Phil Kessel‘s huge night for the Toronto Maple Leafs saw him go all the way to second in the league in goals with a hat-trick. Kessel’s impressive finishing skills also left him with 30 goals on the year, leaving him trailing only Alexander Ovechkin‘s 38 goals. Kessel was an integral part of the 6-3 Toronto win over Ottawa tonight.
Tonight’s performance was especially impressive because he used his speed (as well as, to be fair, the passing ability of James Van Riemsdyk) to create chances that saw him threatening during almost every possession. There are truly few goal scorers who are as consistently dangerous from game to game as Kessel is.
Opposing coaches definitely take note and try to find a way to contain Kessel. The thing is, he is very difficult to defend because he comes up the wing with speed, is strong on the puck, possesses an excellent shot and loves to shoot before the D or the goalie is ready.
He also seems very calm and collected even in situations where the pressure would probably get to most players. He does not seem to let the stadium or the moment get in the way of being productive.
This year marks the fifth time that Kessel has scored 30 goals in a year, which I think would categorize him as an elite talent in this league. He will be counted on to represent Team USA well at the Sochi Olympics, and his teammates should be proud to have him and Van Riemsdyk, a dynamic duo from Toronto.
Kessel will beat his career high of 37 goals this season, likely scoring more than 40 goals. He even has an outside shot at scoring 50 goals the way he has been playing, and he has been carrying this team on his back. Their offense is clicking on all cylinders, and Kessel is a huge reason why the Leafs were 8-1-1 in their last 10 coming into this game.