Canucks play keepaway in Dallas; why Kesler prevents that from happening more often (VIDEO)

Henrik Sedin has two goals this season, and neither are a result of the Canucks’ Captain making the choice to shoot. In both instances, Alex Burrows has made the choice for him with late, unexpected return passes that leave Henrik with no room and no choice but to do anything other than put the puck towards the goal.

This is the rub when it comes to the Sedins, and Henrik especially: sometimes you have to force the issue. Henrik Sedin has led the NHL in assists for three years in a row. He’s a pure passer; passing is his jam. If he were on the Price is Right Showcase Showdown, he’d pass twice.

We saw yet another example of Henrik’s pass-first mentality Thursday night when he spearheaded a full, two-minute session of keepaway in Dallas. When the Stars went down a man one second before the two-minute mark, it became apparent to Henrik that, in order to nurse the Canucks’ one-goal lead home, all he and his teammates had to do was maintain possession for 120 seconds. No shooting. All passing. Here’s Henrik living the dream, as the Canucks’ powerplay trolls the Dallas Stars.

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Ryan Kesler medically cleared to play, because his timing is impeccable

Canucks fans got both good and bad news today, both revolving around the team’s centres. The bad news came first, and it was devastating: Manny Malhotra was placed on Injured Reserve, with the announcement that he’s expected to miss the rest of the season. Malhotra has long been one of my favourite players on the Canucks, taking on the thankless job of enabling the Canucks’ offence by starting predominantly in the defensive zone, winning faceoffs, clearing the puck, and getting off the ice.

His two-way ability was clearly diminished after his devastating eye injury, but he was still effective in the faceoff circle and was among the league leaders, winning 65.3% of his draws. Losing him from the lineup significantly impacts the Canucks’ depth at centre.

Fortunately, there was some good news to soften the blow. After practice, Ryan Kesler was coy with the media about how close he was to returning to action. Alain Vigneault, on the other hand, didn’t beat around the bush, saying, “He’s been medically cleared to play and all indications are he’s ready to go.”

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What’s behind the Canucks’ poor starts? Severe Kesler deficiency.

The Canucks clearly miss Ryan Kesler right now in every facet of the game. Kesler wins faceoffs, kills penalties, scores on the powerplay, and wins battles against tough opposition, areas where the Canucks are struggling to start the season. But there’s a very specific area where his absence is causing some major problems: the first shift of the game.

A rough start has been the common theme through the first 6 games of the 2013 season for the Canucks, as they frequently seem to get outplayed during the first few minutes and depend on their goaltending to staunch the bleeding until they can turn things around. That first shift of the game is where it all starts.

Some call it “setting the tone,” while I call it “not getting hemmed in your own zone.” Ryan Kesler is excellent at both.

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Sidelined by injury, Ryan Kesler works minimum wage jobs to pay the bills

During the lockout, Ryan Kesler wasn’t able to take anyone’s job in Europe because he was recovering from multiple surgeries. Now that the lockout is over, Kesler is making up for lost time by stealing jobs from minimum wage earners, which just seems mean and unnecessary.

Still, a guy’s gotta pay the bills, right? Except he still collected his NHL salary throughout the lockout because he was on the Injured Reserve list. Well, then. Looks like he’s just a jerk.

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Ryan Kesler calls season ticket-holder, interrupts someone’s pelvic exam [VIDEO]

In the lead-up to Saturday’s opening night tilt with the Anaheim Ducks, the Canucks announced a number of fan outreach initiatives aimed at, hopefully, making fans feel a little less uneasy about returning to the loving arms of a league that just punched them in the gonads. There would be cheap food, 50% off merchandise, and a patronizing new video, but chief amongst these initiatives was the special opportunity for a season-ticket holder to drop the puck for the ceremonial faceoffs.

That season-ticket holder was selected and informed Friday. His name: Dr. Jeffrey Bell. And for an extra-special treat, the Canucks enlisted Ryan Kesler to tell the doctor. The phone call that was filmed for, and thank goodness they did that, because otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to prove that Kesler somehow managed to call during a pelvic exam:

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Kesler and Bieksa host street hockey game with Cabbie, are terrible actors [VIDEO]

A couple weeks ago, Kevin Bieksa and Ryan Kesler teamed up with Cabral “Cabbie” Richards for an impromptu street hockey game under the Cambrie Bridge (site of one of the great music videos of our time).

Also, Jason Garrison was there.

TSN waited until last Friday to put up Cabbie’s segment on the game and, this weekend, it finally made it to YouTube.. I’ve been a big fan of Cabbie since his days on The Score. He seems to always be able to get athletes to let down their guard, leading to great interviews and a lot of humour.

This time around, however, Cabbie doesn’t say a word through the entire segment, letting Kesler and Bieksa take the reins. That was either a horrible, horrible mistake or one of the best things he’s ever done, depending on how much you like the unintentional humour of terrible acting. We like it a lot.

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Love doesn’t hurt, but Ryan Kesler’s facial hair is pretty painful (VIDEO)

Back in April, Ryan Kesler and Popchips announced the Game Changers initiative, which would give fans the opportunity to suggest charitable causes for the Canuck centre to support. After a month, Kesler was presented with a shortlist of five charities. From those five, he went with the request to tape a public service announcement for the BC Society of Transition Houses, “a non-profit association of Transition, Second and Third Stage Houses, Safe Homes, Children Who Witness Abuse Programs and other groups which serve the needs of women and their children fleeing violence”, according to their website.

“I’ve never known anyone personally who was affected, but I picked this charity because I feel strongly about it,” said Kesler when asked about the selection. “Too many kids are going through this. Violence against women is not right and when you involve kids… I have kids myself and I couldn’t imagine my kids going through something like that.”

Kesler filmed the public service announcement in support of the “Love Doesn’t Hurt” campaign back on June 22nd. It was released Tuesday. Here it is:

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Is Ryan Kesler’s reputation for diving about to get him publicly shamed?

This probably won’t come as much of a shock to you, but Ryan Kesler has a reputation around the NHL as a diver. (I think it has something to do with the way he occasionally falls down by choice, but makes it look like someone else made him do it. Maybe. I don’t know.)

Fair or not, it would appear that he’s not just a suspected diver: he’s one of the best suspected divers. (Or worst, if you’re a real Debbie Downer, but we see the bright side of things here at Pass it to Bulis.) And, according to a report by Darren Dreger, Kesler’s reputation as a top-flight faller-downer could very well mean that his picture will soon be posted in every NHL dressing room around the league, like some sort of outlaw or dude banned from SeaWorld.

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Who were Ryan Kesler’s best linemates last season?

Sometimes when I get curious enough about something to investigate it, digging up statistics and putting together charts, the answer turns out to be the obvious one. Fortunately, it can also turn up some other interesting information along the way.

Here’s the question I had: which wingers were most effective with Ryan Kesler last season? One of the big questions coming into this season is who should play on the second line with Kesler, once he returns too early? David Booth seems to have his spot all sewn up, but there are many competitors for the opposite wing, including Chris Higgins, Mason Raymond, Jannik Hansen, Zack Kassian, and Nicklas Jensen. Heck, if Shane Doan signs with the Canucks, you can add him and Alex Burrows to that list.

David Booth and Chris Higgins were Kesler’s most common linemates last season, but were they his most effective linemates? To get the answer, I did some WOWY (With Or Without You) analysis to see how Kesler performed with and without various linemates. In this case, the answer appears to be pretty definitively “yes.”

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Why it’s so important that no one thinks Ryan Kesler is ahead of schedule

Mike Gillis raised a few eyebrows last month when he told Matt Sekeres at Team 1040 that Ryan Kesler, who underwent surgery following the season for the second straight year, might be ready by October. As unbelievable as it was that Kesler could somehow will himself back to health two months earlier than orginally projected, it was plenty believable that he’d return early anyway, without having done so. That is, after all, what he did last season. Thus, surprising as Gillis’s report was, it seemed eerily plausible.

But it wasn’t accurate, as Kesler’s agent Kurt Overhardt immediately made clea the following day. “It’s not happening,” Overhardt told Ben Kuzma at the Province. “[Kesler's] not ahead of schedule and there’s no rushing him back. He’s on course to return in December and he’s not returning until he’s 100 per cent. Don’t expect him until December.”

It was downright strange to see Overhardt refute the report so quickly and vehemently, but most simply chalked it up to what appeared to be a growing rift between Overhardt and Canucks management. It was, after all, the second time Overhardt had objected to a statement about Kesler this offseason: He stood up for his client back in May after Alain Vigneault suggested Kesler’s shoulder injury wasn’t an excuse for his step back last year. Perhaps Overhardt just couldn’t help but seize another opportunity to correct the Canucks’ front office?

We here at PITB, home of the Daniel Wagner effect, know that agents can be petty. But a recent memo circulated by the NHLPA makes me wonder if there isn’t more to it than that.

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Spitballin’ on nothing, nada, and zilch

Spitballin’ (or Super Pass It To Bulis: All In, if you love adventurous acronymizing) is a feature that allows us to touch on a multitude of things really fast, because in the world of hockey, there are always lots of things to find and colour. Here are a few quick topics.

Normally, Spitballin’ is used for the above purpose: to quickly run down the many things that have happened in a short space of time. Right now, however, nothing is happening. At all. In fact, there’s so much nothing happening that it boggles the mind, necessitating a Spitballin’ feature to cover it all. Here is all the nothing that is happening right now that you need to know about:

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Every Goal, 2011-12: Ryan Kesler, part two

Ryan Kesler seems like he should be a high-end goalscorer, given the multiple ways he’s capable of scoring goals. He’s dangerous off the rush with his speed, he has a heavy, accurate wristshot, he can one-time the puck effectively, and he’s strong in front of the net for tips and rebounds. With that kind of versatility, it seems like he should be a consistent 30-goal scorer.

Unfortunately, Kesler has the tendency to rely too heavily on one trick – a wristshot from the right faceoff circle off the rush – and, as a result, is a tad too predictable. It seems that he doesn’t always recognize when the situation does not favour that type of play, leading to the infamous comment from Alain Vigneault that he needs to “use his teammates more.” Kesler has always been a shoot-first kind of guy, but sometimes he needs to use that reputation to his advantage by passing when the opposition least expects it.

It will be interesting to see how Kesler’s latest surgery and postponed offseason training will affect him, but it seems likely that he will once again score around 20 goals, even if he misses the first two months of the season. It’s also likely that they will look something like these 11 goals.

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Every Goal, 2011-12: Ryan Kesler, part one

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:

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Ryan Kesler thinks that if you can play, You Can Play

The You Can Play initiative started by the Burke family has a simple message that should resonate with everyone who hears it: if you can play, you can play. In hockey, nothing else should matter, and they have created a number of PSAs with NHL stars stating that this is the case. According to these videos, the only thing that matters is how well you play the game. Race, country, and creed don’t matter and, most importantly for the Burke family, neither does sexual orientation.

Ryan Kesler has now joined the lengthy list of NHL stars lending their names to the You Can Play initiative, speaking up for those who may fear speaking up for themselves. He appears in a PSA with former Canuck Tanner Glass and former pain-in-the-Canuck Dustin Byfuglien.

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Drance Numbers: Kesler and Booth have chemistry

Advanced statistics and quantitative analysis have consistently proven useful in hockey, but any honest hockey math nerd will admit that there are factors the numbers can’t quite measure. Some things operate on the U.S. Supreme Court’s “I know it when I see it” principle. Supposedly, one such unmeasurable factor is chemistry, which has been a major talking point among Canuck nation of late.

During the regular season, David Booth played roughly 35 total even-strength minutes with the Sedin twins. He played more with former Florida Panthers teammate Tomas Kopecky. Yet, with the team facing elimination in Game 4 of the Canucks’ first round series with the Los Angeles Kings, Alain Vigneault modified his lines, bumping Booth up to the top line to skate with the twins. That alteration to the team’s forward lines separated Booth from Ryan Kesler, his linemate all season.

Despite being somewhat bemused by Booth’s move to the Sedins’ right wing, many cheered the split from Kesler, as the two apparently have “no chemistry.” Oh, but they do.

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The six best Ryan Kesler tumbleweed gifs

Ryan Kesler is hardly the only player to resort to embellishment in this year’s NHL playoffs. Every team has been accused of diving at least once, with two clubs even being penalized for it: the Pittsburgh Penguins, for a Kris Letang dive, and the Detroit Red Wings, for some Jiri Hudler acting. Furthermore, Brad Marchand’s performance in Game 3 versus the Washington Capitals was like an interactive museum exhibit on embellishment.

Still, Kesler’s dives have stood out. He may not be the worst diver, but he’s definitely the best. You’re going to be hard-pressed to find a dive as ostentatious as the one he pulled in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal, for instance, when he attempted to draw a penalty on Mike Richards by engaging the Kings’ forward skating backwards, then doing a full-on, flailing, stick-throwing barrel roll as the two exited the Canucks’ zone. It bordered on performance art.

And, like all good art, it inspired other artists — in this case, the .gif-makers over at the HF Boards. For the second straight year, Ryan Kesler has become a meme over there. It’s not quite Ryan Kesler Did This, but the Kesler tumbleweed meme is still pretty darn funny. What follows are 6 of my favourites examples.

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PITB chats with Ryan Kesler about first place, scoring woes, You Can Play, and abs

Ryan Kesler is currently doing some publicity for a new charitable initiative he’s involved in through popchips called Game Changers, where fans will have the opportunity to submit local charities and causes for Kesler to support. Submissions can be made on the popchips website and Kesler will choose the winning cause.

Because Kesler knows what’s up, part of this publicity included a chat with Pass it to Bulis. We spoke with the Canucks’ centre about his involvement with the charity as well as his team’s recent’ offensive struggles, changes to the lineup, and gearing up for the playoffs. And, of course, because it’s PITB, we also asked him about abs, nude photos, and shoutouts on The CW.

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Video: Ryan Kesler gets a shout-out on CW program “The Secret Circle”

Ryan Kesler has been everywhere this past year. Whether it’s appearing naked in ESPN the Magazine or popping up behind whomever the true subject of a photo or video is meant to be, Kesler has been appearing all over the place. The one place I didn’t expect him to appear: The CW.

That’s about to change. Sort of. Ryan Kesler will get a shoutout on The CW’s teen drama (with witchcraft) “The Secret Circle” on Thursday, but thanks to a promo they have released, you can see the relevant scene right now.

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No thanks to Ryan Kesler, Canucks caught in Tebow loop

The Canucks’ win in Colorado Saturday was nothing short of ridiculous. They were thoroughly outplayed by the Avalanche for the entire game and outshot 46 to 29. The Avs even missed two shots at the empty net in the game’s final minute. Then, fortunes changed in an instant when the puck took a weird bounce off a stanchion in the Colorado end and landed right on Kevin Bieksa’s stick. He buried it, tying the game, and the Canucks would go on to steal the two points in a shootout.

It was a shameless miracle.

Frankly, the Canucks have been getting by on shameless miracles for awhile now. They’re 4-0-1 in their last five games, all of which have required last-minute heroics, the most recent four of which have gone to overtime — three of which have gone to a shootout. The Canucks of the last 5 games look nothing like the team Vancouver fans are used to, a team that defeats opponents with strong puck possession, hard forechecking, and a lethal powerplay. Rather, this recent team is getting by on nothing but “clutch” performances, where “clutch” means “heroic albeit unnecessary if they had played better.”

So what happened prior to this five-game stretch to turn the Canucks from the team Vancouverites know into a hapless group relying on cheap miracles to eke out wins?

Ryan Kesler Tebowed.

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Vigneault/Kesler tiff falls short of a spat or quarrel

fter the disappointing loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday night, Canucks’ coach Alain Vigneault was asked about the performance of Ryan Kesler, who has been struggling of late. With just 3 points in his last 8 games, Kesler has not looked like his dominant self.

Part of Vigneault’s response was that Kesler needs “to use the players around him a little bit more so he can get into open space.”

Understandably, the media wanted to get Kesler’s take on the issue, so they cherry-picked the statement and brought it to the Canucks’ centre to see what he had to say. He was a little miffed:

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The top 50 Vancouver Canucks goals of 2011 (30-21)

Here we are at Day 3 of PITB’s list of our 50 favourite Canuck goals of 2011. Today features a heaping helping of beast mode Ryan Kesler, as well as a selection of the most curious pieces of Sedinery 2011 had to offer.

Have you ever seen a guy pass the puck through the legs of a goaltender, or away from the goalmouth with the goalie down and out? Have you ever seen a guy come to a complete stop directly in front of his defender? If so, you watched the Sedins in 2011. My friend, they don’t think like you and I. It’s pretty great. I suspect you’ll enjoy these 10 goals.

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The top 50 Vancouver Canucks goals of 2011 (40-31)

Welcome to Day 2 of PITB’s countdown of the top 50 goals the Vancouver Canucks scored in 2011. This afternoon you’ll be treated to a Daniel Sedin hat trick, a brilliant Ryan Kesler power move, and the bowling ball that is Raffi Torres.

There’s also a hat tip to what was a very common theme in the year that was: the victimization of the Pacific Division, as both San Jose and Dallas get burned multiple times. Provided you’re neither a Sharks fan nor a Stars fan, you’ll probably enjoy today’s goals.

Like life (according to John Lennon), we begin at 40.

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The top 50 Vancouver Canucks goals of 2011 (50-41)

2011 was a fabulous year for Canucks hockey. Sure, the Stanley Cup Final may not have ended quite the way Vancouver fans wanted it to, but the Canucks were still in it, and that’s a rarity deserving of some serious appreciation.

If you ask me, so was the 2011 team in its entirety. Between the wizardry of the Sedins, the raw power of Ryan Kesler, the stable of offensive-minded defensemen, the occasional flashes of brilliance from the skilled corps of middle wingers, and the gaggle of set plays the team employs, the fans in this city are spoiled right now. We may never see another team like this one again.

With that in mind, it would be crazy to let this year in Canucks hockey lapse without looking back at some of its incredible goals. What follows is a countdown of our favourite 50, which will run Monday through Friday at 9am sharp. Please feel free to disagree with this highly subjective list in the comments.

So it begins.

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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.

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Spitballin’ (or Super Pass It To Bulis: All In, if you love adventurous acronymizing) is a feature that allows us to touch on a multitude of things really fast, because in the world of hockey, there are always lots of things to find and colour. Here are a few topics that deserve mention.

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