That seems to be the mentality Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler
have been playing with the past few months.
The gritty Canucks forwards, who have both already eclipsed their career-high point totals, have been outdoing each other on a nightly basis with sensational plays that have fans jolting to their feet whether at home or on the road.
This all started back on Feb. 2 when Alain Vigneault had Burrows and Kesler practice on different lines for the first time all season.
The following day the Canucks hosted the Carolina Hurricanes looking to end the mother of all winless skids. The RPM line was born as Kesler moved up to the second line alongside Pavol Demitra and Mats Sundin, while Burrows was with Kyle Wellwood and Steve Bernier.
How did Ying and Yang fair without each other for the first time in as far back as most of us can remember?
Kesler had a goal
and two helpers and Burrows scored the game-winner
Not bad for two guys who were thought to be joined at the hip.
Burrows has since found a home next to the Sedins on the top line and RPM is as gelled as ever; anyone who thought this duo would thrive apart is either psychic or a lot smarter than most.
They have though, and in the same way NBA legends Michael Jordan and Larry Bird used to square off in unfathomable shooting contests for Big Macs
back in the day, Burrows and Kesler are now jockeying for play of the game most nights.
Burrows got the nod on Feb. 2 against Carolina for his shorthanded game-winner
; Kesler answered the call a few nights later with a breakaway beauty
Kesler maintained his spot on the throne with a power play goal
the following game against St. Louis, before Burrows knocked him off with an inspired score less than four minutes later
in the same period.
It’s been back and forth madness between the two for the past six weeks and while that’s helped the Canucks jet North in the standings, this intense production has surely resulted in a little friendly competition.
“No, there’s not even a competition, I think it’s really friendly,” said Burrows, who has 19 points (13-6-19) in 21 games since parting ways with Kesler.
“I like when he scores, I’m really happy for him when he scored that big goal the other night against Dallas and I think he was really happy for me when I scored against St. Louis, so it’s not at all a competition.”
“There’s really no competition to be honest,” echoed Kesler, who has 24 points (10-14-24) over that same 21-game span.
“We’re happy for each other and we’re happy the team’s doing good. There isn’t even a little bit of competition, honest.”
Two seemingly rehearsed answers from two close friends who compete at almost everything else under the sun, is it possible that they’re not at least loosely keeping track of head-to-head points, if for nothing more than summer bragging rights?
Shane O’Brien, the occupant of the stall directly across from Burrows and Kesler in the Canucks locker room, has been keeping a close eye on the pair all season and even though he backed up their claims, he said it’s no coincidence their seasons have both been off the charts.
"They’re feeding off each other, they’re both playing so great that they’re feeling good, having a good time and I think that’s more of it than trying to one-up each other,” said O’Brien.
“They push each other, it’s no secret they’re pretty close buddies and they’ve been playing together for a while and they’re both coming into their own a bit this year, and maybe one sees the other guy score and he wants to go out there and chip in as well.
“Whatever they’re doing, as long as we keep rolling, we’re okay with it.”
Twenty-one games have passed since coach Vigneault shuffled the deck and separated Burrows and Kesler and the team has a divine 16-4-1 record over that stretch.
Even more impressive is Vancouver’s imposing record of 8-0-1 when both players record a point in the same game.
If Burrows and Kesler can do such damage apart, just think of the production they’d have together – wait, we’ve been down that road before. Divide and conquer is more their style.
Bogged down as checkers, the pair have spread their wings with some offensive responsibility and while there may not be even a friendly competition going on between them, their production has allowed the Canucks to face any team in the NHL knowing that anything they can do, Vancouver can do better.
You’d be hard pressed to find a better mentality to have down the stretch than that.