Phil Kessel finally found the back of the net in the Toronto Maple Leafs 11th game of the season and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
The Maple Leafs did what few teams are able to do by beating the Winnipeg Jets on the road in a 3-2 victory.
The Leafs played poorly for 50 minutes and were trailing 2-1 in the final minutes before Matt Frattin tipped in a Cody Franson shot to tie the game. Not long after, Kessel scored his first goal of the season after Tyler Bozak dropped the puck back to him and the sniper fired it up to top right shelf.
Kessel was immediately hugged by Bozak and the rest of his teammates as the relief was visible with a gigantic smile on Kessel’s face. To say the monkey is off his back is an understatement as the situation is a lot closer to removing King Kong from his back.
The game winning goal by Kessel is the type of moment that could send the talented offensive player into a goal scoring streak. He entered tonight’s contest as the league leader in shots and despite not scoring, Kessel was still dangerous in every game this season getting multiple scoring opportunities. Unfortunately, he was unlucky in the previous ten games, hitting numerous posts or watching the goalie make an incredible save.
The other factor potentially preventing Kessel from scoring was the milestone he reached against the Jets.
It had nearly been 300 minutes of ice time between goals for Kessel as he had been stuck on 99 career goals with the Maple Leafs. Now that he’s reached the 100 goal milestone with Toronto, Kessel could be about to explode as no doubt his confidence has increased.
There’s a saying in hockey when goal scorers are in a slump that suggests the player is doubting himself or “squeezing the stick too hard.” With the way Kessel shelved the puck, there’s no doubt he had the perfect grip on his stick.
Coach Randy Carlyle put it best in the post-game press conference saying “not many players can put the puck where he did.” Truer words couldn’t have spoken as Kessel possesses one of the best wrist shots in the game and proved it with his goal against the Jets.
Maple Leaf fans are hoping this is just the beginning of Kessel putting the puck where few in the league can.