Vancouver Canucks: Is the Real Ryan Kesler Finally Back?

Joel Prosser@@JoelProsserCorrespondent INovember 26, 2011

GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 25:  Ryan Kesler #17 of the Vancouver Canucks awaits a face off during the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena on November 25 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. The Canucks defeated the Coyotes 5-0.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Ryan Kesler has been a shadow of the Selke Trophy-winning, 41 goal-scoring machine that dominated games for the Canucks last season. 

This lack of prowess has been understandable, as Kesler underwent major hip surgery during the summer, and missed training camp plus the first five games of the regular season. 

The Canucks have just posted their first three-game winning streak of this inconsistent season, and not surprisingly, Kesler has played some of his best games of the season during this stretch. 

Over the last three games, Kesler has recorded four points, with a pair of assists and a pair of goals. Now, granted one of the goals was an empty-netter to seal a victory over the Avalanche, but the other goal against Phoenix was a vintage Kesler wrist shot to the top corner

Kesler now has four goals and seven assists in 17 games this season. And perhaps more importantly, he improved after the Phoenix game to a neutral plus/minus rating. Neutral isn't good, but it is a huge improvement over seeing the reigning Selke winner being a minus player. 

Over the last two games, Kesler has been flying, using his speed to force turnovers and get in on the forecheck, as we saw him do on a regular basis last year. His faceoffs have also improved, as he is 59 percent on draws over the last two games as well. 

Not surprising, this improved play from the reigning defensive player of the year has also coincided with some strong goaltending, as Cory Schneider has recorded back-to-back shutouts.

Schneider certainly does deserve the lion's share of the credit for the shutouts, but a renewed focus on solid defence by the Canucks skaters, led by Kesler, has definitely been a factor in limiting the shots that Schneider had to face.

Now, the question is: Can Kesler keep on improving and find his form from last year?

The Canucks certainly hope so.