Wrong place, wrong time for Phil Kessel as he brings slump to Boston
|02.14.11 at 11:38 pm ET|
When it comes to Phil Kessel, “draft” is a popular word. The fifth overall draft pick in 2006, Kessel was traded for critical draft picks in September 2009 and, in his second season in Toronto, was the last pick of the NHL All-Star fantasy draft.
Selections aside, it’s hard to imagine anyone could have drafted such a lousy script for the 23-year-old of late. The former 36-goal scorer for the Bruins has been freezing for the Maple Leafs over the last month, racking up a grand total of zero goals in his last 14 games.
With Kessel’s luck, he is — of course — going to be in town Tuesday to potentially extend that streak to 15 games, the longest stretch of games without a goal for Kessel since his rookie year in Boston. In that 2006-07 campaign, Kessel failed to score from Jan. 18 to Feb. 20, though the combination of adjusting to the league as a rookie and coming off surgery for cancer is probably the toughest thing a player could face.
Incidentally, he also went 14 games without a goal during the 2008-09 season, and that stretch also occurred around the same part of the season, lasting from Jan. 6 to Feb. 21. The months of January and February have not been nice to Kessel, and as he’ll surely be reminded of Tuesday, neither has the Garden crowd when he and his Maple Leafs have rolled into town.
While Bruins scorers have also had their slumps (Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton have had goal-less streaks of 12 and 10, respectively, at points this season, while Blake Wheeler‘s 14-game goal slump matches Kessel’s), here’s a fun stat to play off of Kessel’s current drought: Entering Tuesday, only one Bruins player has a longer streak of games without a goal than Kessel — defenseman Andrew Ference, who has gone 16 games. Not surprisingly, nobody will be getting on the blueliner any time soon for that.
While Bruins fans will enjoy every moment of Kessel’s struggles (especially if Tyler Seguin scores, which will be the cue for a certain chant), Toronto fans have been nearly as relentless in their treatment of the player their team traded three high picks to acquire. Check out this picture from Puck Daddy, a great hockey blog on Yahoo! Sports:
That’s just cruel. Kessel will be at TD Garden on Tuesday, but whether he is once again “missing” for the Maple Leafs remains to be seen. Things haven’t been rosy for Kessel and the Leafs, as the team has 52 points (fifth-worst in the NHL as of Monday night) and said earlier in his drought that it “might not be working out here” before backpedaling. Kessel will be skating on a line with Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak.
NAME THAT QUOTE
As noted above, the Bruins and Leafs have each had their scorers face slumps this season. Below are two quotes, one of which is Claude Julien on a Bruins player at some point this season. The other is Leafs coach Ron Wilson on Kessel.
“There’s been a lot of talk about [player] not scoring goals. Well, I can stand here tonight and when I see the effort that [player] puts in the game, I can live with that. Obviously I would like to see him score and I think everybody would. You’ve got to recognize when a guy is not scoring goals, but you also have to recognize some of the good things he does.”
“[He] is the one who has to work his way out of this. There is only so much you can do to help him in terms of playing with different people. He has to go earn his chances and dig in and help in other ways until the puck goes in the net.”
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