NHL

Cullen: Canucks ride Kesler to series win

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Scott Cullen
5/10/2011 1:25:03 AM
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It didn't come easily, but the Vancouver Canucks are advancing to the Western Conference Final after taking out the Nashville Predators in six games.

With two more assists in the clinching game, Canucks centre Ryan Kesler put an exclamation mark on a sensational performance that included 11 points in six games, while leading all Canucks forwards with nearly 25 minutes of ice time per game.  He also won 70.9% of his faceoffs in the last two games.

How important was Kesler to the Canucks' cause in this series?  He was the only Canuck with better than a point per game and in the last four games of the series, Kesler had ten points on 12 Vancouver goals.

Kesler's utter dominance allowed the Canucks to get through the series even though Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin didn't exactly thrive, combining for seven points and a minus-10 rating in the series. 

Daniel Sedin scored one goal -- the series winner -- on 28 shots, in the series.  Daniel also played just 14:00 in Game Six, his fewest minutes in a game since March 2009.

In the losing effort, Joel Ward and David Legwand led the way for Nashville, scoring eight of Nashville's 11 goals in the series.  Ward finished the series with eight points and Legwand had five.

For a team with limited offensive options, the Predators couldn't overcome a lack of production from the likes of Sergei Kostitsyn and Patric Hornqvist, who didn't find the scoresheet once all series.

Add in star defenceman Shea Weber being held off the scoresheet and three of Nashville's top four scorers during the regular season didn't register a single point in six games against Vancouver.

Overall, though, the Predators have to be happy with their postseason.  It was the first time that the franchise reached the second round and they acquitted themselves well when facing the top-seeded team in the Western Conference.

The Canucks obviously have to be pleased with reaching the Conference Final for the first time since 1994, but each of the first two rounds have been extended longer than expected, making the Canucks' path more difficult that it really had to be.

With either Detroit or San Jose coming to face the Canucks in the next round, the Canucks had better hope the Sedins can turn up their games; otherwise it's asking a lot of Kesler to carry this team like he just did in the series against Nashville.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Kesler and Legwand (Photo: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
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