We have a tie for goal of the night. First, Phil Kessel scores on a 2-on-1 to give the Toronto Maple Leafs an overtime win at home. Then, Brian Pothier buries a big goal in overtime to give the Carolina Hurricanes another improbable victory, this time over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Former Toronto coach Ron Wilson went on TSN 1050 radio today and, boy, did he have some some stuff to say about the firing of his successor, Randy Carlyle.
Specifically, he took aim at the players.
“I’m gonna have to say you have to change some of the players,” said Wilson. “Eventually they will. I don’t think they will right now, because I don’t think there are a lot of trading partners for a lot of these players. But they’re going to come to that sooner or later.
“These guys, some of the core players, have failed under two or three different coaches, so it’s gotta be the players’ fault.”
On winger Phil Kessel, a player with whom he did not enjoy the closest relationship, Wilson relayed a mixed opinion.
“I think you can win with Phil Kessel,” he said. “He shows obvious signs of brilliance throughout the year. But Phil’s problem, and I think it’s pretty much the way Phil’s been his whole career, he’s two weeks on and two weeks off. … You can’t rely on Phil. It’s just the way it is.
“He comes and goes, and he gets emotional, and he lets that affect his game and his relationship with other players. But that’s just the nature of the beast. That’s what you have to coach. You have to know that Phil’s gonna give you everything he’s got for two or three weeks, and then for the next two or three weeks, everything seems to go wrong for Phil. That’s just the way it is.”
PITTSBURGH — Phil Kessel has nine goals and nine assists in 18 playoff games. Some have said he’s playing the best of his hockey of his career.
“Obviously, you’re disappointed,” Kessel said Sunday. “But it is what it is. I think I’ve had a pretty good playoffs, I’ve always done pretty well for (Team USA) in all the tournaments I’ve played in for them. But we’re in the Stanley Cup Final. I can’t be disappointed.”
Two years ago, Kessel led the Americans in the Olympics with eight points (5G, 3A) in six games. He was named the best forward in the tournament. Callahan, in comparison, had no goals and one assist in six games.
Of course, Callahan has a history with World Cup head coach John Tortorella. So does Dubinsky. And let’s face it, when you think of the kind of player that epitomizes Tortorella-coached teams, it’s not Kessel, it’s blue-collar workers like Callahan and Dubinsky.
Still, to not choose a guy who’s a Conn Smythe Trophy candidate?
“I’m surprised he was left off Team USA,” Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford said today, before head coach Mike Sullivan praised Kessel for his competitiveness and for improving his play away from the puck and along the boards.
At any rate, Kessel didn’t sound like getting left off the World Cup squad was bothering him too much. One day from playing in his first Stanley Cup Final, he’s pretty happy with where he’s at right now.
“I’ve never really been on a team that’s felt like this,” he said. “I don’t even know how to describe it, to be honest. I’m so excited to get a chance to play for the Stanley Cup and play with these guys.”
Phil Kessel‘s terrific playoff wasn’t enough to win over USA Hockey.
On Friday, the Americans completed their 23-man roster for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, and passed on Kessel in favor of four other forwards: David Backes, James van Riemsdyk, Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky.
Kessel, who has nine goals and 18 points through 19 postseason contests, was one of the most noteworthy snubs. Others included another stellar playoff performer — Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson — Ottawa’s Bobby Ryan, New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri and the Islanders’ Kyle Okposo.
It’s worth mentioning that Ryan and Okposo were two of the most notable “snubs” from the American team that finished fourth in Sochi.
The full 23-man roster:
D Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets
D John Carlson, Washington Capitals
D Erik Johnson, Colorado Avalanche *
D Jack Johnson, Columbus Blue Jackets *
D Ryan McDonagh, New York Rangers
D Matt Niskanen, Washington Capitals *
D Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild
F Justin Abdelkader, Detroit Red Wings
F David Backes, St. Louis Blues *
F Ryan Callahan, Tampa Bay Lightning *
F Brandon Dubinsky, Columbus Blue Jackets *
F Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
F Ryan Kesler, Anaheim Ducks
F T.J. Oshie, Washington Capitals
F Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens
F Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild
F Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks
F Derek Stepan, New York Rangers
F James van Riemsdyk, Toronto Maple Leafs *
F Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets
* named to roster today
It’s probably worth pointing out that two of the seven players named to the roster today — Dubinsky and Jack Johnson — play for Team USA head coach John Tortorella in Columbus.
A third, Tampa Bay’s Ryan Callahan, was the captain in New York when Tortorella coached the Rangers.
Apparently, Phil Kessel‘s teammates aren’t quite finished enjoying his post-game interview with NBCSN’s Pierre McGuire.
Per the Penguins’ Twitter feed, a bottle of Cool Mint Listerine has been placed atop Kessel’s dressing-room stall at Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay.
There also appears to be some Winterfresh gum in there.
We all know the backstory by now. Following Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final on Wednesday, McGuire asked Kessel, “How’s your breath?” To which Kessel replied, “It’s not good, eh?” To which McGuire said, “No! I meant in terms of conditioning.” Kessel laughed, hid his face in his towel for a second, then earnestly answered the question. When the interview was over, he chuckled again and said he couldn’t believe what just happened.
Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said the Penguins “had a good laugh” about the awkwardness of the whole thing.
“First of all, I think it was funny, it was awesome,” Crosby told reporters. “I think that anyone being asked that question, I think we’ve all probably thought to ourselves, ‘How do you answer that?’ It’s kind of a tough one to answer and he handled it great. It was pretty funny. It’s probably perfect that it was Phil because he’s probably the one to handle it as good as that.”
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan was asked this morning about the Listerine bottle.
“That’s part of being part of a close-knit team,” he said. “These guys, they don’t miss much. So when they have opportunities to have some fun with one another, I think that’s a good thing. I think it brings our team even closer together, and that’s an example of it.”
Game 4 goes tonight. The happy-go-lucky Pens lead the series, 2-1.