In a season where he broke out offensively with 41 goals, earned some Hart Trophy talk and was nominated for the Selke Trophy for the third consecutive season, Ryan Kesler credited his "MVP" status to the Vancouver Canucks due to his straying away from his old self (an elite NHL pest) because he saw it was hurting the team.
But Old Ryan has made appearances during their series with the Nashville Predators and it was no more evident than in Game 4, when he drew two penalties, including one that led to his game-winning power-play goal to give the Canucks a 3-1 series lead.
Kesler's irritability made Predators defenseman Ryan Suter take an undisciplined penalty with the game tied early in the third period; one that he later owned up for after talking about an earlier play where Kesler hit Mike Fisher in the face with his stick.
That was a sign that the wheels on the Nashville train are slowly coming off.
The belief in the Vancouver dressing room is that for all the scrums, all the chirping, all the face washes, and all the frustrations of falling on the wrong side in three of four tight games is that, the Predators have lost their discipline.
And in the process, slowly emptying the gas in the tank.
The Canucks believe they are not only grating on the Predators, they are wearing them down. There may still be a lot of discussion about whether the Sedins have found their game or not. But Daniel doesn't think there's any doubt, citing the number of shifts the twins have spent grinding out both Suter and Shea Weber in Nashville's zone.
The twins had several long, tough shifts against Suter and Weber in the two games in Nashville. One of the best lasted 45 seconds with about three minutes left in Game 4. For all of it, Suter and Weber, who have played about half this series, were chasing the twins around in their own end. The Sedins didn't score but they looked like the Sedins again. Suter and Weber looked like they were weighed down with sand in their skates.
"It's going to pay off," Daniel said. "If it doesn't pay off [in Game 5], it will pay off the next game. When they play so many minutes, it's going to cost them."
In Game 4, Weber (26:25) and Suter (28:26) played the least minutes of the series so far; that's after back-to-back overtime games, including Game 2 when the pair played a whopping 42 minutes each. Playing against the Sedins' line makes those minutes even heavier for Weber and Suter.
Alain Vigneault has kept his blueline fresh, while Barry Trotz has had to ride his workhorses in Weber and Suter; but the tank might be on empty. The Nashville pair were both minuses for the first time seven games in Game 4 and with the Predators' season on the line tonight, they will once again be looked up to stabilize the back.
Down 3-1 and heading into Rogers Arena on Saturday night, can the discipline return for the Predators knowing that Vancouver has scored on three of their last seven power play opportunities?
The Canucks know they can get under Nashville's skin now; and with guys like Kesler, Max Lapierre and Alex Burrows being master graters, one undisciplined penalty could mean the end of their season.