Phil Kessel Is In Full Playoff Form

To win a Stanley Cup you need complete players who can play under any circumstance. Resilient players who can battle through any doubt that comes their way. Not many thought Phil Kessel was the kind of guy for that – until now.

After the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 4-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning in game three of the Eastern Conference final, they’ve taken a 2-1 series lead and have a chance to take a commanding 3-1 lead if they can continue their strength against Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Lightning. One player that’s given them this golden opportunity is Phil Kessel.

No one thought Kessel would be the clutch performer he is on the Penguins compared to the player he was on the Toronto Maple Leafs. He had seismic numbers in his last season with Toronto, boasting 25 goals and 36 assists on a roster with little to no promising future. He was definitely a key piece to some puzzle in the NHL, and the Penguins found the spot for him while obtaining him last offseason in a six player deal.

His 26 goals and 33 assists was initially considered a disappointment due to now playing with centres like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but considering he was added to a whole new system of hockey after spending six years on the dreadful Leafs, who only made the postseason once in that timespan, an adjustment was needed. With only little playoff experience, many pundits without facts doubted Kessel’s chances of being a clutch performer.

He hasn’t been in the postseason since the Leaf’s 2013 heartbreaking game seven collapse versus the Boston Bruins, and put up six points (four goals and two assists). The other previous years he wasn’t too appealing on the Bruins, even though he had nine goals and six assists in 15 games in the 2007-08′ and 2008-09′ playoff campaigns. Despite criticism, Kessel’s production in the playoffs has been consistent on the scoresheet and consistently overlooked by the media.

Since Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan moved Kessel to his own line, Kessel has been on fire. Kessel has shut the mouths of every doubter *cough, cough Mike Milbury, Steve Simmons and Glen Healy*. This postseason Kessel has boasted seven goals and nine assists for 16 points, putting him in third place in points this offseason. In his last five games he’s obtained eight points (four goals and four assists) and has been phenomenal to watch. To anyone who doesn’t believe that, just take a look at his two clutch goals in game seven vs the Washington Capitals.

As Kessel’s reign comes into realization, yes Leaf fans, it’s okay to cry. Kessel is quietly making headlines as teammate Sidney Crosby’s turnaround performance is stealing the limelight after game three. If the Penguins can keep up their glory, they’ll be finding themselves fighting on hockey’s biggest stage. Furthermore, that’s something Kessel requires in his resume as an elite forward.

Maybe now the glorious bloggers can put an end to all of the Kessel memes. Only one can hope