As Phil Kessel makes his return to Boston, I can’t help but wonder why some people are still asking who the Leafs should get to play with him.
Phil Kessel has been playing with Matt Stajan for most of his time in Toronto. Phil Kessel has 10 goals in 15 games with the Maple Leafs. Phil Kessel is also on a point-per-game pace for the first time in his career. I don’t see a problem here.
Matt Stajan isn’t the greatest playmaker in the world by any means, but he knows enough to get Kessel the puck:
Sure, Stajan is prone to a bad giveaway here and there, and passes up on great scoring chances when he should shoot, but at least he is creating offence.
He’s good at making those short, 3-foot passes on breakouts or in the neutral zone, that lead to scoring chances on the other end:
Sure they are just simple little plays, but they are the right plays. They utilize Kessel’s speed. I’d much rather have Kessel playing with Stajan than a guy like John Mitchell, who would always seem to hang on to the puck too long.
Stajan has assisted on 40% of Kessel’s goals. Sure, it’s not as high as the 54% in the overblown Marc Savard myth, but decent nonetheless. Add in new linemate Alexei Ponikarovsky, and 70% of Kessel’s goals have been assisted by Stajan or Ponikarovsky.
Point is, Kessel is the straw that stirs the drink here. He doesn’t need Marc Savard. He’s doing just fine playing with a pass-first centreman and a big winger on the opposite side.
As Kessel’s become more comfortable, he’s learned how to utilize his teammates and their tendencies. They move the puck well as a 5-man unit and create space for Kessel that way.
By the way, Marc Savard is under a point-per-game pace for the first time in 6 seasons. Enjoy the game.
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