Why you don’t want to make Kessel angry

Phil Kessel scored the game-winning goal midway through the third period. (Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty)
February 8, 2014, 11:27 PM

You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry, at least if you are the competition. Alex Burrows of the Vancouver Canucks learned that the hard way.

With his team up 1-0 late in the second period and executing a perfect road game up until that point, Burrows engaged Phil Kessel. First it was a high-stick to Kessel’s face. Next, a couple of crosschecks to same area. A scrum would ensue as both players were sent to the dressing room with only 1:10 remaining in the second period.

Initially, it seemed like a smart play by Burrows. Even though he took the extra minor, he prevented Kessel from taking part in the Leafs ensuing power-play.

But then Kessel woke up.

"We were pleading, begging, crying – all those things – to change the way we were playing" said Randy Carlyle of the message to his players in the second intermission.

The Leafs came out of that pep talk buzzing in the third frame, generating a plethora of scoring opportunities toward Olympic-bound goaltender Roberto Luongo.

First Mason Raymond got revenge on his former team, scoring the tying goal. Less than three minutes later Kessel beat Luongo for what would eventually be the game winner. Add to that an assist on James van Riemsdyk’s goal moments later, and the Leafs came out with their first win against the Canucks in 12 tries.

It was evident from his teammates that the Burrows ignited something out of Kessel.

"I think he kind of likes that stuff secretly" said Tyler Bozak. "They say don’t poke the bear and I think they kind of did there and Phil showed it in the third period."

Kessel took a safer stance on it.

"I wasn’t too happy about it but it’s part of the game and where there’s little battles out there, it happens."

It was a week ago, where Kessel displayed the same kind of anger that propelled him to success.

It was on a power-play opportunity against the Ottawa Senators, where an angry Kessel snapped his stick in disgust after narrowly missing out a scoring chance. It fired him up enough to produce his 28th, 29th and 30th goals of the season.

When Kessel turns on that second gear, he’s as dangerous as some of the best in the league. When cameras show him with the scowl on the bench, that’s actually a good thing. A fired up Kessel goes a long way to torching the competition.

Kessel has points in 13 of the last 15 games. In the 13 games where Kessel has a point, the Leafs are 11-1-1. As long as the competition can keep Kessel fired up, the Leafs can follow along for the ride to new found success.

Bolland Back After Olympic Break

Randy Carlyle says Dave Bolland "should be available" upon the conclusion of the Olympic break. Carlyle has also been a fan of Kulemin’s new found ability to play centre. And that’s probably a good thing after Jay McClement left Saturday’s game after smacking his head against the ice after getting directed into the corner boards by Canucks defenceman Dan Hamhuis.

McClement had a gash around his eye and had to see the quiet room, a mandatory procedure after a suspected head injury. His inability to return means it’s something to keep an eye on. Lucky for him, he’ll have the next couple of weeks to rest.

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