SPORTS

Kesler and Silfverberg acquisitions paying off for Ducks in playoffs

04/29/2015 02:03 EDT | Updated 08/05/2015 04:00 EDT
Ryan Kesler is right at home with Jakob Silfverberg on his wing and Canadian fans booing him until their throats are hoarse.

"I loved it," he said in Winnipeg last week. "I embraced it."

Kesler and the Anaheim Ducks will first get the friendly confines of Honda Center in Games 1 and 2 of the Pacific Division final before moving back into hostile territory for Games 3 and 4 at Calgary. After he had five points and Silfverberg six in the first-round sweep of the Jets, the duo has chemistry going to back up Ducks stars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

"He's just a smart player. We read off each other well," Kesler said of Silfverberg. "It's been unbelievable for him to play the way he's playing right now. He's been one of the leaders on this team. He has definitely raised his game."

Kesler and Silfverberg are only now part of Anaheim's core after deals the past two summers. Kesler came from the Vancouver Canucks last off-season, and Silfverberg was part of the 2013 trade that sent Bobby Ryan to the Ottawa Senators.

When the Ducks first acquired Silfverberg, coach Bruce Boudreau thought the young Swede was a pure goal-scorer and didn't know how good he was defensively. Now he does.

"The reason he plays all the time, an awful lot, and he kills penalties and everything is because he's so strong in the two-way game," Boudreau said. "His positioning, everything, is always spot on."

Silfverberg considered his season a solid one, even if the production wasn't always there. After 13 goals and 26 assists in the regular season, his two goals (including one game-winner) and four assists are second on the team in these playoffs.

"Lately I'm trying to hold on more to the puck and trying to make more plays out there," Silfverberg said. "That has a lot to do with where the confidence level is right now, and I feel like Bruce trusts me and that helps out a lot, too."

Boudreau pointed to Silfverberg's NHL-best nine shootout goals on 13 attempts as evidence of his quick and deceptive release. It was evident on his Game 2 winner against Winnipeg that fooled Ondrej Pavelec from mid-range.

Silfverberg, who drastically outscored Ryan in the first round despite playing two fewer games, has found more offence playing alongside Kesler. The big, hard-checking centre has been exactly what the Ducks wanted.

"Kes, he's come in and done what he's supposed to do," Getzlaf said. "He's supported us, allowed me not to have to play so many minutes in certain situations, as well as doing his own job. For Kes to come in, he plays mean, he plays with an edge and he's been able to put some pucks in the net for us."

Of Kesler's three goals, one was a game-winner and the other provided the exclamation point on the sweep of the Jets. Being the villain and hearing opposing fans boo feeds Kesler.

"It brings my game to the next level," he said. "It gets me going."

Boudreau said everywhere the Ducks go in Canada, people are saying something bad about Kesler.

"You’re going to have to ask him about what he did to this poor country," Boudreau said. "But you know what? Some guys like it."

Kesler said he hasn't asked fans why he's so unpopular in Canadian cities. His time with the Canucks would seem to do it, but the Livonia, Mich., native scored to help beat Canada at the 2004 world juniors and during the 2010 Olympics expressed his "hate" for the red-and-white team.

That'll do it. And Kesler won't make any more friends in Calgary if he continues his production in the second round.

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