Now that Phil Kessel is second in NHL scoring with 18 points, should league leader Sidney Crosby start sweating a little bit? “Not at all,” replied the Leafs sniper, who trails Sid The Kid by two. “I didn’t even have an idea I was (up that high).” You can bet that Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis does. And, for that matter, the Edmonton Oilers too. If critics figured Kessel was going to rest on his $8 million per season laurels after inking his lucrative contract extension four weeks ago, they were sadly mistaken. In signing the gifted forward to an eight-year, $64-million deal prior to the season opener in Montreal, Nonis understood that Phil The Thrill is a streaky scorer whose warts are exposed for all to see when he is in a slump. But Nonis also was aware that when Kessel gets on one of his famous streaks, few in the game are better. For the Leafs, it was an easy gamble to make. And if anyone had doubts about just how dominant Kessel can be when he gets some momentum going, just watch replays of the Leafs past 240 minutes of hockey in order to be convinced. After his two-goal, two-assist performance against the Oilers in a 4-0 victory on Tuesday night, Kessel has now scored seven times in his past four games including a hat trick against the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 22. On that particular three-goal evening at the Air Canada Centre, Kessel’s centre was his buddy Tyler Bozak. With Bozak now on the shelf for at least a week with a lower-body injury, Kessel has scored three times since Nazem Kadri stepped in between he and James van Riemsdyk. Kadri recorded a goal and two assists against the Oilers, well-deserved rewards for his creative play. Van Riemsdyk, meanwhile, had a goal and, giving the line eight points on the evening. “We are really clicking right now,” Kadri admitted. “It’s fun to play with these guys.” While Kadri once again cautioned that his position on the first line not be blown out of proportion, he might find himself in that spot for a longer stint than previously thought. According to coach Randy Carlyle, Bozak likely will have another MRI done within the next week. Kadri’s goal was originally credited to rookie Morgan Rielly until replays showed it glanced in off Kadri’s hip. “I felt bad,” Kadri said. “I wanted him to get it.” No need to be sorry, said Rielly. “I kind of figured it hit him,” the Leaf rookie said. Right now, does it really matter who plays between van Riemsdyk and Kessel, given the high level these two are playing at? To be fair, Kadri is full value for the additional minutes he is receiving by being bumped up into Bozak’s spot. Whether he stays there when Bozak gets back remains to be seen but it should make for some interesting talk show fodder. Kadri had a scare early in the second period when he slammed into the boards after being tied up with Oilers defenceman Jeff Petry. “Couldn’t breathe for a couple of seconds, but it’s all good,” he said.
Leafs' Phil Kessel leads Leafs over Oilers 4-0
Toronto Sun | Oct 30