Kessel is equal parts frustration, skill

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 6:41 PM ET

Phil Kessel has the ability to leave Leafs fans breathless.

It’s when he has Leafs Nation holding its collective breath, though, that brings out frustration in those who worship everything blue and white.

Kessel has one goal in his past eight games, a meaningless score against the Edmonton Oilers last week.

The Leafs’ leading goal-scorer, with 14 in 30 games, knows he is streaky. And there is not a lot he can do about it.

“How many guys score every game?” Kessel said after practice Monday. “No one scores every game. There are only a few guys in the league who get points consistently every game.”

When Kessel had 36 goals in 70 matches for the Boston Bruins last season, he endured a stretch of 14 games without one.

What should be of concern is that he only has three power-play goals. One every 10 games for a guy who is the team’s focal point on offence and making $5.4-million US is not good enough.

Not coincidentally, the Leafs’ power play was at 14th overall.

“I think sometimes we look to get him the puck too much and Phil has to change some of the habits he has,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. “He is pretty easy to shut down when he only plays in one area of the ice.

“I don’t have any fears about Phil. He is getting four or five shots a game and getting some chances.”

The trouble for the Leafs, however, is that when a player of Kessel’s talent is not scoring, the lack of depth becomes more apparent.

No NHL club can get by with just one player producing, but with Toronto, there aren’t many forwards who can realistically be expected to pick up the slack when Kessel slumps.

And it’s easier for the opposition to check Kessel when it doesn’t have to worry about much else.

Kessel has to find a way to get through the extra attention.

“I went through the same thing last year,” Kessel said of his drought. “It comes back around, it always will. I’ll stick with it and eventually it will break. They can’t stop it every single time you shoot the puck. It’s not possible.”


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