Whether he likes it or not, Phil Kessel’s career always will be intertwined with that of Boston Bruins centre Tyler Seguin.
Yeah, you probably think this a tiresome old story, one that should be put to bed more than two years after Kessel was traded to the Maple Leafs for a pair of first-round picks and a second.
But in Beantown, it just won’t die. The locals won’t let it.
Sure enough, after Seguin had capped off an impressive three-point night with a goal at 11:43 of the third period, the “Gahden” burst into song.
“Thank you, Kessel!” the vocal throng gleefully chanted.
It’s a tune the Leafs’ No. 81 is, quite frankly, sick of.
No matter. As long as Seguin outplays Kessel on Bruins ice, it will be the most popular chant of all good puckheads in New England.
Indeed, it was a tale of two forwards once again on Thursday night as the Boston Seguins thumped the Toronto Kessels 6-2.
Kessel came into the game on a roll, having become the first Leaf to score seven goals in the first five games of a season since Hall of Famer Sweeney Schriner potted eight in five to kick off the 1944-45 season.
But, as so often has been the case when he returns to Beantown, two things happened to Kessel:
1. He was jeered every time he touched the puck.
2. He looked nervous and off his game, perhaps because wherever he went on the ice, 6-foot-9 man-monster Zdeno Chara was sure to follow.
In the end, no matter how often Kessel insists he is not intimidated by going back to Boston, he hardly looked like a guy who came into the game as the NHL’s leading scorer with 12 points.
Seguin did, however.
Having added some muscle to his hustle over the summer, Seguin — selected second overall in 2010 with one of the picks acquired in the Kessel deal — was all over the ice. Not only did he look dominant on a line with Milan Lucic and Chris Kelly en route to a one-goal, two-assist night, he made an outstanding diving stop in the defensive zone of an attempted cross-ice feed from Kessel to Joffrey Lupul.
In this, his second season, Seguin finally appears to be turning into the all-around player coach Claude Julien thinks he can be.
As for Kessel, he will continue to be mocked in Boston as long as he is outplayed head-to-head by Seguin.
Not that Jonas Gustavsson had a lot of help in front of him, but he continues to be plagued by the same old warts — rebounds and positioning. On the Bruins’ first goal, Chara’s point shot plunked him right in the catching glove, but he couldn’t handle it, giving Nathan Horton an easy two-foot putt. The Monster needs to freeze pucks when they hit him in the hand like that. In the third period, the 6-foot-3 Gustavsson was far too deep in his net and completely fanned on Seguin’s stoppable wrister from the high slot ... It must be frustrating for the coaching staff and management to see a lack of development in the Monster, who Brian Burke spent plenty of time wooing out of Sweden a few summers ago. Meanwhile, Gustavsson had best be looking over his shoulder at Ben Scrivens, who has impressed the Leafs brass down on the farm with the AHL Marlies ... Gustavsson’s previous start came back in January, a 7-0 drubbing to the Rangers. In his past three starts, he has allowed 17 goals. Ugly, which leads to the question: How long before management’s patience runs out with this guy?
KUDOS FOR KADRI
Young Nazem Kadri arguably was the best Leaf on the ice. His tape-to-tape pass to David Steckel resulted in Toronto’s opening goal, while his constant determination to keep his feet moving led to two Bruins penalties. He also hit the outside of the post ... Coach Ron Wilson has been concerned with Kadri’s puck protection in the past, but the kid seems to be improving. He is skating with his head up and seems to be looking for his teammates out there instead of being a “puck hog,” a label some scouts have used for him in the past ... Steckel, by the way, was bumped up to first-line centre status between Kessel and Lupul for much of the game. Normally a faceoff specialist, he was brutal, like his teammates, in the circle during the first period, winning just two of 10 draws.
Tyler Bozak was hurting after taking a slapshot off the foot late in the game. With Colby Armstrong already on the shelf with a sprained left ankle and a “banged-up” Clarke MacArthur sitting out against the Bruins, the Leafs can ill-afford to lose another forward ... Defenceman Carl Gunnarsson also seemed to be on the limp after blocking a shot ... Colton Orr’s first- period fight against Shawn Thornton was his first bout since suffering a concussion back in January ... Congrats to rookie defenceman Jake Gardiner for notching his first NHL point, assisting on Mikhail Grabovski’s third-period goal.