There is no Klassic Kessel goal.
Not the peerless one-timer of an Alex Ovechkin. Not the quintessential wrister of an Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby. Not the sublime backhander of a Mats Sundin. Certainly not the rocket of a Zdeno Chara.
But give the Leaf sniper just a sliver of open space to exploit, a split-second heartbeat to react, the low puck-cycle maneuvering that opens up a shooting angle, and Phil will thrill.
No one in the league has better hand-eye co-ordination.
That flair extensively benefitted linemates in the condensed 2013 season, as Kessel’s game matured, became more play-making nuanced, transforming him into an increasingly multi-dimensional threat.
Yet it’s oft overlooked that, since the start of the 2010 season, only a handful of players in the NHL have accumulated better numbers than Kessel. Over the past three seasons, he is eighth in points with 198 and tied for fourth in goals with 89.
Of course, it had been a long time since Kessel’s hockey savant gifts were showcased in the playoffs, extending back beyond the critically dissected trade that made him Maple Leaf property. Prior to Saturday night’s Game 2 winner in Boston, he’d last celebrated a post-season goal — a brace of them, actually — in Game 5 of the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinals. He was a Bruin, then.
Little wonder that Kessel was clearly over the moon, raising his arms aloft, pumping the fist, a look of ferocious glee on his face. It had taken four years and endless derision from his baiters in the Bs aviary, but the prodigal winger had finally scored an even-strength marker against Boston and one of immense consequence. Every Leaf was uplifted at that moment. They have so wanted this for him.