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After infamously being dubbed "the best player to not yet score in the NHL playoffs", Ryan Kesler scores twice in the Canucks 3-2 overtime win in Nashville. Kesler is surrounded by teammates after tipping home the overtime winner (photos courtesy of AP Photo) One year ago, during their playoff series against the Los Angeles Kings, Roberto Luongo was asked about the play of Ryan Kesler. "He's a warrior. That's all you can call him, a warrior." Canucks fans hearts sagged after a disappointing loss in Vancouver in double overtime. Much attention has been focused on the lack of offensive contributions from key Canuck sources, including (but not limited to) Henrik and Daniel Sedin, and Ryan Kesler. In Kesler's defence, though, many point to his shutdown performance on Jonathan Toews. Just prior to the playoffs, The Canuck Way examined Ryan's importance to the team, in several aspects of the game. Though he's had some very exciting performances throughout the regular season, lending over to the playoffs, Game 3 in Nashville might have been his most important in a Canucks sweater. He paid the price all night, scoring an important first powerplay goal, and set up Chris Higgins for another. With the Canucks on the power play for a hooking call that he drew against Shea Weber, he deftly tipped a Mikael Samuelsson point wrister for the win. "It feels good to get this one and good to go up 2-1 in this series," Kesler told reporters post-game. Former Canuck Shane O'Brien watches helplessly after he failed to block a Mikael Samuelsson wrist shot that Kesler deflects 5-hole on Pekka Rinne Fan reaction in Nashville closely emulated (Predator winger) Jerred Smithson's, who smashed his stick over the crossbar after Kesler's goal. Following suit, a fan threw their beverage onto the ice in the Nashville zone, while others rained their orange towels onto the playing surface as the Canucks celebrated. Predators coach Barry Trotz took a dim view of the penalty call that led to the overtime opportunity. "He chicken-winged the stick and kept moving, and really if you look at it, Webs is trying to pull his stick out of there. I've seen it before. One of the earlier games, he drew a couple of penalties by chicken-winging the stick and just holding it there, and keep moving and see if he can sell it." Predator center David Legwand, who opened the scoring shorthanded, echoed his coach's thoughts. "It's a horrible call. Obviously they're going to think it's a good call, but Kesler's obviously holding his stick. I don't know if (referee) Timmy Peel had a date or something, but he wanted to get out of here pretty quick, it looked like. It's a tough way to lose a game." In typical fashion, Kesler was unapologetic. "He was hooking me. I thought it was a good call. We were the harder working team tonight, and we deserved that one." Leading 2-1, the Canucks now have a chance to take a strangle-hold on the series. Game Four resumes at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville at 5:30 PST. With The Canuck Way playoff action, I'm Larenzo Jensen
I think everyone's a little tired of the Stephane Auger-Alex Burrows incident. What had been said to Auger behind closed doors won't be revealed, but it'll probably be along the lines of, "well, you know, just keep your mouth shut before the game and watch who you talk to." The NHL was in a bit of a pickle here because they can't pick sides - whatever side they choose, it sends the message that the NHL acknowledges that they have refs who cannot stay impartial during a game but are really refusing to do anything substantial about it. That's not mentioning that the NHL Officials Association will be very unhappy if the NHL takes Burrows' side. I think by creating less of the situation the NHL really has avoided what could've been a big controversy - Burrows has a history and as does Auger. What really irks me though, is that some people are still willing to dig into Burrows. More specifically, Ron MacLean's telecast last night (part 1 and 2) against the Penguins. I agree with Alain Vigneault's post-game conference that MacLean (a referee by training but also ironically been one of the most critical observers of the lack of consistency in NHL-level refereeing in recent years) took some unfair potshots at Burrows. Colin Campbell joined MacLean in the telecast and a few of his answers also really shed light on the current situation in the NHL's discipline office. No one other than Burrows and Auger knew what happened on the ice in that January 11 game, but to me, I think MacLean delves into one assumption too many in his analysis (part 1, 1:50-2:15). He claims that Burrows embellished the hit (I think he did too) but stayed on the ice (or "played dead," in Ron's words) even when the Canucks trainers came onto the ice and stayed there long enough to ensure that Jerred Smithson got five and a game misconduct. The NHL made the right move and rescinded that game misconduct after Nashville GM David Poile filed a complaint, but here's where it gets confusing. Colin Campbell specifically says that it could've been a "two-minute penalty, no problem" (part 1, 3:05) and rescinded the misconduct also in part because that "two or three" (part 1, 2:38) could mean a future automatic one-game suspension. Okay, let me get this straight: Smithson's hit on Burrows could've been two minutes or fifteen minutes or one, two, maybe three-game suspensions? To me, while I don't think it is the most relevant factor, shows the inconsistent refereeing from top to bottom. The NHL doesn't really have a set standard for anything. Case in point, Campbell notes that Burrows was not suspended for his punch on Zack Stortini because he felt that it was unfair to Mike Gillis and the Canucks to not give them more warning (part 2, 0:27-0:45). Thanks for your sympathy Colin, but the NHL office would look more credible if they made sure there was a set standard for fines and suspensions. Forget about putting the opposition team in a pickle - it's their problem, not yours. I can hear Gary Bettman singing the same tune last year, "well, I just didn't think it'd be fair to the Flames to ice less than 18 skaters due to their own cap managing failures because I'm such a gosh-darn nice guy. By the way, can my forehead by any shinier?" MacLean doesn't help his own cause any further when he refuses to believe any part of Burrows' story: "I can't imagine he said, 'I'll get you.' I think we can all agree on that" (part 1, 4:40). No, Ron, I don't agree. At this point I think that whole "what he said" thing is circumstantial and there is a clear lack of hard evidence to prove either side's story. MacLean's a referee and I think even he would be hard-pressed to say that Burrows' interference penalty late in the third against the Predators was absolute junk. Burrows is an intelligent hockey player and he plays with a lot of emotion so I can't really see that something he said out of frustration and anger was completely false. Let's not delve into too much psychoanalysis, but to Burrows, it was more than just about "me vs. him." In his post-game he repeatedly said that it wasn't fair to the fans or the team. Taking a page from MacLean's Book of Poor Assumptions, I'm going to assume that Auger clearly saw this as a "me vs. him" incident. He was clearly upset that Burrows had make him look awful back in December - Auger even said so himself according to Campbell (part 1, 5:33). There haven't been any reports denying that. Auger refused to comment after the game and still hasn't said anything since. But never mind the whole incident, who was wrong or who was right, MacLean was more "upset that he [burrows] said it, that he implied that your referee, Auger, that night was out to get him and he actually might've influenced the outcome of the hockey game and the coach corroborates with the accusation" (part 2 3:11-3:23). From the get-go, it was clear that MacLean didn't have much respect for Burrows and is obviously engaging in some one-sided politics here. For me, the bigger issue is that a NHL player who has been in this league for some time is calling out a ref for some awful calls by insinuating that he was targeted but yet the league hasn't done anything but dish out a measly $2,500 fine and a good ol' talking to with Auger. I'm not MacLean-level outraged with the situation but I'm not particularly happy with it either. With the type of punishments being handed out these days, this is about as fair as they come. Auger won't be reffing another Canucks game for quite some time so the NHL seems to think they have little to worry about. In the end, I don't think MacLean's telecast with Campbell really solved anything. We only re-discovered what we knew already: that Burrows is a diver, Ron is not a fan, and that Burrows' criticism of the officials seems to be more important than the fact that the NHL may have a problem with biased referees. Sorry, Mr. Auger, but I couldn't help myself. <img src="http://www4.pictures.gi.zimbio.com/2007+NHL+Headshots+g3Ww7DZGk9xm.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed"><img src="http://img.thesun.co.uk/multimedia/archive/00459/SNF2788I_280_459087a.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">