Phil Kessel – The Cure
It’s fairly obvious the Leafs are a team that wanders around looking for a win like men in a desert. Once they get close enough to civilization, it turns out to be a mirage.
Update: After careful deliberation, our very own Gus Katsaros was not only credited with his Kessel/Savard information, but he has been invited to appear on Hockey Central at Noon today during the show’s 2 hour timeslot beginning at 12:00 EST. More info inside.
Toronto has been snake bit the entire season – whether it’s goaltending, then poor defensive plays, and now goal scoring – they just can’t seem to find a way. Phil Kessel’s debut is signs that water may in fact be just over the next hill.
Toronto, who just last weak was ranked first in the league on the powerplay, had 8 man advantage opportunities tonight, and while they did manage to bury one to tie the game, they just couldn’t find a way to finish off the now 5-4-4 mediocre-Lecavalier-no-longer-loving-hockey team; however, Jonas Gustavsson did manage to pull of the impossible by posting a 0.937 SV% on 32 shots.
Phil Kessel was expected to be slowly brought back into the lineup. The top end had him figuring to average around 14 minutes of ice-time. That did not happen. Kessel played 23:50 of ice time, just under a minute less than Francois Beauchemin, while Kaberle lead the time as per usual with 27:58. So much for easing him into the lineup, but he seemed eager to get his first goal over with as he took a career high 10 shots in the game. Whoever has stated in the past “no one will get him the puck”, no worries, he gets them himself.
Kessel fished out opportunity after opportunity and nearly won the game with John Mitchell in overtime. But as luck as it (or does not in the Leafs case) the Lightning would steal the game on a questionable call. Jonas Gustavsson was pushed by Ryan Malone after taking his shot, knocking the goaltender down, as well as dislodging the net before the puck went in. But that’s alright, because God hates the Leafs.
Phil Kessel was welcomed back to the NHL by Mattias Ohlund in the first period. Kessel tried to stick handle his way into the offensive zone, and at the last minute, he saw Ohlund ready to stop the Kessel-train in a big way. Click here to see Ohlund’s hit on Kessel.
But Kessel would return and put on a strong performance. It had many fans salivating at the chances the Leafs will have moving forward. While Gustavsson provides the Leafs with the opportunity to win games night in and night out, Kessel improves that possibility by hinting that he might just be able to do what most Leafs cannot right now – score. Putting a little black rubber cylinder into a big red net has eluded the Leafs this season.
With more chemistry, and more time to shake the rest of the rust off, we could be seeing some exciting times ahead for Leafs fans.
The Leafs will now prepare for their away game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday. It will be interesting to see if Gustavsson will get the nod, and if Kessel can quickly get the goal-monkey off his back and enjoy the season with his new team.
Doug MacLean had discussed the stats behind Kessel and Savard’s direct goal scoring combo together last season, but unfortunately he misquoted the true stats to the illusion. Today, after being credited to the research on behalf of MacLean and his statements, MacLean has personally contacted Gus Katsaros to invite him onto Hockey Central at Noon to discuss the stats properly.
I’d like to congratulate Mr. Katsaros for getting the opportunity to not only correct the misquoted data, but also for putting Maple Leafs Hot Stove on the mainstream map in a big way, and for his impeccable research skills in getting such a wonderful opportunity.
Good luck on the show today, Gus, and congratulations.
Micheal A. Aldred