2011 NHL Playoffs: Joe Thornton-Ryan Kesler, Who Will Be the Difference Maker?
Kesler and Thornton didn't disappoint, quickly conflicting with each other on the opening faceoff.
Thornton set the tone early in Game 1 with a goal off of a Roberto Luongo misstep, but it wasn't enough to ward off a Canucks comeback.
Luckily though, there will be three to six more games in this series, plenty of time left for either team to prove themselves.
And for Joe Thornton and Ryan Kesler to battle.
2010-11 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Both Ryan Kesler and Joe Thornton lead their respective teams in scoring this postseason (Thornton is tied with Ryane Clowe).
Kesler has five goals and 11 assists; Thornton has three goals and 10 assists. Each player has two game-winning goals for their team in the playoffs.
Kesler leads the league in points and assists in the playoffs so far.
If past precedent is an indication of future success, Kesler should continue this success in the series against the Sharks.
2010-11 Regular Season
Each player had great years this past season.
Kesler tallied 73 points—41 goals and 32 assists—the third best on the Canucks, behind the Sedin twins and fifth in the league in goals.
Thornton tallied 70 points, 21 goals and 49 assists, the second best on the Sharks, behind Patrick Marleau.
Ryan Kesler had played in 23 playoff games prior to this postseason. He had accumulated three goals and 11 assists.
He already has more of both this season, although that could be contributed to the team getting farther this year than they have since Kesler has been on the team.
Joe Thornton had played in 91 playoff games prior to this postseason. He had accumulated 15 goals and 50 assists.
Career Versus the Opposing Team
Ryan Kesler has played 21 games against the San Jose Sharks. In those games, Kesler has two goals, seven assists and is a minus-five.
Kesler also has six hits and 10 blocked shots against the Sharks.
Joe Thornton has played 34 games against the Vancouver Canucks. Thornton has 41 points against Vancouver, 10 goals and 31 assists.
He has been a plus-five against Vancouver, with eight hits and three blocked shots as well.
Thornton has the advantage in history against the opposing team.
Game 1 of 2011 Western Conference Finals
The Joe Thornton-Ryan Kesler matchup was heated right from the opening faceoff, where there were two false starts before both were kicked out.
Thornton got the scoring started late with his goal, late in the first period. He added an assist on Patrick Marleau's goal to give the Sharks a 2-1 lead.
However, the Canucks found their way back. Kesler recorded his only point by setting up Henrik Sedin's game-winning goal in the third period.
Verdict: Ryan Kesler Will Be the Difference Maker
Joe Thornton has better numbers against the Vancouver Canucks and had more points in Game 1.
However, Ryan Kesler has come up big for the Canucks this past season and already in the playoffs. He even did it last night, setting up the game-winning goal.
Plus, Kesler has taken time to get hot in the other two series already. In the first games of the preceding two series, Kesler only had one point. He tallied an assist against the Chicago Blackhawks and no points against the Nashville Predators, in each of those Game 1s.
We've seen how Kesler finished both of those series.
I predict Kesler will do the same in this series, making his presence known when it really matters.