The annual Every Goal series will run Monday to Thursday through July and August, remembering every goal scored by the Canucks, player by player. Today, we take a look at Ryan “Lion-O” Kesler.
2011-12 was a disappointing season for Kesler offensively. After a career-high 41 goals in the previous season, 22 goals was a massive step down, even considering that he missed training camp and much of his offseason training recovering from surgery.
Really, we shouldn’t be surprised. Kesler’s shooting percentage during his 41-goal season was 15.8%, the highest of his career and well above his career shooting percentage up to that point. Combine that with the highest offensive zone start percentage and lowest quality of competition in years (enabled by Manny Malhotra) and a bump up to the first unit powerplay with the Sedins and you have a perfect recipe for a career year.
This season, everything regressed. Kesler’s shooting percentage went down to 9.9%, the lowest it’s been in five seasons. Malhotra wasn’t the same player he was before his gruesome eye injury and Hodgson wasn’t trusted in the defensive zone, forcing Kesler to retake some of his old defensive responsibility. And the Canucks powerplay, while still one of the best in the league, went from 24.3% to 19.8%.
Still, Kesler had his fifth straight 20+ goal season, so all is not lost. Here are Kesler’s first 11 goals of the season:
We should have known this was going to be a very different season than last when Kesler’s first came on a 5-on-3 advantage. Last year, the Canucks never converted in these situations. But they do here, as Daniel Sedin finds Kesler down-low with a nifty saucer pass, and Kesler puts it off the far post and in. Be sure to watch for the sweet angle on Daniel’s saucer in slow-motion at the 0:36 mark.
Kesler’s second comes again on the powerplay, this time right in front on a rebound. The puck never even touches the ground before Kesler swats it in. Enjoy the moment when Shorty trips over his words and announces that this goal comes “20 threkkens” into the third. Or maybe he doesn’t trip over his words and a threkken is 1.15 seconds.
Beautiful assist on this empty-netter by Matt Hunwick, who banks it to a wide-open, Movembered-up Kesler to seal the game. What’s that? Hunwick plays for the Avalanche? Oh. The goal is Kesler’s first even-strength marker of the season, and even though it comes with the net empty on a botched breakout pass from Hunwick, he still breathes a sigh of relief. Lets you know how much he needed it.
Again Kesler gets a little help from the opposition, this time from former teammate Raffi Torres. Forgetting that Kesler’s pretty good defensively, Torres tries to play a backhand across the centre of the ice and does not succeed. Kesler collects his generous gift, gingerly unwraps it — so as to recycle the paper — then goes high glove over Mike Smith.
This play begins when Kesler sets the most blatant pick in the history of ice hockey, only to suffer the karmic retribution of a broken stick. But he makes the most of it, rushing to the bench to pick up a new one, then streaking back into the zone just after the Sedins have drawn all four Blue Jackets towards the wall with their bamboozlement. It leaves Kesler wide-open for a one-timer, and he buries it. Then the camera cuts to Scott Arniel, just in time to catch him wishing he coached the Canucks’ minor-league affiliate instead.
Did you know Ryan Kesler is fast? He totally is. Watch him leave Jason Spezza in the dust as he and Jannik Hansen streak away, 2-on-1. Hansen’s centring pass is a thing of beauty, as he waits for the two red shirts to come to him then flicks a saucer behind both of them and right onto Kesler’s stick. Meanwhile, on the bench, Chris Neil spits angrily. Grit.
Harrison explained why this was quietly one of his favourite goals of the season here, but if you’re averse to clicking through, here’s a summary: it showcases the absolute best of Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler’s skillsets. Henrik is his usual crafty self, absorbing a series of cross-checks along the boards to create separation from his man and threading a pass to Ryan Kesler beside the goal through a space no wider than the puck. And Kesler is at his sneaky, underhanded best, at once too strong to move, then suddenly too weak to keep from being knocked into the Senators’ crease and, then suddenly too strong to move again when the puck lands on his stick in front.
Kesler’s the beneficiary here of Nick Schultz’s poor positioning, as the Wild defender slides too far in towards the middle of the zone, leaving only his stick between Daniel and Kesler. That’s hardly going to cut it when Daniel spins more saucers than Erich Brenn, and soon the puck’s in the middle of the ice for Kesler to bury.
Some great work by Kesler here, as he nearly steps around Tom Gilbert before being hooked back by Jeff Petry, then follows the puck to the boards to keep the play alive. It comes to Alex Edler, who moves it to Burrows down low, and when Kesler spins back into the middle of the zone — with Petry still hooking him, incredibly – he’s wide open for a pass.
Left alone in front, Kesler bangs home a rebound on an Alex Edler shot. Some time later, Justin Braun arrives to punch him ineffectively in the back.
Perhaps the only unlucky moment of Chris Kelly’s 2011-12 season comes with the Canucks on the powerplay, as Sami Salo’s point shot ricochets off of him and right to Kesler, who beats Tim Thomas for his eleventh of the year.Tags: Every Goal, every goal 2011-12, Ryan Kesler