Phil Kessel (left) celebrates with linemate Ryan Hamilton after scoring against the Bruins on Saturday, relieving a lot of pressure on the Leafs' sniper. (Michael Peake, Toronto Sun)
As Tyler Bozak waxed poetic with the media inside the Maple Leafs dressing room on Sunday afternoon, Phil Kessel stuck his head into the room from a doorway and said to him: “That’s enough, kid. Let’s go.”
Kessel was teasing, which pretty much tells you where his mindset is right now. That’s what a big goal will do for you.
Less than a week ago, prior to Toronto’s opening-round playoff series against the Boston Bruins, Kessel declined to talk to the media following a practice at the MasterCard Centre, and was roundly criticized in the media. The next day, after having his arm twisted (so to speak) by the front office, he did speak, but his manner and demeanor was almost hostile, certainly guarded.
Heading into this series, Kessel knew, as the club’s leading scorer during the regular season, that the pressure was on big-time for him to perform against his former team — and to do so with Boston’s behemoth defenceman, Zdeno Chara.