TORONTO - While the popular crime-comedy Castle is back on Monday night, the hockey serial Kessel also has another episode in prime time.
A quick flashback: After being shutout in seven games against his old Boston team, which pried three top draft picks from the Leafs, Phil Kessel had a small measure of revenge back on Dec. 4 with the shootout winner at the ACC. Since then, his nemesis, would-be Leaf Tyler Seguin, hit a wall on offence, but had two nice third-period points on Saturday in Buffalo. Kessel also had two points his last game versus Ottawa and overall, twice as many as Seguin with more ice time.
But Kessel is a minus-14 and very realistic when asked if he had relieved pressure on himself in the last Boston-Toronto game.
“I didn’t score (in regulation), right? I got a shootout winner,” he said. “I had some chances. But we got the win and any way we can (is most important).”
Boston coach Claude Julien insists the Brampton-born Seguin is on schedule.
“It’s one of those things where you have an 18-year-old that has come to a team with a lot of experience,” Julien said. “He’s worked his way in, he’s getting more and more comfortable and now his skill set is starting to come out. It’s basically what we were hoping to see as he went through a full season. I like his game and what he did (in Buffalo) is what we hope he can do.
“It’s different for everybody. You go to a team that’s rebuilding (as the top overall pick Taylor Hall in Edmonton), you know you’ll get a ton of opportunities. You go to a team that’s maybe more established, you know you have to work your way in. At the end of the day, you have to give (Seguin) an opportunity. He’s developing well and has a lot of good people around him.”
The Leafs and Bruins split the first two of the six-game Northeast Division series. There is a 14-point spread between the Bruins at the top and the Leafs in the cellar, but it’s really one of the closer divisions in the NHL. Toronto is 5-5-1 in the Northeast after beating Ottawa on Sunday, while Boston is 4-4-2 after its shootout loss to Buffalo.
That’s why Julien takes no division game for granted.
“Its a pretty good division, no matter where the teams are in the standings,” Julien said. “Maybe it’s the fact that the Battle of Ontario is there, and for us, there’s the big rivalry with Montreal.”