The Toronto Maple Leafs have struggled as of late and part of the reason has been Phil Kessel’s inability to produce a point for his team.
Toronto has lost four of their last six games while Kessel has only produced one point in his past seven contests, a goal he scored four games ago. The right-winger is also a minus-four in his past seven games as well.
Kessel’s struggles can be attributed to a number of reasons whether it’s been the team’s recent battles with the injury bug, the fact he’s known for being a streaky goal-scorer, or perhaps his recent contract extension is weighing on him. Regardless of what could be causing the scoring drought, it’s become obvious that when Kessel struggles, so do the Maple Leafs.
With injuries to Tyler Bozak and Dave Bolland, along with Nazem Kadri being suspended three games, the pressure to produce offensively has increased for Kessel. Unfortunately for the sniper, his supporting cast has dwindled significantly which has allowed for the opposition to focus more on shutting him down. Prior to losing their top three centers, Toronto was able to throw out at least two capable goal-scorers on their top three lines. Now with a shorthanded line-up, the Maple Leafs scoring depth has been reduced and opposing team’s defenses know if they can shut down Kessel then they stand a good chance of securing a victory.
The last time Kessel went four games without a goal, he recorded a hat-trick in the fifth game. Kessel has earned a reputation for breaking out of slumps by scoring six or seven goals in a four game span. Toronto desperately needs Kessel to break out of his current slump because when he’s hot there are few players better than him in the world. His importance to the Maple Leafs is the same as Sidney Crosby’s to the Pittsburgh Penguins or Alexander Ovechkin’s to the Washington Capitals. The Penguins and Capitals will only go as far as their stars take them and Toronto will only go as far as Kessel can take them.
If the Maple Leafs stand any chance of ending their recent struggles and piecing together multiple wins like they were in October, Kessel must start to find the back of the net again.