Tonight we are going to witness the most anticipated match-up in the 2017 season of professional hockey. For the Western Conference championship of the National Hockey League. Are you ready? NHL fans, are you rrrrrrrrrready? For the thousands in attendance. For the millions watching around the world. From the capital city of Nashville, Tennessee. Let’s get it on!
Now for the combatants.
“His family and friends watching him play, I don’t know how you cheer for a guy like that,” said a frustrated Johansen after the Predators Game 2 loss. “It just doesn’t make sense how he plays the game. I’m just trying to go out there and play hockey, and it sucks when you’ve got to pull a stick out of your groin every shift.”
“He thinks he’s getting under guys’ skin,” Johansen said. “I don’t know what he’s doing. Really, I can’t put a finger on it.”
Johansen notched a goal and an assist in Sunday’s 5-3 loss to Anaheim.
The Predators sniper was obviously disappointed after his team’s 5-3 loss Sunday at the hands of the Ducks in Game 2. But the piercing comments occurred when someone mentioned Ducks agitator Ryan Kesler.
Is Johansen really a whiner?
No. He is upset because Kesler is taking away the two things most dear to a playmaker…time and space. His comments were a cry for help to anyone that can aid him, whether it be his teammates, the NHL or the referees.
“I play the game hard, and obviously he doesn’t like that.”
Kesler relishes his role as Anaheim’s shutdown specialist. He could care less what his opponents think of him. In Games 1 and 2, the 2010-11 Selke Trophy winner wore Johansen like a straight jacket. Every time they lined up opposite one another, Kesler stuck his stick blade somewhere on Johansen’s body where it doesn’t belong. He stunned the Predators center with an elbow and of course they have traded verbal jabs that would embarrass a sailor.
Kesler’s 83 penalty minutes this season were the second-highest mark of his career and he was called for a tripping penalty Sunday.
This is what Kesler does. He’ll drive you batty while laughing at you.
Kesler came to Anaheim from Vancouver n 2014 in a trade for Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa and a first- and -third-round pick. The next year they signed him to a six-year extension that keeps him in Anaheim through the 2022 season at $6,875,000 a year. Certainly fair compensation for a 22 goal scorer, with 58 points and 85 penalty minutes, who skates over 22 minutes in all 82 games. All while shutting down the opposing teams best player.
Is Kesler really a dirty player?
No, no,no…well maybe…sometimes.
Kesler’s job is to toe the line of dirty play and to step over it once in a while.
It will be interesting to see if Preds coach Peter Laviolette will try to keep his top line away from the Ducks’ Kesler line at home with the last change.
Can Kesler continue to get under Johansen’s skin?
Round three is tonight!
Follow Bill on Twitter @LightningShout. You can also email him at: email@example.com.