Kessel on fire as he returns to Boston

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Kessel on fire as he returns to Boston

BOSTON -- Phil Kessel is returning to Boston yet again with the Toronto Maple Leafs to square off with the Bruins, but for the first time since leaving Boston, Phil the Thrill is going to be feared when he hits the Garden ice.

Kessel leads the NHL with seven goals, 12 points and a plus-7 in five games for the Maple Leafs coming on the heels of a three-point performance in a 4-3 shootout win over the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday night. Hes been the beneficiary of a wide open system employed by the Leafs this season, but it appears that Kessel has also taken the step to the next level this season.

You know that Kessel has turned a corner when those around the Leafs organization including the media are thumping their chest about the trade with the Bruins thats netted Boston Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton and Jared Knight and a brilliantly bright future.

Only one Maple Leafs player in the NHL's modern era (since 1943-44) scored at least seven goals in the team's first five games of a season: Hall of Famer Sweeney Schriner scored eight goals in Toronto's first five games in 1944-45. So Kessel is making history with Toronto, and hes also within the last couple of games started having success against his former hockey club in Boston.The sprinting start to the season is part of the Kessel modus operandi for his NHL season, and the gifted scorer had seven points (5 goals and 2 assists) through his first seven games with the Leafs last season. Clearly this year's scoring outburst is a step up from there, but many around hockey -- including Claude Julien -- are curious to see if the ending is equally spectacular this time around.Because the endings for Kessel haven't been quite as jaw-dropping as the beginnings."He's off to a good start again. That's a trademark for Phil is that he gets off to a good start. I watched him play last night and he's playing extremely well," said Julien. "His line has been doing a lot of damage out there on the ice. We need to understand the danger of that and be very aware when they're on the ice."

It sets up an interesting match-up against 19-year-old second year forward Tyler Seguin, who is also emerging this season with five points (1 goal, 4 assists) in 6 games as a viable offensive threat. But a Bs team averaging an NHL-worst 1.69 goals per game this season will need to generate a lot more offense to offset the former phenom forward thats on pace for a ridiculous 115 goals and 197 points this season.

That wont last and it will be interesting to see how much staying power Toronto has after getting off to a decent start last season as well. But nothing about Thursday nights game will get the introverted Kessel nervous about another return to Boston thats become a normal part of the season routine.

It gets old when you guys ask all the time, said Kessel when asked about heading back to Boston. You know, its a couple of years ago. I dont get jitters anymore. Going back to that first year I was a little nervous.

Theyre a great team and were going to have to battle hard to win tomorrow.

The 4-0-1 record built up by the Maple Leafs in the first five game are looking like a pretty good team themselves in the early going, but it's important to keep in mind the Leafs had the exact same record to start last season before the bottom dropped out.Theupstart Leafs and the desperate Bruinswill make an interesting dynamic for both Kessel and a Bruins team in search of a victory fix up -- and upagainst their fierce division rivals in this Year of the Kessel.

Thursday, April 28: Who are the lottery picks?

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Thursday, April 28: Who are the lottery picks?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while giving a thumbs up to “The Good Dinosaur” as quality family viewing.

*TSN Hockey Buddha Bob McKenzie breaks down the players available in the NHL draft lottery and what kind of names teams like the Boston Bruins should expect to be available with the first 14 picks.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Greg Wyshynski talks about the World of Cup ads with the ESPN creative people that made them happen. They used the word jarring in something of a positive fashion to describe them. I would use the word “not funny” for Reg Carling, the fictional character created for the ads. If they were trying to feature the personality of NHL players in those ads, I think they missed the mark. It’s not really a big deal in the final scheme of things, but it doesn’t make for a good first step in drawing hockey fans back to the four letter network.  

*Good luck to Cam Tucker, a hockey writer based out of Vancouver that appears to have been one of the latest to be downsized in our industry.

*Dennis Bernstein has some thoughts, facts, analysis and theories surrounding the Los Angeles Kings, who have a long time to think about their first-round exit from the playoffs.

*Bruce Garrioch has some info on Ottawa’s long range plan to move to a needed downtown arena and that being the blueprint for most other Canadian cities.

*Tracey Myers has a dilemma for the Blackhawks: Andrew Shaw wants to stay, but the question is whether the Blackhawks can afford him?

*PHT writer James O’Brien has Bruce Boudreau lamenting the tough Game 7 loss for the Anaheim Ducks to the Nashville Predators. The loss may cost Boudreau his job, and will see a lot of new blood in the West with Chicago, Los Angeles and Anaheim now all out of the postseason.

*For something completely different: how can you say “no” to a tour of the world’s most magnificent treehouses.

Bruins have slim chance at No. 1 in NHL Draft lottery Saturday

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Bruins have slim chance at No. 1 in NHL Draft lottery Saturday

The Bruins will know a great deal more in a couple of days about their prospects for NHL Draft weekend in Buffalo this June.

The NHL will hold its annual draft lottery in Toronto on Saturday night for those teams outside the playoffs that hold first-round picks or those shrewd enough to have secured a first-rounder and still have reached the playoffs. 

The Bruins will have two first-round picks regardless of what happens: they hold their own lottery-eligible selection along with the first-round pick from the San Jose Sharks sent to Boston last summer in the trade for goaltender Martin Jones. The Sharks are still alive in the postseason, so the B’s second selection will be a late first-rounder.

The Bruins were the last NHL team eliminated from playoff contention, so they hold the slimmest odds of securing the first overall pick with a 1 percent chance in the Auston Matthews sweepstakes.

It’s too bad because the kind of game-breaking talent available at the top of the draft is exactly what the Black and Gold franchise needs after trading away top-10 first-round picks in Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton the past three years.

The Bruins will have roughly the same odds for the second (1.1 percent chance) and third overall picks (1.3 percent chance) should they miss out on No. 1, but the chances are still slim at they will pick anywhere but the same exact 14th overall pick where they selected Jake DeBrusk last season. Should they get a selection in the top three, the Bruins would be looking at big-time center Matthews, and a pair of Finnish wingers in Patrick Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi, along with Matthew Tkachuk (son of Keith Tkachuk and cousin to Jimmy Hayes).

The highest rated D-man on the board is Sarnia Sting blueliner Jakob Chycrun, who is a player the Bruins would need to trade up for, a la their attempt at Noah Hanifin last year. The Bruins will have assets to potentially make that happen, but we all know how that worked out last season for Don Sweeney when a big part of “the plan” was moving up to nab one of last year’s blue chip D-men in the draft.   

Hopeful Bruins fans can try their luck with the NHL Draft Lottery Simulator online, but fair warning that you won’t see the Spoked ‘B’ come up very much while hashing out the order of the top three overall picks for late June at the First Niagara Center. 

 

Pastrnak suiting up for World Championships run with Czechs

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Pastrnak suiting up for World Championships run with Czechs

Young Bruins winger David Pastrnak wasn’t 100 percent sure he was going to play in the IIHF World Championships, but it now appears he will taking part in the tournament for the Czech Republic entry competing in Russia. According to Twitter account for NHL reporter Zdenek Matejovsky, Pastrnak will play on a line with Czech Republic team captain Tomas Plekanec and fellow young winger Roman Cervenka.

Pastrnak finished his NHL season with a flourish scoring three goals in his last five games after battling injuries and taking a detour trip to the World Junior tournament in the middle of the season. The 19-year-old produced 15 goals and 26 points in 51 games for the Black and Gold when it was all said and done, and finished the year playing in a top line spot with David Krejci and Loui Eriksson.

Pastrnak is also expected to take part in the World Cup of Hockey tournament for the Czech Republic during NHL training camp amidst a growing international hockey resume for the highly skilled Bruins youngster. The hope is that the top competition at the World Championships and the World Cup could segue into a major NHL leap forward for Pastrnak in his pivotal third season in Boston at a position (right wing) where the Bruins really needed more production this season.

Krejci would have also been an automatic choice for the Czech World Championship team, but he’s instead scheduled to undergo surgery on his left hip for a nagging issue that’s bothered him on and off over the last two seasons.