VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Canucks have lost five consecutive home playoff games, dropped nine of their last 11 in the post-season, and scored just 17 goals in their past 13 playoff games.
Spanning all of that futility, Ryan Kesler has been entirely consistent. He has scored in a grand total of none of those games.
The fact is, Kesler has been hurt or recovering from surgery for much of that time — which proves how important he is to the success out here in Vancouver.
His play in Game 1 was so lethargic, it wasn’t a question of whether he was sick or injured, but rather, an ongoing, in-game analysis took place regarding what the malady actually was.
“I’m healthy,” Kesler said Thursday morning. “Always been healthy.”
If you’re a Canucks fan, that’s not what you want to hear. But if you’re a Canucks fan, Kesler said a lot of things on Thursday that you don’t want to hear, and not nearly enough of what you do.
Of his new spot on the wing next to Derek Roy and Chris Higgins, an accepting Kesler said, “I’ll play wherever they put me. My job is to help the team win, just like everyone else.”
On winning Game 2: “It’s a fine line, between winning and losing. A couple bad breaks, maybe a couple of turnovers. We’ll look at video, and we’ll get better.”
On the Canucks needing more from he and the Sedins: “Obviously, we’re the leaders on the team. It’s up to us at this time of year. But, it’s a 20-man team, and we just can’t be going. We need 20 guys going.
“We’re going to try and be the difference makers out there, and go from there.”
You can start the debate any time now about how much is left in the tank for the 28-year-old, after hip, shoulder and wrist surgeries sprinkled over the past two seasons. But even if the body needs some coaxing, the mind of a leader should not be dinted.
Kesler wears an ‘A’ for the Canucks, and the evidence is there: If he doesn’t produce in the playoffs, the Canucks don’t win.
His approach, however, differs greatly from the other leaders on this team.
Whereas Kesler talks about “a 20-man team,” “a couple of bad breaks,” “looking at video,” and “trying” to get better, Daniel spoke Thursday of his responsibilities as a leader in pointed words. They have to produce, he and Henrik say on a daily basis.
“That’s why we’re here. That’s no secret,” Daniel said. “If we don’t score the chances of us winning games are not as big as when we do score.”
It’s simple math, right? But that is Daniel’s way of stating the facts: It’s on him, and Henrik.
Not “20 other guys.” And certainly not the video guy.
Wouldn’t you, just once, like to see Kesler look into the camera and speak with as much leadership as he showed during his Selke season?
To say, “We’re going to win, and that’s that,” then go out and play that way?
Because the facts are in: If Kesler and the Sedins don’t kick start this offence, it will not happen. The Canucks will lose, the window will close, and the 2011 Cup run will go down with Calgary (2004) and Edmonton (2006) as one-offs.
It’s all on these guys, and two of them know it.
“That’s the way it is,” Daniel said. “You can’t ask a young guy, or someone on the third line to lead us. It’s got to be the top guys. We realize that. We’ve been brought up in this system, where Markus (Naslund) and (Todd) Bertuzzi and those guys were here, and Trevor (Linden). That’s the way it’s always been.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s the first game of the regular season or the playoffs – we’re going to have to produce to be successful.”
Kesler and the Sedins each went pointless in Game 1, divvying up six shots and no goasl between them.
Back in Kesler’s dressing room stall, we asked him how he can return to the scoring, net-driving, successful centreman that carried this team Messier-like through a series against Nashville two years ago.
“Do more of what you just said,” he replied. “It’s as easy as that, isn’t it?”
Yes, that’s another of Kesler’s traits. He’s testy with us media types, and sarcastic.
And in the end, who really cares how a player acts in front of the microphones? It’s what he does on the ice that matters most.
Zero goals in 13 playoff games and counting. That’s what matters most for Ryan Kesler.
Talk is cheap. Unless that’s all you have to quell the critics.