An era in the Leafs' history ended this summer with the trade of Phil Kessel.
Kessel was the Leafs' goal scoring machine ever since he was traded to the Leafs organization from the Boston Bruins, generating over 30 goals in the past four out of the five full hockey seasons. He has built the reputation of being one of the deadliest snipers in the NHL over the past six years, bringing fear in every goalie he plays against.
Despite these great accomplishments, and the fact that Kessel almost single-handedly generated the majority of the Leaf's offence in the past six seasons; Kessel was still quite unpopular in Toronto. He was known as an "uncoachable" and often received numerous amounts of negative criticism in the media.
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Kessel was given a fresh start in Pittsburgh, and he is relishing every moment of playing with his new team. He currently skates on a line with Sidney Crosby and has scored one goal and one assist in the first five games of the season.
However, Kessel's fifth game with the Penguins was extra special as he played against his former team, the Toronto Maple Leafs in The Air Canada Center. Phil Kessel was excited to play against his old team but he does feel a bit "strange" doing so. The feeling is mutual amongst the Leafs' players since they usually play with Phil Kessel; not against him.
The Leaf's goalie James Reimer claims that Phil Kessel is dangerous and he has the best shot in the league and playing against a player of Phil Kessel's quality will be very interesting. However, the Leafs do have a plan to stop Kessel's offence according to Joffrey Lupul, a former teammate of Kessel's.
The plan for the Leafs was to stick tight to Kessel and play extremely physical to eliminate his shooting opportunities. The less opportunities Kessel has, the more he will become frustrated stated Lupul.
The plan worked perfectly during the game, as Kessel and his entire line had an extremely unproductive and quiet game. Kessel's linemate Crosby was limited to making one shot in the entire game while Kessel only managed to get two shots on goal. Neither one of these superstars were able to make an impact during the game.
Despite the fact that the Penguin's first line was completely shut down, the Leaf's still lost 2-1. Evgeni Malkin and Olli Maatta scored the two Penguin's goals, which were enough to win the game. The Leafs have now lost four of their last five games, while the Penguins get their second win of the season.