Julien not discussing Kessel before Toronto series

Julien not discussing Kessel before Toronto series
April 30, 2013, 5:30 pm
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BOSTON -- Phil Kessel finally broke his silence in Toronto, speaking in generalities with the media about the upcoming playoff match-up with his former team. The talented Mr. Kessel didn’t say anything particularly insightful when talking about the Bruins, who've held him to just three goals and a minus-22 in 22 career games.

Of course he also put up 20 goals and 52 points in 48 games for the Leafs this season, and would have led the Bruins in both of those offensive categories this season. The 25-year-old Kessel has averaged 31 goals per season over the last five years, and has continued to put up big numbers in Toronto after getting dealt for the draft picks used for Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton and Jared Knight.

“It’s fine. I had a lot of great years there,” said Kessel to reporters in Toronto. “I love the city, and the fans were great to me there. [Getting traded] is part of the game."

“[Zdeno Chara] is a tough player to play against, one of the best in the league, defensive. What are you going to do…you’re going to have to play hard.”

Chara’s menacing presence in the defensive end has been one of the big factors in Boston’s ability to render Kessel invisible since he bolted the Bruins after the 2008-09 NHL season. That dynamic isn’t expected to change as the Chara/Dennis Seidenberg shutdown pairing will be out on the ice against Kessel and his linemates for most of the upcoming series.

The shutdown treatment comes all the way from the top of the Bruins coaching staff as Claude Julien laid down the law when the first question at his post-practice press conference on Tuesday was about Chara and Kessel. Julien installed some ground rules, and that means there won’t be too many questions about the coach’s past experience with Kessel when he was a member of the Black and Gold.  

There was some friction between Julien and Kessel during his time in the Bruins organization, from Kessel's dedication in the weight room away from the ice, to the type of sticks that he used in games. But Julien wasn’t going to entertain any of it before the playoff series begins between Toronto and Boston.

“First of all, I have no intention of talking about other players on other teams . . . That’s got nothing to do with me,” said Julien. “I can tell you Zdeno Chara is one of the best shutdown D’s in the league, and that’s what we utilize him for.”

Of course there will be “Thank You, Kessel” chants each time Seguin or Hamilton do anything in the playoff series, and it’s expected that No. 81 will get booed each time he touches the puck in Boston. But, by and large, the city of Boston has moved on well from Kessel after winning a Cup and watching Toronto’s first-round picks turn into young franchise players.

That all may change if Kessel dominates in the series and helps his Maple Leafs deal a painful blow to the Bruins organization in their playoff series. But that would be a big departure from the vacant, weak performances Kessel has managed against Boston since shooting his way out of town five years ago.