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Phil Kessel not dwelling on past with Bruins

05.01.13 at 1:29 pm ET
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Phil Kessel is happy to be back in the playoffs, but the former Bruin would probably prefer a different opponent.

There are plenty of storylines in the Bruins-Maple Leafs series, the first one since 1974, and chief among them is that Kessel is facing his old team and the players (Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton, the latter of whom will be a healthy scratch) that were chosen with the first-round picks the Leafs traded to Boston in 2009 for the young scorer.

Kessel ducked the Toronto media on Monday because he didn’t want to face the inevitable questions of what it will be like to face a Boston team that includes a coach that put him in the doghouse, a defenseman who has made their meetings a nightmare and a flashy young Ontario native who could one day become a better scorer than him. After Wednesday’s morning skate, there was nowhere for the shy and oft-criticized Kessel to hide.

“It’s never been me to be much for attention,” Kessel explained. “I’ll talk when I have to talk and that’s about it.”

That is within Kessel’s rights, and he isn’t the first player to do it. Even Seguin, who is far more outgoing than the keep-to-himself Kessel and is more than accommodating of the media, left Edmonton reporters high and dry last year when Taylor Hall and the Oilers were in town. That isn’t the issue though. Bruins fans don’t like Kessel because he didn’t want to play in Boston and the Bruins didn’t want to give him a ridiculous contract. That combination, plus the package Brian Burke and the Leafs were willing to send Boston’s way (two first-round picks, both of which became top-10 picks, as well as a second-rounder), led to Kessel’s exit from the team that drafted him fifth overall in 2006 and saw him become a 36-goal-scorer.

Since then, Kessel, despite continuing his ascent to becoming one of the best scorers in the league (an average of 33 goals over his first three seasons with Toronto and 20 goals in 48 games this season), Kessel has notably disappeared against the Bruins. In 22 career games against the B’s, he has just three goals and six assists for nine points with a woeful minus-22 rating. Fans have gotten on him, at first chanting “Thank You, Kessel” when Seguin (10 goals, six assists for 16 points and a plus-8 vs. his hometown team) has scored against the Leafs, but now just frequently chanting it anyway.

“I had three great years here,” Kessel said Wednesday. “Some great memories. They were great to me when I was here. I figure when you leave, you’re always going to get the grief, right? So it’s OK, but I enjoy playing here. They have great fans and I think it’s going to be a good atmosphere tonight.”

Though Kessel has obviously been silenced on the ice by Zdeno Chara when he has faced the B’s, but it will be interesting to see if he elevates his play in the postseason. After being a healthy scratch for the first three games against the Canadiens in 2008, he had four points (three goals and an assist) in four games. The next postseason, his last one in Boston, he had 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 11 games.

Kessel’s clearly done thinking about that, though, just as he is with his whole Boston experience. He’s back in the playoffs as a Maple Leaf and is more focused on beating his former team than thinking about his days with them.

“That’s four years ago, right?” Kessel said. “I don’t think it matters that much anymore.”

Read More: Phil Kessel, Tyler Seguin,
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