Kessel vs. Seguin? Kessel vs. Chara is more intriguing

In this 2009 file photo, Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara (33) breaks away from Toronto Maple...

In this 2009 file photo, Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara (33) breaks away from Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Phil Kessel (81) during the first period at the Air Canada Centre. (John E. Sokolowski-US PRESSWIRE)

Terry Koshan, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:46 PM ET

Forget about Phil Kessel versus Tyler Seguin.

We get it already.

Yes, they will be linked until their National Hockey League careers are over because Kessel was acquired by the Maple Leafs from the Boston Bruins for the draft choice that the Bruins used to select Seguin second overall in 2010.

But when the Leafs play against the Bruins, it’s not Seguin who stops Kessel from doing what he does best — wheeling through the neutral zone and picking up speed as he crosses the blue line for a solid scoring chance.

The human mountain, Zdeno Chara, is the one who makes life hellish for Kessel. Link Kessel and Seguin, fine, but only because they were involved in the same trade.

Kessel versus Chara? A lot more intriguing.

Chara has a much greater impact on what Kessel does when the Leafs and Bruins meet. And so far, what Kessel does has been not much.

Kessel demonstrated a few times in the Leafs’ 4-1 loss against the Bruins on Saturday night that he hears the footsteps of Chara, who happens to be on the ice whenever Kessel is. That was obvious on the Bruins’ first goal when Chara pinched inside the blue line, causing a jittery Kessel to fail in clearing the zone.

The Leafs and Bruins don’t square off again until March 6. That should give Kessel more than enough time than to try to mentally solve the obstacle that is the 6-foot-9, 255-pound Chara.

In the bigger picture, if the Leafs consider themselves a legitimately good team, they’re going to have to get past their Bruins block.

Point shots

The best part about James Reimer’s return to the Toronto net since Montreal’s Brian Gionta knocked him out of action was on Oct. 22 was no single save. It’s that Reimer had no rust and was confident. Toronto has three back-to-back sets between now and Christmas, but that doesn’t guarantee we will see a lot of Jonas Gustavsson ... A lazy backhand pass by Matt Frattin in the defensive zone was gobbled up by a Bruins forward and led to a point-blank scoring chance by Patrice Bergeron, who was stopped by Reimer. Perhaps he thought a Bruin was nearby, but Frattin has to be harder on the puck than that. It’s one of the growing pains that comes with giving a rookie large chunks of ice time ... Joey Crabb quietly has put together a five-game points streak and made an athletic play to get an assist on Mikhail Grabovski’s goal. Crabb slid along the ice but was able to keep the puck on his stick ... Another thought on Kessel, and his linemate Joffrey Lupul. Your best players have to be your best players in big games if you have any hope of winning, and those two mostly have been unable to produce against the defending Stanley Cup champions ... The Leafs’ streak of eight consecutive games with at least one power-play goal was broken ... No wonder the Bruins were 12-0-1 in November. Their puck support is unmatched by any team in the NHL ... The best hockey players are those who can control games mostly by themselves, but the Bruins are impressive because they control games as a team. Having four dependable lines is a big part of that. Among Boston forwards, only Shawn Thornton (nine minutes 36 seconds) did not play at least 10½ minutes ... Tuukka Rask probably would never acknowledge it, but playing against the Leafs must fire him up. Toronto traded Rask, a first-round pick by the Leafs in 2005, a year later to the Bruins. Rask is 6-1 against the Leafs and he has not given up more than two goals in any of his victories versus the organization that drafted him ... Lupul is minus-10 in the Leafs’ four losses against the Bruins this season.

From the hash marks

We’re not saying Colby Armstrong is a consistent game-changer, but he’s an effective pest, and undoubtedly would have had an impact in the games between the Leafs and Bruins. Instead, Armstrong continues to recover from a sprained ankle that he suffered back on Oct. 19 versus the Winnipeg Jets, missing all but five of Toronto’s 26 games ... There has been plenty of discussion of the great job Dallas Eakins and his staff have done in preparing the Marlies for employment with the Leafs. But Leafs coach Ron Wilson should been given kudos as well. It’s not easy to coach a team that has been missing more than a third of its regular lineup on plenty of nights. Yet the Leafs held their heads above water. “That’s not for me to say, who gets credit,” Wilson said. “The players are the ones who have stepped in and played hard” ... Of course, it’s the same Wilson who has been unable to devise anything to stop the Bruins from driving his team into the ice ... One positive for the Leafs: There are no cliques in the dressing room like there have been in past years, so when players are recalled from the Marlies, they’re made to feel comfortable and fit in right away. It helps that the majority of Leafs aren’t so old that they have to shave every day ... When the puck was passed back to Bruins defenceman Johnny Boychuk on Boston’s third goal, the Leafs had three players behind their own goal line.


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