|Are Phil Kessel and the Leafs for real, and who’s in net?||11.04.11 at 7:38 pm ET|
One of the biggest questions early in the NHL season is whether Phil Kessel, who’s always been a fast starter, will sustain his crazy numbers over the course of the entire season. Right now, both Kessel and the Maple Leafs have shown no signs of slowing down.
Kessel has scored 30 goals in each of the last three seasons, but with 10 goals through 13 games, he’s on pace for an absurd total of 63. Kessel will eventually come back to earth, but it would appear a safe bet that he should go on to surpass his career-high of 36, which he scored in 2008-09, his final season in Boston.
“Phil’s matured. Just like any other player, he’s getting older,” Claude Julien said of Kessel on Thursday. “When I say he’s matured, [I mean] as a person. As a player, you can see it. He’s a lot stronger hanging on to the puck than he ever was. He shoots the puck and he’s finding ways to get shots off. Every game he has a lot of opportunities, so he’s becoming a better player with age.”
While the world is seeing a better Kessel this season, they’re also seeing a better Toronto team. Though the Bruins handed them a 6-2 beating last month in Boston, it was one of only three regulation losses for the 9-3-1 Leafs this season. Their 19 points are tied with the Penguins (who have played one more game), for best in the East.
One thing worth noting for Saturday is that starting goaltender James Reimer will once again miss a Leafs’ meeting with the Bruins. Coach Ron Wilson said Friday that the former first-round pick “hit a plateau in his recovery” from his upper-body injury. Jonas Gustavsson allowed six goals on Oct. 20 against the Bruins, and in his most recent start allowed three goals in a 3-2 loss against the Senators on Sunday.
Ben Scrivens made his NHL debut Thursday, allowing one goal in a 4-1 victory over the Blue Jackets.
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