Breaking down Ryan Kesler’s second goal from the 4-1 victory in Ottawa

In the postgame scrum following the Canucks’ 4-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators, Alain Vigneault described Dale Weise’s end-to-end rush as “phenomenal,” and while I don’t disagree that it was an impressive individual effort, it wasn’t my favourite goal of the game.

Nice as it was, I was far more taken with the one that preceded it: Ryan Kesler’s second goal of the game, which stretched the lead to 3-0. It was both a fantastic example of the strengths of the Canucks’ first powerplay unit and a comedy of errors for the Ottawa penalty kill. Let’s break it down.

Henrik Sedin loses the faceoff, but Ryan Kesler battles three guys to poke the puck back to him in the corner. Watch the up-close replay and marvel at the way he fends off Jared Cowen and Chris Phillips in particular. It’s an impressive show of strength. Kesler doesn’t just finish this play — he also starts it by outmuscling nearly the entire Senators’ penalty kill.

We often marvel at Kesler’s powerplay production, but another of his immense contributions to this unit is the work ethic he exhibits in gaining control of loose pucks.

The Sedins are strong as well, especially alone their spines, which have been hardened from years of abuse by defenders. These days, they don’t just shake off a crosscheck — they absorb its power like a solar panel. That’s what happens here, as Henrik Sedin uses Chris Phillips’s attempted crosscheck to propel himself forward while leaving Phillips behind, flat-footed.

Take a look at just before and immediately after the crosscheck: Henrik gains a foot of separation without ever taking a stride.

As Henrik comes up the wall, Daniel Sedin catches Zack Smith watching the play, and slyly drifts off the boards, making himself available for a backhand pass. It’s such a subtle shift that Erik Condra (#22) doesn’t see it either, and assumes this pass is coming out to Alex Edler at the point. He bolts towards the lane, thinking he can intercept it, but simply winds up putting himself behind the play. When Daniel collects the puck, Condra’s out of position and the Senators are facing a 3-on-2 down low.

Cutting into the slot, Daniel demonstrates that trademark Sedin optimism, thinking it wise to send Kesler a waist-high, backhand pass, hoping for a mid-air tip-in at the side of the goal.

It doesn’t work, as Chris Phillips ties up Kesler’s stick and then rides Kesler into the crease.

Of course, considering Kesler just recently outmuscled three guys for a loose puck, one of whom was Chris Phillips, it’s probably safe to assume he goes down a touch easily here. The fact that he sells it as entirely Phillips’s fault that he’s kneeling in the crease is a jerk move, but that’s Kesler.

It’s also the second time in this shift that Phillips’s physical play has been used against him.

And finally, Zack Smith blows it again, overskating the puck behind the goal. This allows Henrik Sedin to skate onto it. In a split-second, the Canuck captain draws Craig Anderson out of the goal, then tucks a nifty little backhand pass between Anderson and the post to Kesler.

I think most people just assumed that this puck squirted through to Kesler fortuitously, but a closer look shows that Henrik Sedin threaded it through a gap hardly any wider than the puck itself. Crazy pass, especially surrounded by red shirts.

And finally, Kesler suddenly becomes strong enough to fend off Chris Phillips yet again — the fourth time the Ottawa defenseman has lost a battle on this play — to drive the puck home.

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15 comments

  1. Kit
    December 12, 2011

    This just solidifies for me how very very much I would hate Ryan Kesler if he played for any other team.

    By which I mean: KESLER I LOVE YOU NEVER LEAVE.

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  2. Curious
    December 12, 2011

    Any word on Salo-Is-My-Pal-O contest??

    Also, there are so many slick, small, skilled and subtle passes that the Sedin’s make each game that make me say “wow”. They are so good in small spaces (mostly in the corner) at making the pass through all the feet and right onto a Canucks players stick.

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  3. Jason
    December 12, 2011

    This was just one more way for the HNIC broadcast to be disappointing, to me. Henrik make s a little between the legs back pass that goes through 3 people right onto Kesler’s stick, and no one mentions it, or even sees it, apparently. That image shows Hank looking at Kes before the puck gets there, confirming to me the fact that he wasn’t just throwing the puck towards the front of the net. More Sedinery resulting in another pretty goal.

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    • Kate Fullerton
      December 12, 2011

      Completely agree with you about the HNIC broadcast missing stuff. Stuff that PITB notices like its their 6th sense. Hmmmm…..maybe the guys from PITB should be commentators! that would be unbelieveably awesome :D

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  4. tj
    December 12, 2011

    I’ve been reading so much anti-Canuck chatter about the diving and dirty plays, when I read something like this I’m a wee bit torn. Canucks are exploiters, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s called strategy. They’re great on the pp, so try to get as many as possible. Push ‘em around, they’ll David their way out of it. It behooves me how this sort of thing is commended on other teams, whilst the Canucks are demonized for it.

    Anyway, I love this new feature with the visuals and breakdowns. Canucks seem to play a more subtle kind of hockey. They’re playing in the chess league right now, while others seem to be playing snakes and ladders.

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    • peanutflower
      December 12, 2011

      I have to use “mayhap” below because you used “behooves” incorrectly. Someone has to use Old English correctly.

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      • tj
        December 12, 2011

        Wow, did I ever misuse it. In my defense, I was lazy with my cliches this morning and it seems I go especially idiomatic (and idiotic) in the a.m. without coffee. Old English: it’s beyond me…

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        • peanutflower
          December 12, 2011

          Your misuse was entirely mitigated by the chess and snakes and ladders reference. I like to think that the Canucks are the smartest team, or play the smartest hockey. Too bad there’s not a way to quantify that.

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  5. peanutflower
    December 12, 2011

    Mayhap I’m blinded by the love, but I really didn’t see Kesler’s move in front of the net as being a jerk move. I watched it again after reading this and I still think it was an honest battle. He’s just better at it than anyone else. If that makes him a jerk making jerk moves, well, I guess I’m a jerk lover.

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  6. SteveB
    December 12, 2011

    I really love these frame-by-frame analyses of scoring plays and defensive breakdowns.
    The game happens so quickly and many subtleties escape me.
    Thanks for helping me become a more knowledgeable fan!

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    • Nee
      December 12, 2011

      I really like this feature too. I’ve seen it done on other blogs before, but I’m more interested when it’s Canucks focused rather than other teams.

      And as someone who is an avid hockey watcher but has never actually played the game (except on the street) this kind of thing helps me pick up the little things that I might not otherwise see. Like subtle changes in positioning that create scoring chances.

      Please do this feature on a regular basis forever and ever. k thanks ; )

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  7. stathead
    December 12, 2011

    Love this feature of breaking down great plays – I didn’t spot any of that. Am still learning about player positioning in hockey and this is super helpful. Great work, guys!

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  8. JW
    December 13, 2011

    I love these breakdowns. Keep em coming.

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  9. Jon
    December 13, 2011

    This feature needs to be re-named something like ‘I Watched This Goal’ or ‘I Find This Goal Awesome/Brutal/Brilliant etc.’

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    • Harrison Mooney
      December 13, 2011

      Yeah, it needs a name. I agree.

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