Phil Kessel has been one of the NHL’s best goal scorers for the majority of his career, but he doesn’t always get a lot of attention for his playmaking ability.
That was on display on display on Sunday afternoon against the Florida Panthers, and he needed to get a little creative to set up Patric Hornqvist for the Pittsburgh Penguins’ first goal of the game.
With Kessel positioned behind the net, he quickly flipped the puck over the net to Hornqvist who was able to use his hand-eye coordination to bat the puck out of mid-air, beating James Reimer to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead.
It’s the type of play you can try a hundred times and are able to perfectly pull it off maybe once. This is about as perfect as it can get.
That assist for Kessel is his 41st of the season, giving him the team lead.
Phil Kessel, David Backes involved in Penguins – Bruins violence
During these polarized political times, many look to role models for inspiration to get along. That, uh … probably wouldn’t work out so well if you were trying to follow the lead of Phil Kessel and David Backes on Thursday.
OK, they probably didn’t get into a scuffle because of America – even Kessel needling the U.S. during the World Cup of Hockey, though there’s debate in that regard – but admit it; it’s fun to frame it that way.
Regardless, Thursday’s Boston Bruins – Pittsburgh Penguins game has been pretty dramatic, with Pittsburgh taking a 2-0 lead and then Boston charging back to go up 3-2 (at least temporarily).
With all apologies to the amusing lack of defense on Kessel’s goal, the violence brewing between the teams takes the cake, though.
You don’t get to see big names like Backes and Kessel go at it very often, even if this doesn’t really qualify as “fighting.”
So far, video isn’t available of their scuffle/roughing/etc., but there are GIFs. And they’re pretty entertaining.
It sure looks like Kessel started it, or at least was caught retaliating for something:
The Pittsburgh Penguins had their day at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on Thursday, and it started in fine form.
“It is wonderful to be here, welcome to the White House,” President Barack Obama said in his opening remarks. “We are here to celebrate an extraordinary achievement — Phil Kessel is a Stanley Cup champion!”
Shortly after Team USA was officially eliminated from contention at the World Cup of Hockey, the prolific scoring forward made what you could easily determine to be a subtle but not-so-subtle jab on social media at the decision this spring to leave him off the roster.
(It must be noted that Kessel underwent hand surgery this summer, and he is working to return to the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup for opening night of the regular season. It’s been widely believed he was unavailable for this tournament.)
Just sitting around the house tonight w my dog. Felt like I should be doing something important, but couldn't put my finger on it.
The result Tuesday opens the door to plenty of second-guessing and criticism for how this U.S. roster was built for this tournament. Did general manager Dean Lombardi and his group bring the best players to face the likes of Team Canada?
The blueprint was to build a team that was physical and gritty. But what about bringing in additional game-breakers that are dynamic point producers or strong in the puck possession game? Through two round robin games, Team USA scored twice, including a goal in what was essentially garbage time against the Canadians.
At least publicly, head coach John Tortorella, who will take his share of criticism in all this, wouldn’t change anything about the make-up of this team.
Tortorella says that in hindsight he wouldn't change anything about his roster.
In his first season with the team, Phil Kessel ended up being one of the Pittsburgh Penguins most important players on their way to winning the 2016 Stanley Cup.
Along with Carl Hagelin and Nick Bonino, two players added during the season, they created the HBK line that would go on to be Pittsburgh’s most consistent and productive line, with Kessel leading the way with a team-best 10 goals and 22 total points in the playoffs.
It was a postseason performance that silenced pretty much all of the criticism that followed Kessel around during his time in Toronto and helped rewrite the story of his career.
On Monday, he had his day with the Stanley Cup and as expected he ended up taking it back to Toronto, the city he played in for six years before being traded in the summer of 2015.
There wasn’t much fanfare or media attention around his day in the city with the Cup, but we do know one place he took the time to visit: The Toronto Hospital for Sick Children.
Kessel played in Toronto between the 2009-10 and 2014-15 seasons. Even though he was the best player on the team and one of the most productive wingers in in the league during his time there he was a constant target for criticism (sometimes overly harsh criticism) because the team never won and he never seemed to have a good relationship with the local media. Still, it’s pretty clear the city itself and the community is important to Kessel.