I had my first chance to see Phil Kessel play in person last night. I sat 13 rows above Luongo's left side in the corner for two periods and had a terrific angle on most of the Leaf "chances" as well as the deciding 2-0 Vancouver goal in the second. The Canucks (rather lackadaisically) beat the Leafs 4-1 in a game in which the entertainment value was derived mainly from the atmosphere in the crowd. The Leafs simply do not have the talent to compete effectively against an elite team such as Vancouver, especially with Phil Kessel playing well below his potential. I'm starting to lean more towards the thinking that what we're seeing in fact is his full potential, and that makes me sad and angry.
Kessel certainly has dynamic hockey skills, great speed and a terrific shot. These are displayed far too infrequently however to have much of an impact on a game. His one move on a rush, the "outside/inside toe-drag" works far less than half the time. It worked once last night on Dan Hamhuis (0:24 mark on video below) but led to a weak back-handed attempt that Luongo turned aside easily. Kessel ended up with six shots on goal while playing 19:25. More importantly he finished with a minus 2 rating. His worst display was on the back-breaker 2-0 Vancouver goal which I saw unfold as it happened.
Kessel made a simply awful fly-by on a puck just inside the offensive zone (awful even for Rec beer league hockey) with the intimidating Jeff Tambellini closing in on him. (1:35 mark below, top of the screen) and leaves Luke Schenn hung out to dry. Tamby simply chips it past Schenn as Kessel falls on his own into the boards. Four seconds later it's in the back of the net. How he just allows this puck to be picked up unmolested is beyond my comprehension.
Kessel is the type of purely offinsive minded player that has little care for his own end but admittedly should be surrounded with players of slightly better quality. Bozak and Versteeg are not first-liners, sorry Burkie. This being the case, Kessel absolutely needs to produce when his chances present themselves...and any defensive consciousness would be welcomed.
On another note regarding last night's affair. It really is mind-boggling how Roberto Luongo received the First Star selection. He made perhaps 3 or 4 above average saves, and bobbled at least twice as many shots. The Grabovski goal over his glove hand simply should have been stopped. Oh well, another example of home town bias.
So, Toronto hasn't won in Vancouver since before the lockout, yet myself and many other Leafs still attend. It's getting to the point where we as Leaf fans are made to look like idiots for caring so much when it seems the teams' management and star player have minimal concern for the continuing ineptitude.