefit Stamkos, which was the case late in the second round against Montreal, according to the Tampa Tribune.

“Yeah, I mean, it’s worked well the two games that we’ve done it. You know, sometimes it’s just a little change,” Stamkos told reporters on Friday.

“Some things aren’t going well, and you want to try some different combination playing on the wing. It’s definitely a little different. Your responsibility is maybe not as great as playing center. For me, I felt like my legs have been a little better. Got some pucks in space coming down the wing, being able to get some shots.

“But definitely in my opinion I’ve been able to get more quality chances and been able to use my speed down the wing a little more and get some more pucks on that. So it’s been a good change.”

Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson still leads all players in goals this post-season with eight.

After a slow start — three points in the first eight playoff games — Stamkos seems to have found his scoring touch, with three goals and seven points in the last five games.

McDavid shut out in Erie’s elimination loss


Barring something completely unexpected in the fall, Connor McDavid’s junior hockey career is over.

It very likely ended for good on Friday, when the Erie Otters lost Game 5 of the Ontario Hockey League championship by a final score of 6-2 to the Oshawa Generals.

McDavid, expected to be the No. 1 overall pick in next month’s NHL Draft, was held off the score sheet in the loss, despite numerous chances. There won’t be a return to Erie for a sixth game in this series, which McDavid believed there would be.

He finished the post-season with 49 points in 20 games, and was named the OHL playoff MVP.

Twice in the final series against Oshawa, McDavid was held without a point, and finished two points shy of the OHL playoff record, held by Justin Papineau and Jason Dawe.

So, what’s next for McDavid in the coming days and weeks?

The NHL’s scouting combine begins June 1 in Buffalo, and the first round of the draft goes June 26 in Sunrise, Fla. The Edmonton Oilers, after winning the draft lottery, have the first selection this year.

“It’s going to be an exciting couple of months here,” McDavid told Rob Faulds during the Sportsnet broadcast following the loss.

“I’m really looking forward to it. Once draft day happens, that’s when the really hard work starts. It’s going to be up to me to figure out what I’m going to do with it.”