The Nashville Predators – Anaheim Ducks series has turned into a battle of Ryan versus Ryan.
One of the match-ups in this series is Ryan Johansen of the Predators up against agitating veteran center Ryan Kesler of the Ducks. The two could be seen jousting throughout Sunday’s Game 2, with Kesler appearing to catch Johansen with an apparent elbow in the third period.
Following the game, a 5-3 Ducks win to even the Western Conference Final at 1-1, Johansen absolutely sounded off on Kesler.
“He just blows my mind,” Johansen told reporters, just getting started with his rather unflattering opinion of the 32-year-old Kesler.
“I don’t know what’s going through his head out there. Like, his family and his friends watching him play, I don’t know how you cheer for a guy like that. It just doesn’t make sense how he plays the game. I’m just trying to go out there and play hockey and it sucks when you’ve got to pull a stick out of your groin every shift.”
So … Johansen … not a fan of Kesler. A sign, perhaps, that the latter is getting in the head of the former? It’s a bit awkward considering this:
Johansen still finished the game with a goal and an assist, but with the series heading back to Nashville and the Predators getting last change, it will be interesting to see how much coach Peter Laviolette tries to get his top young center away from Kesler and his antagonistic style.
Afterward, Laviolette was highly complimentary of Johansen’s game, calling his play “excellent” and his demeanor against Kesler “completely composed.”
“Obviously he’s a focal point, he’s a top center on their team but we take the mindset, ‘We’ve just got to be better than the guy across from you,'” Kesler told NBCSN afterward. “If that’s Johansen for me, I’ve got to be better than him then.”
Just something to keep an eye on as the series continues.