Cooper: Kessel ‘probably doesn’t get near the respect he deserves’

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Phil Kessel can be, well, a polarizing figure.

He’s a scorer, hitting the 30-goal plateau five times in 10 seasons and that was a huge reason why the Pittsburgh Penguins acquired him in a blockbuster trade with Toronto last summer.

He’s also been a lightning rod for criticism, like when his former coach Ron Wilson offered quite a take on Kessel after the firing of Randy Carlyle in Toronto.

Now, it needs to be pointed out that Wilson did say a team can “…win with Phil Kessel.” But he also said a team can’t rely on Kessel.

On a Penguins team that possesses stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, Kessel — also a star — has certainly been reliable in these playoffs.

Playing on that dynamic HBK Line with Carl Hagelin and Nick Bonino — which combined for five points on Pittsburgh’s first two goals of Wednesday’s game — Kessel is up to seven goals now in this post-season. That’s new ground for him. He leads the Penguins with those seven goals and 16 points, which also puts him third in the league in that category during the playoffs. Only Brent Burns and Logan Couture have more points.

On Wednesday, after scoring and adding an assist in the Penguins’ 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3, taking a 2-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference Final, Kessel received a pretty high compliment from Jon Cooper, as the opposing head coach addressed a question about that vaunted HBK Line.

“I think, like when you look at their team, Phil Kessel probably doesn’t get near the respect he deserves,” Cooper told reporters.  “I mean, he’s scored a ton of goals in this league.”

PHT Morning Skate: Kessel and ‘Conn Smythe’ in the same sentence

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

What a difference a few games make. Now people are talking about Phil Kessel being a popular Conn Smythe winner. (Sportsnet)

Sounds like the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens will face off in a pre-season game in Quebec City. Cool. (CSNNE.com)

How will Guy Boucher be received by the Senators? (TSN)

Will Dylan Larkin become the Red Wings’ next go-to guy? (NHL Numbers)

Looking at how overtime affects scoring chances. (Sportsnet)

This shot seems like it deserves another look, doesn’t it?

Video: Kessel’s slick shot opens scoring in Game 6

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We’re deep into that time where plays, shots and goals can get over-analyzed.

So feel free to pour over the 1-0 goal for the Pittsburgh Penguins and ask: is this more about a sweet Phil Kessel release (and screen) or Braden Holtby allowing one of those goals “He would like back.”

(Goalies probably want every goal back and all.)

The biggest quibble seems to be that Holtby was beaten on his short side.

Stopping Kessel can be filed under “Easier said than done.”

The Penguins carried a 1-0 lead into the intermission as the Washington Capitals face elimination in Game 6.

Update: Kessel scored a second goal as the Penguins went up 3-0 after scoring two power-play goals on a double-minor high-sticking infraction by Brooks Orpik.

Parise, Elliott, Kessel named NHL’s three stars of the week

Minnesota’s Zach Parise, St. Louis’ Brian Elliott and Pittsburgh’s Phil Kessel have been named the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Mar. 27, the league announced on Monday.

More:

Parise paced the NHL with five goals and shared the League lead with seven points in three contests to help the Wild (37-28-11, 85 points) extend their winning streak to a season-high five games and move back into the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Elliott stopped all 52 shots he faced over two appearances to help the Blues (45-22-9, 99 points) extend their shutout streak to a franchise-record four consecutive games and clinch their fifth straight playoff berth.

Kessel shared the League lead in assists (5) and points (7) to help the Penguins (42-25-8, 92 points) win two of their three starts and finish the week in third place in the Metropolitan Division.

Pretty emphatic statement from Parise, who capped off his week with a pair of goals in Saturday’s huge 4-0 win over the Avs. That victory pushed the Wild five points clear of Colorado for the final wild card spot, and could’ve essentially ended the Avalanche’s season in the process.

Video: Lundqvist’s giveaway leads to Kessel’s game-tying goal

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Phil Kessel is having a weekend to remember. After picking up five points in a 7-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Satuday, the Pens forward scored the game-tying goal against the Rangers.

Kessel scored after Carl Hagelin picked off a Henrik Lundqvist pass deep in the Rangers’ territory. Hagelin put the puck on goal and Kessel jumped on the rebound.

The Penguins and Rangers are tied at two heading into the third period.