The Nashville Predators played a tough series against Vancouver in the Western Conference semifinals but came up short with the Canucks winning the match by a 4-2 margin.
It was a hard fought series for the Predators who left everything they had on the ice but were beaten by a superior team. Pekka Rinne who had to be the MVP for the Preds said, "This year I thought we did everything we could. We played hard every single night and did our best and it wasn’t enough. Vancouver was just that much better. It’s still hard to accept but it’s way easier when you give everything you have."
Going into the series, much of the focus was on Vancouver's top line featuring the Sedin twins and what the Predators would do to contain the tandem. The Preds were successful holding the twins to a combined two goals and five assists and a minus seven in plus/minus in six games.
The real hero for the Canucks turned out to be Ryan Kesler, who was the dominate force in the series. He produced five goals and six assists and contributed on eleven of Vancouver's fourteen total goals in the six game series. He had game winning power play goals in games three and four in Nashville to send the Predator faithful home with a bad tase in their mouth.
One of the more controversial plays of the series was in overtime of game three when Kesler drew a penalty that set up his power play goal that ended up being a defining moment in the series. Shea Weber was whistled for hooking when Kesler "chicken-winged" Weber's stick and sold the penalty to the officials. The hate for Kesler was on in Nashville as he was the new villain in town.
Once the series was over, the Predators were willing to acknowledge what a great series that Kesler had.
David Legwand was direct in his praise, "He won the series for them if you ask me. He was the most dynamic player on the ice, scoring goals and making plays and making things happen out there. We did a good job with the Sedins and he took the bull by the horns and ran with it."
When asked if Kesler ha a different gear in the series, Legwand responded, "I think so, He’s the kind of guy who can do those things. He plays in all situations and gives his team a good chance to succed."
Shane O'Brien knows Kesler well, having played with him the previous two seasons, "He’s going pretty good right now. Playing with him the last couple of years you could see his development as a player and see how good he was really getting. He’s a good player and he’s playing well right now."
The highest praise came from Predators' head coach Barry Trotz, "It was like watching Mark Messier deciding that he was going to win that series. He was great! Kesler was elite, absolutely elite. If he continues to play that way Vancouver probably has a chance to win the cup but he will be the playoff MVP bar none. I have not seen a player play better than him so far in the playoffs."
Whether the Sedins step up and share the load or if Kesler will continue his dominance will be seen in the Western Conference Finals against San Jose. At this point in the playoffs, Kesler is clearly the leader for the Conn Smythe Trophy if the Canucks continue to move toward their first ever Stanley Cup.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOntheGlass