Kessel family affair comes to Boston

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Kessel family affair comes to Boston

WILMINGTON, Mass. It should be an interesting scene at TD Garden Saturday night with Phil Kessel and the Toronto Maple Leafs invading Causeway Street for the second half of a home-and-home series for Northeast Division bragging rights.

The Bs have jumped out to a commanding 3-0 regular season record over Toronto this season, and outscored the Leafs by a 19-5 margin in those three blowout wins. So theres a natural motivational element if youre wearing a Toronto sweater in addition to keeping their current playoff pace.

But theres also an added twist: the Leafs arrive in Boston on the traditional fatherson trip that many NHL teams embark on during the regular season.

So Kessels dad is expected to be part of the paternal entourage traveling with the team, and could be subjected to the same Thank you, Kessel chants that have become part and parcel with Toronto trips to Boston since Tyler Seguin landed in the Bs laps with the No. 2 overall pick.

Kessel had his best game of the season against the Bruins on Wednesday night with an assist, and is still the leading point-getter (32) and goal-scorer (16) in the NHL this season.

He also leads the league in All-Star voting after his memorably uncomfortable turn as Mr. Irrelevant in last years first annual All-Star team fantasy draft amid the All-Star weekend festivities in Carolina.

But the Bruins and the bruising defensive style of Zdeno Chara continue to pound on Kessel despite his higher standing in the league this time around. Kessel has been beaten down to the tune of three team losses, one point and a minus-5 in the three games between the two Northeast Division rivals this year, and its more of the same domination by Boston that No. 81 has endured for the last three seasons.

We prepare for the Leafs just like any other team. We know theyre going to be better, so we need to just focus on our game in order to beat them, said Chara, when asked about shutting down Kessel and his Toronto cohorts. Anytime were playing with desperation we have a much better chance of winning hockey games.

Kessel now has two goals and is a minus-12 in 15 games against the Bruins since getting dealt to Toronto three years ago. Those are numbers that scream out operation shutdown, but Claude Julien said the Bruins arent doing anything exotic to bottle up the speedy Kessel.

Its the same old menacing physicality in the corner and stifling defense down the center of the ice employed by the Bruins that has continuously turned Kessel from peerless to clawless no matter what he does against the rest of the NHL.

Ill be very honest with you. We havent said anything special about Phil Kessel, said Claude Julien. Its one of those things where if hes on the ice were aware of what hes done, but we handle every team the same way. Whether its Crosby or others, theyre all treated the same.

We certainly know Phil well, but he still got an assist the other night on a great pass. Its more about a five-man unit than it is about one guy watching one other guy. So far weve been pretty successful and thats a good thing because hes off to a great start.

So what could happen with Kessels papa potentially in the house this weekend?

If the word gets out to enough fans in the Garden stands then perhaps there will be a Thank you, Mr. Kessel! sing-song chant to go along with the customary one if the Bruins are once again holding a comfortable lead in the third period Saturday night.

That would be just another chapter for Kessel in the book of misery against Boston since he left behind Black and Gold.

Eriksson named Lady Byng finalist for 2nd time

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Eriksson named Lady Byng finalist for 2nd time

Patrice Bergeron will have some Bruins company at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas at the end of the month of June.

Loui Eriksson was named a finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy on Saturday afternoon along with Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar and Florida Panthers pivot Aleksander Barkov. It’s the second time in his career that Eriksson will be named a finalist for the award given annually "to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability."

The Swedish winger finished his best season in a Bruins uniform with 30 goals (third on team) and 33 assists for the second most points (63) on the team along with 12 total penalty minutes through 82 games played. Eriksson was excited to once again be a finalist for the award, and to be lumped in with a couple of the NHL’s best players in Kopitar and Barkov.

“It is a great honor to be considered for the Lady Byng Trophy, an award that has been won by some of the best players of all time,” said Eriksson, who will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1 after three seasons in Boston. “There are many deserving candidates so to be named one of the finalists with Anze Kopitar and Aleksander Barkov is very exciting for me. Thank you to my teammates and the coaching staff and I appreciate all those who voted.”

The last Bruin to win the Lady Byng Trophy was Rick Middleton back in 1981-82, and Eriksson is the first B’s finalist for Lady Byng in more than 10 years.

Bruins will select 14th overall in first round

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Bruins will select 14th overall in first round

The Boston Bruins basically had a three percent of moving up into the top three of the NHL Draft Lottery on Saturday night, but they didn’t strike it draft rich when it was all said and done up in Toronto.

With Bruins general manager Don Sweeney in attendance representing the Original Six franchise, the Black and Gold were the first team logo selected in the draft lottery meaning they will own the 14th overall pick in the first round for the second straight summer.

Instead the Toronto Maple Leafs will select first overall after putting together the worst record in the NHL last season, and the Winnipeg Jets and Columbus Blue Jackets won the lottery to move up into the second and third slots in the draft.

This marks the sixth time in franchise history that the club has owned the 14th overall selection in the NHL Draft. The Bruins drafted Jake DeBrusk 14th overall last summer in Florida at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Stephane Quintal 14th overall in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft, Normand Leveille 14th overall in the 1981 NHL Entry Draft, Douglas Halward 14th overall in the 1975 NHL Amateur Draft and Terry O’Reilly 14th overall in the 1971 NHL Amateur Draft.

Based on finishing with the highest point total of all non-playoff teams for the second straight season, the Bruins owned a 1.0% chance of winning the 2016 Draft Lottery overall and a 3.4% chance of securing a top-three pick.

The 2016 NHL Draft will take place on June 24-25 at the First Niagara Center home of the Sabres in Buffalo just a couple of months from now, and the Bruins also own the first round pick of the San Jose Sharks that will end up somewhere in the 20’s based on the fact they’re still currently alive in the playoffs.

Saturday, April 30: Preparing for the lottery

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Saturday, April 30: Preparing for the lottery

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while celebrating Greek Easter this weekend by way of my in-laws. Christos Anesti.  

*Pro Hockey Talk writer James O’Brien has everything you need to know about tonight’s NHL Draft Lottery.

*Brent Burns is recognized as a Norris Trophy finalist after his best season as a member of the San Jose Sharks. For the record, the top three of Drew Doughty, Burns and Erik Karlsson were also the top three votes on my awards ballot, and exactly in that order.

*Puck Daddy eulogizes the Anaheim Ducks, who lost in the first round and promptly got their head coach fired.

*Speaking of the Ducks and a great man and good coach in Bruce Boudreau, who is now out of work, Anaheim GM Bob Murray is now getting ready to round up the candidates for a new coach.

*Spector has a number of hockey rumors, including what’s expected for offseason changes for the Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks now that they’re on the golf course.

*If the Edmonton Oilers win the draft lottery again, two things will happen: a lot of people will be angry, and Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli will have a lot of options at his disposal.

*Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk bring the Stanley Cup pedigree to an Islanders team that’s voyaging deep into the playoffs.

*For something completely different: Kevin Faulk gets mad props for wearing the Tom Brady jersey to the NFL podium to help announce New England’s draft picks.