Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
I bet at the beginning of the season you wouldn't have guessed Phil Kessel(notes) would spend even a second on a line with Darryl Boyce(notes). And yet here we are, with Phil talking about "it might not be working out here" and Ronnie Wilson saying the kid has no interest in working on the deficiencies in his game.
Somehow, we're supposed to be shocked by this.
Here's a forward who has an undeniable talent to score goals and create opportunities. Get him even a half-decent set of linemates and he fills the goal with pucks (case in point: Marc Savard(notes), Milan Lucic(notes), Kris Versteeg(notes), Tyler Bozak(notes), etc.). But the other indisputable aspect of his game is that when things don't go well, they spiral out of control in a hurry.
And yet people are expressing some amount of dismay over this. How could it be happening?!
Well, I mean, it's Phil Kessel.
(Coming Up: Why Peter Forsberg returned; more on Dan Paille's hit; Lidstrom on Red Wings' inconsistency; Jonas Hiller(notes) is exhausted; dollar beer night in Glendale; the Devils creep forever closer to the playoffs; Malkin's text to Shero; Tomas Kaberle(notes) on the block; goal of the weekend; goat of the weekend; a terrible way to get Lecavalier to Montreal; and Joel Quenneville and Alain Vigneault share a romantic moment.)
Kessel plays one type of hockey, and that's great for him because he's really good at it. He doesn't play any other way but his own, and has no interest in learning what Ron Wilson or Claude Julien or anyone else thinks he should. It's great when it's working, like when he opened the season with seven goals in eight games. And terrible when it's not, like now.
One of my favorite Kessel anecdotes is the time he was a healthy scratch in the playoffs for the Bruins in 2007-08, mainly because he was playing the type of hockey that led Wilson to shuffle him down to the third line.
First game back in the lineup, BAM. Two goals and a fairly dominant all-around performance. Not that he did any type of backchecking in that one. In the dressing room after the game, he said that no, watching from the press box for three games didn't serve as any kind of wakeup call, and he was just upset that it had happened to him.
What, he actually wondered, was the big deal?
No reflection, no learning. And please, no calling attention to it.
But results are results, and he provided them, as he always will if given enough time. Message-sending isn't going to sink in, and saddling him with two low-offense guys on the third line isn't somehow going to refocus his game. He'll keep playing to that minus-22 defensive quality, but one day he'll score a goal or three and everyone in Toronto will once again fall to their knees singing hosannas weeping at the glory that is almighty Kessel.
There's no way of judging just how much he feels he's suffering under the harsh glare of being That Guy for the Leafs, but his approach isn't doing him any favors. Unfortunately, perhaps for all parties involved, it's not going to change either. There would be riots in the streets if he was ever traded (at least given what the organization gave up for him) and he's not going to find an NHL team where he can get by coasting on this blasé attitude toward anything behind his attacking blue line for 82 games a year.
Wilson has to understand that this plan is a fool's errand. Kessel really only responds to one type of external stimuli: that red light behind a goalie coming on.
What We Learned
Atlanta Thrashers: The Thrashers and Hurricanes have played three times this season, all three have gone to OT or a shootout, and the Thrashers had lost all of them. Interestingly, these teams hadn't gone to overtime in their previous 17 meetings, dating back to Jan. 2, 2008.
Boston Bruins: While I don't agree with him, I really do admire Andrew Ference(notes) coming out and saying Dan Paille's hit was dirty. It takes courage to do that where a teammate is concerned. Don Cherry, however, does not have his back.
Buffalo Sabres: Before Terry Pegula swooped in, SOMEONE made a more lucrative offer to buy the Sabres, if they could move them SOMEWHERE, but that was rejected. Tom Gosliano wasn't naming names, but let's just say his name probably isn't Tim Talsillie and he didn't want to move the team to Tamilton, Tontario.
Chicago Blackhawks: The most important thing about Friday night's wildly entertaining loss to Vancouver is that Joel Quenneville and Alain Vigneault are best buds for life again. "Joel and I have kissed and made up since then," Vigneault said. Responded Quenneville, "He had bad breath." I didn't make either of those quotes up.
Columbus Blue Jackets: What would you think is the Blue Jackets' record over their last nine games? If you picked 5-2-2, then you're a big winner. The only two regulation losses were to Anaheim and Chicago, teams with which they are theoretically competing for a playoff spot.
Dallas Stars: The Stars have lost three in a row. That's bad. But they've been against Vancouver, Boston and Philly. That's understandable. But they've scored five goals in those games. That's also bad. And they've allowed 13. That's really bad. So, is it time to panic? No.
Detroit Red Wings: So what's wrong with the oddly inconsistent Red Wings? Bleeding goals in some games, not scoring at all in their two most recent contests, it's becoming a problem. Nick Lidstrom says it's not on the goalies.
Note that he started that play blowing a breakout pass on the left wing and ended up on the opposite side of the ice in the neutral zone for the game-winning goal.
Florida Panthers: The Florida Panthers are the least-penalized team in the NHL. That's even better for them since their penalty kill is fifth in the league. Now if only they could, y'know, score goals.
Guy had to make 19 saves in the third period to keep that one going.
New Jersey Devils: Marty Brodeur has been around the league long enough that he knows how it works. "We have to do our share, but other teams have to help us out a little bit if we want to get in that race," he said. "We only can control what we can do and that's what we're facing right now." The Devils are currently 16 points back of a playoff spot. It'll take a lot more than "a little bit" of help.Philadelphia Flyers: I brought something like this up in Trending Topics the other day, but neglected to mention that Matt Carle(notes) will donate $10,000 to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia if he gets to 10,000 Twitter followers by the end of the season. As of this writing he's at nearly 6,600, so please go help him out, eh?
Phoenix Coyotes: If you live in the Arizona area, you had no excuse to miss the Coyotes' game against the Wild. The team was offering $1 soda, hot dogs and, yes, beer in addition to a free Coyotes snuggie for the first 10,000 people through the door.
San Jose Sharks: The Sharks called up AHLer Carter Hutton(notes) to back up Antti Niemi(notes) in a 2-0 shutout win over Boston Saturday afternoon, and he immediately hopped on the highway to Worcester, where he turned in a 2-0 shutout performance of his own ... against the Providence Bruins.
Vancouver Canucks: Sami Salo's(notes) first game back on his AHL conditioning stint: two goals in 17 minutes and the first star. Just what the Canucks needed, another player in great form. He could come back to the NHL as soon as Sunday.
Gold Star Award
Minus of the Weekend
Play of the Weekend
Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week
User "Roof Daddy" keeps it simple this week.
To MTL: Lecavalier
To TB: Gomez
I don't know of a universe in which this is an even remotely bad idea.
You've got no attitude, you're barely outrageous, and I don't know what you're in, but it's not my face.
- Joel Quenneville