Phil Kessel

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Phil Kessel doesn’t really care about scoring title: ‘I have two Cups’

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Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

A couple of weeks ago we looked at the possibility of Pittsburgh Penguins forward Phil Kessel potentially winning the NHL scoring title this season.

Since then Nikita Kucherov has kind of distanced himself a little bit in the race and has re-opened an eight-point lead over the rest of the pack, as well as a 10-point lead over Kessel.

On Friday, Kessel was asked about winning the scoring title and if he’s following the race between his teammates Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Kucherov, Johnny Gaudreau, Steven Stamkos, Connor McDavid, and Claude Giroux.

He gave a pretty honest — and awesome — answer.

“I got two Cups,” said Kessel, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Doesn’t really matter.”

That pretty much settles that, doesn’t it?

[Related: Phil Kessel Joins Exclusive Hot Dog Hockey Card Club, Thanks To Upper Deck]

As of Friday Kessel is tied with Crosby, Malkin, McDavid and Giroux, all of whom have 66 points.

Stamkos is third in the league with 67 points, one point back of Gaudreau with 68 points.

All of them are chasing Kucherov’s 76 points.

The scoring title wasn’t the only thing that prompted Kessel to reference the Penguins’ past two Stanley Cup wins. With the team that traded him to Pittsburgh — the Toronto Maple Leafs — in town for a game on Saturday night Kessel was asked if he still gets fired up to face his former team, to which he responded (via @PensInsideScoop): “I don’t really care anymore. It’s my third year and we’ve won twice. It’s in the past.”

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Phil Kessel joins exclusive hot dog hockey card club, thanks to Upper Deck (Photo)

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Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

Upper Deck released its Series 2 set of hockey cards this week and included is a insert set featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins and their days with the Stanley Cup from this past summer. Among the 12 cards, which includes Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux, is a very unique photo for the card of Phil Kessel, two-time Stanley Cup champion.

In August, when it was Kessel’s day, he spent part of it at a golf course with friends and family, which included him posing with hot dogs inside the Cup’s bowl. You might recall a silly and later debunked story from the Toronto Sun in 2015 that said Kessel would grab a daily dog from a certain vendor near his condo in the city. It even inspired a tattoo!

Clearly, Phil got wind of the story and decided to dunk on Steve Simmons, to the delight of many.

Kessel now has something in common with long-time NHL netminder Olaf Kolzig, who was captured on a 1995-96 Pinnacle card about to down a hot dog with his name spelled out in mustard.

Kolzig told the Washington Post in 1996 that he never did eat that hot dog and the idea came about when he asked card photographers what’s the weirdest hockey card they ever made. Then “the guy handed me a hot dog with my name written in mustard on it.”

We relish the thought that this could start a trend in the hobby.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The Buzzer: Malkin continues torrid pace

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Players of the Night:

Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins: Malkin scored two more goals on Friday, bringing his total over the past three games to seven. That’s a lot. Malkin is now four back of Alex Ovechkin, who also scored twice on Friday.

Petr Mrazek, Detroit Red Wings: This seems to be a trend when yours truly writes The Buzzer. Mrazek was great again on Friday, stopping 36-of-37. His past six starts have been remarkably good. Two shutouts and in five of those six outings, his save percentage was no less than .944.

Highlights of the Night:

The goal was good. The call was better.

Phil the Thrill:

Aho with the one-handed mid-air tap in.

Factoids of the Night:

MISC:

Scores:

Penguins 7, Capitals 4

Red Wings 4, Hurricanes 1

Sharks 3, Blue Jackets 1

Wild 5, Golden Knights 2


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Who could take Taylor Hall’s place if he has to miss the All-Star Game?

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With Taylor Hall set to miss the next couple of games due to a hand injury, and with that injury putting his All-Star Game prospects in jeopardy, we look at the players who are worthy of replacing the New Jersey Devils forward if he has to miss this weekend’s festivities.

Two names that immediately come to mind are Pittsburgh Penguins forward Phil Kessel and Philadelphia Flyers forward Sean Couturier.

There was already an argument that Kessel deserved to be at the ASG over Sidney Crosby. He was leading the Penguins in points then and two weeks later, he continues to pace Pittsburgh with 21 goals (tied with Evgeni Malkin) and 54 points, three more points than Crosby.

Couturier has already smashed his previous career highs in both goals (26) and points (47). He’s been part of the reason that Claude Giroux is already headed to the ASG and deserves to be there himself.

At third would have to be Sebastian Aho. The talent in the Metropolitan is evident with his snub. He’s clearly the best player on the Carolina Hurricanes this season (no disrespect to Teuvo Teravainen).

Aho is well on his way to eclipsing his rookie-season totals and a big reason why the Hurricanes are three points back of a playoff spot.

Beyond those three guys, there’s a few that certainly deserve the honor:

  • Anders Lee has 27 goals this season, seven off the pace he set last season with half the season to go.
  • Jakub Voracek leads the NHL with 45 assists, four more than teammate Giroux.
  • Evgeni Malkin. Not having a bad year.

It’s important to remember that the at-least-one-player-per-team rule goes out the window when it comes to replacing another All-Star.

There are certainly some very deserving names that didn’t get the first call.

But life’s about second chances.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Pittsburgh Penguins are rolling

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The Pittsburgh Penguins sure look like a team that has won back to back Stanley Cups these days.

And there’s no shortage of reasons why.

Scoring has come in abundance during their current four-game winning streak, their longest of the season after taking down the hapless Buffalo Sabres 5-1 on Saturday. The Pens have lit the lamp no less than four times in each of those four games, scoring 19 during that span.

Some of their resurgence stems from Sidney Crosby returning to Sidney Crosby form.

Crosby has been lights out, sporting a six-game point streak (including a five-game goal-scoring streak) with six goals and seven assists. Crosby had struggled prior to his recent outburst, with just one goal and five assists in his previous 14 games before embarking on the heater.

Stick with scoring, another one of Pittsburgh’s keys to success during their winning streak has been scoring first.

The Penguins are now 13-2-2 when scoring first, as opposed to 2-8-1 when their opponent finds twine before they do. Furthermore, Pittsburgh has yet to lose in regulation when leading after 20 minutes, going 9-0-1 this season.

And perhaps most importantly, the fall off in the crease with Matt Murray out of the lineup with a lower-body injury has been non-existent.

Tristan Jarry has been a godsend to a team that looked to be in trouble when Murray exited a game earlier this week.

But Jarry recorded a shutout on Friday night against the Sabres and then allowed just one goal on 32 shots on Saturday against that same Buffalo team.

Jarry and Co. have a much stiffer schedule on the horizon, with dates against the high-flying New York Rangers, New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs over the next week.

But they’re far from looking ill-equipped, even with Murray out for the next couple of weeks.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck