|Phil Kessel, Maple Leafs come back to life in Game 2 to tie series||05.04.13 at 11:40 pm ET|
Whether it was jitters, lack of playoff experience, or just an off night that plagued the Maple Leafs in Game 1 against the Bruins, those obstacles appeared to be overcome in Game 2 as they evened the series with a 4-2 win on Saturday.
“We were a little tight, first game,” said Joffrey Lupul, who scored twice for Toronto. “We weren’t executing. We were missing 12-foot passes that NHL players usually don’t miss. We were a little tentative, whether we want to admit it or not. Those nights happen, and it’s how you react. We reacted pretty well tonight.”
The Leafs came back with a steady, opportunistic performance, taking advantage of several defensive miscues by the Bruins after Nathan Horton gave Boston a 1-0 lead in the second period. They took 32 shots after managing just 20 in Game 1, and they earned second and third chances, forcing both Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask to stop multiple shots in a row in one second-period sequence.
But the exclamation point on the Leafs’ improved performance was their third goal, the one that belonged to former Bruin Phil Kessel. Less than a minute into the third period, Kessel was approaching the Bruins’ blue line and looking for a pass that came from Nazem Kadri back in the Leafs’ zone.
Kadri hit him in his stride, and Kessel blew past Dennis Seidenberg to beat Rask five-hole. It was his first even-strength goal in 24 games against the Bruins, silencing the fans who’d chanted his name mockingly earlier, at least for the moment.
“I was happy, obviously,” Kessel said. “It’s been a long time. Felt nice to score. I just got lucky. ‘¦ I had a couple other chances tonight, and just snuck it past him.”
For most of the game, the Bruins kept Kessel off the board by matching him up with Chara. On that play, though, it was Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk on the ice, neither of whom were anywhere near him by the time he scored.
|Barry Melrose on D&C: Maple Leafs have to ‘be the Boston Bruins to be successful’||05.02.13 at 12:33 pm ET|
ESPN NHL analyst Barry Melrose talked with Dennis & Callahan on Thursday to analyze the Bruins’ Game 1 victory over the Maple Leafs. Game 2 is Saturday in Boston, before the series shifts to Toronto on Monday.
After trailing 1-0 early in the first period, the Bruins quickly answered with two first-period goals and coasted to a 4-1 win.
“[The Bruins] were awesome after [Wade Redden‘s goal],” Melrose said. “They looked like the old Bruins after that. They were physical, their play in the neutral zone was great. I can probably think of 10 passes and plays intercepted by the Boston Bruins in the neutral zone. They attacked the net with ferocity. And [Tuukka] Rask, he didn’t get a lot of work, but I thought he made three or four key saves when the game was on the line. It was just what the doctor ordered if you’re a Bruins fan.”
Melrose also discussed the importance for the Maple Leafs to be more physical in the coming games, and the consequence of not doing so — a quick exit in the playoffs.
“They have to play more aggressive,” Melrose said. “They’ve got to do some hitting. Toronto’s got to play on the edge. They’ve got to be finishing checks, winning battles. They’ve got to be the Boston Bruins to be successful, and they weren’t last night. They were always retaliating, they were never initiating, and that’s got to change for the Toronto Maple Leafs. If it doesn’t, this will be a short series.”
The Maple Leafs’ top offensive weapon, Phil Kessel, was essentially neutralized by the Bruins in Game 1. This is becoming all to familiar for Kessel, as he has struggled in his career against his former team, due in large part to Zdeno Chara‘s stellar defense.
“Chara’s on the ice every time Kessel’s on the ice,” Melrose said. “That just shows how good Chara is. Year in and year out I would give Chara the Norris Trophy, he’s that good defensively and that’s what he did last night. He’s out there with that huge reach. He’s got that mean streak to him, and Kessel just has no open ice. Kessel needs room, Kessel needs some space to make plays and with Chara and that long stick and that huge reach, he just doesn’t have any time or space to make plays. Chara always eats Kessel up.”
The favorites out of the Eastern Conference are the top-seeded Penguins, who took care of the Islanders 5-0 in their playoff opener. However, as we saw last year with the Kings, anything is possible in the playoffs.
“We see that every year,” Melrose said. “We see LA last year make the eighth spot and win the Stanley Cup and win it easily. It’s about getting your game together, it’s about getting hot at the right time, it’s about great goaltending, it’s about your special team kicking in key goals at key times and stopping their power play. We see it all the time. A team that looks unbeatable at the start of the playoffs loses in four straight. So, without a doubt things can change and change very quickly.”
|Phil Kessel not dwelling on past with Bruins||05.01.13 at 1:29 pm ET|
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.”
|Barry Pederson on D&C: ‘Very important playoffs for Tuukka’ Rask||04.30.13 at 10:48 am ET|
NESN Bruins analyst Barry Pederson checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday to break down the B’s first-round playoff series against the Maple Leafs.
One of the potential question marks heading into this strike-shortened season for the B’s was goaltending. During the 2011 Stanley Cup run, Tim Thomas was a standout. Now Thomas’ former backup, Tuukka Rask, is the No. 1 netminder. Rask proved up to the task, finishing sixth in the NHL in goals-against average, third in save percentage and tied for first with five shutouts.
“This is going to be a very important playoffs for Tuukka,” Pederson said. “By most standards he had a very good season. I think he’ll be one of the finalists for the Vezina. He did not get enough support, especially through the power-play scoring and the offensive side. I expect the Bruins to have a little bit of an advantage over Toronto in the goaltending department, which is one of the reasons when we were doing our previews for the playoffs and who the Bruins would match up well against; I thought the Bruins would do much better on a matchup basis with Toronto and the Islanders vs. the Rangers and Ottawa. … The Bruins, when they’re successful, they attack. They come at you in waves. They forecheck, they put pressure on your defense, they have turnovers, they’re physical, they’re intense. Then they go to the dirty areas, that’s what I want to see.”
On offense, the Maple Leafs are led by former Bruin Phil Kessel. The 25-year-old led the team in goals (20), assists (32) and points (52), ranking eighth, ninth and sixth in the league in those categories, respectively.
[Kessel] is a very important player and the key guy there will be [Zdeno] Chara,” Pederson said. “It could also be [Dennis] Seidenberg if they’re going to go after them that way. So far, obviously the stats speak for themselves. Phil has had a tremendous offensive season except when he plays the Bruins, and there’s one reason for that. It’s Chara. He’s that good defensively.”
|Brad Marchand says Tyler Seguin is ‘pressure’ free now, and it shows||03.08.13 at 1:18 pm ET|
Forget the pressure of playing against his hometown Leafs on Thursday. After all, Tyler Seguin has proven that’s not really pressure at all. It’s inspiration.
The true pressure test came early in the season in the form of expectations for the budding superstar of the Bruins.
On Sept. 11, he signed a six-year, $34.5 million contract extension with the Bruins, when he was still 20 years of age. He then lit it up in Switzerland during the four-month NHL lockout, just to stay sharp. Stay sharp he did with 25 goals and 15 assists in 29 games with Biel.
He started relatively slowly with three goals and seven assists in his first 17 games. But since the calendar turned to March he’s been on fire. He has four goals in two assists in four games in March and has turned the Patrice Bergeron–Brad Marchand line into the most productive on the team.
“I think there’s a lot of pressure on him coming into the year with his new contract and with how well he did over in Switzerland,” Marchand said after Thursday’s 4-2 win over the Leafs in which he had two goals and an assist. “I think he was feeling pressure a bit because a lot of people were saying a lot of things about him, and it seems like right now he’s just very calm and confident, and he’s not really worried about anything else. He’s just focused on playing, and when he does that he’s a great player, and you see it night in and night out right now. He’s making a difference.”
Funny, it’s the assist he got that impressed everyone the most. After Marchand fought for a loose puck near the Toronto bench, he picked it up and made like a missile for the Leafs goal in the final minute of the first period. He was stopped but the rebound was left for Bergeron to tap home for a 1-0 lead.
“When Segs is on his game that’s the kind of things he does,” Marchand marveled. “He takes the puck to the net hard, and he uses speed and skill, and you saw that in the first goal, you saw it in the second goal, and I guess again on the third one. His speed, that’s how he has to play.”
In 14 career games against his hometown Leafs (actually, he grew up in nearby Brampton, Ont.), he has 10 goals and six assists. Any extra bounce for the player who is the reason for the “Thank you, Kessel” chants at TD Garden?
“I’d like to say no,” Seguin said with a smile. “I mean I try to prepare for every game but [Thursday] I thought we did a good job, I think all of our goals our line scored so it was a total line effort whether it was winning battles or making nice passes.
Is there is a little more relief now that these pucks are hitting the back of the net?
“Yeah, you could say that,” Seguin said. “I think every guy in here likes to score and I’m no exception so definitely feels good.
“I think the last couple weeks I’ve just been playing good in my D-Zone and competing a lot more than I think I was in the start of the season. Over in Europe I think I was circling a bit more and didn’t really have to battle, I don’t even know if I got hit over there for the few months I was there but I had to find that game again with me, and I think it’s coming around now.”
The fire everyone always wanted to see from Seguin has been lit. How long will it burn?
“I mean I think it just comes with not producing and just getting more determined and getting back to focusing on the little things more than the big picture or the statistics, I’m starting with that and things are rolling from there,” he said. “I mean it feels good. I think again, like I was saying, as a whole, as a line, I think we’re playing really well, we’re moving the puck well and winning battles and I think with our experience with each other over the last two years those two the last three, it’s really clicking right now.”
Seguin couldn’t help but get a little friendly jab in at Marchand when reminded that he’s scoring all the goals that Marchand was getting from his assists early in the season.
“I just gave it to March [early in the season],” Seguin said. “What else are you going to do, look at the stats?
Well, that’s not a bad place now for No. 19.
|Phil Kessel trade comes full circle as Dougie Hamilton faces hometown Maple Leafs||02.01.13 at 3:31 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Bruins rookie Dougie Hamilton will experience a couple of firsts Saturday night against the Maple Leafs. Not only will it be his first time facing the team he grew up for rooting in their building, but it will be the first time he faces Phil Kessel.
Were it not for Kessel, Hamilton probably wouldn’t be a Bruin — instead, he’d likely be a Maple Leaf. The ninth overall pick in 2011, Hamilton was the second of two first-round picks traded from the Leafs to the B’s in 2009 in exchange for Kessel. The other one was 2010 second overall pick Tyler Seguin, and Saturday will mark the first time that all three players take the same ice at the same time.
Though their careers have yet to fully play out, the trade has been viewed as lopsided in the Bruins’ favor, based on the elite talent they were able to net in Seguin and Hamilton. Both players are Ontario natives who grew up Leafs fans (Seguin hails from Brampton, while Hamilton is a Toronto native), so watching a pair of local stars play big roles for the rival Bruins is a tough thing for fans of the Maple Leafs to do.
“It’s cool,” Hamilton said his connection to the Leafs. “It doesn’t really mean anything to me. I wasn’t really part of the trade. I was just the pick I guess. I don’t really think about it, I don’t really care about it, so it doesn’t really matter.”
So far this season, Kessel, Seguin and Hamilton each have four points, with Seguin’s empty-netter against the Hurricanes Monday the only goal scored between them. Last season, Seguin was a Leafs-killer with seven goals with four assists in six games against Toronto, so perhaps Seguin can pick up his first real goal of the season and then some on Saturday. If Bruins fans want to get greedy, perhaps Hamilton could score the first goal of his NHL career against Kessel and the Leafs.
While Hamilton understands that he will always be connected to the Kessel trade, he is more excited to take the ice at Air Canada Centre, especially as a visitor.
“I guess I always dreamt of playing for the Leafs, but I think as I’ve gotten older, I think it will be cooler to be on the other side,” he said.
While one would think the 19-year-old would have plenty of friends and family hounding him for tickets to his homecoming, Hamilton insisted that while he’ll have a few family members in the stands, his friends will have to find their own way in.
“They’re getting their own tickets,” he said. “It makes it easier on me.”
As for things in Boston, they’ve been pretty good for Hamilton. The 19-year-old has fit in quite nicely for the B’s, as his four assists are tied for second on the team, as are his 21 shots on goal.
It’s only been seven games, but Hamilton has been through the hype machine that comes with being a top-10 pick coming into a big market, and when asked about the “Dougie mania” that’s been going on — the chants, the playing of Cali Swag District’s “Teach Me How To Dougie,” etc. — he said he’s quite all right with it.
“I think for me,” he said, “I’m just going day by day and just trying to enjoy myself and have fun.
“I don’t mind the Dougie mania,” he added with a grin. “It’s OK with me.”
|There is a horse named ‘ThankyouKessel’||12.06.12 at 12:39 pm ET|
As hockey fans await whether the news with CBA negotiations is good or bad, here’s something that will at least make Bruins fans grin.
Bruins fan Joe MacIsaac owns and trained a harness racing horse that runs frequently in Toronto. The name of the horse? “ThankyouKessel.”
“ThankyouKessel” is of course the chant that fills TD Garden whenever the Leafs are in town, as the trade of Phil Kessel to Toronto in 2009 netted the B’s three draft picks that ended up becoming Tyler Seguin, Jared Knight and Dougie Hamilton.
Here’s video of the horse and the owner, from Greg Wyshynski and the fantastic folks at Yahoo! Sports’ Puck Daddy blog.