The good news is that Phil Kessel’s last multi-point game came in Ottawa, where he and the Toronto Maple Leafs will face the Senators on Saturday night in a key game.
The bad news is that was at the all-star game, where Kessel and linemate Joffrey Lupul combined for three goals and two assists in a 12-9 win as boos rained down.
Other than that outburst in the NHL’s annual shinny game, points have been hard to come by of late for the Leafs’ formerly dynamic duo.
Their coach, however, isn’t ready to hit the panic button just yet.
“Yeah, the puck hasn’t gone in for them, but what’s our record the last 10 games?” Ron Wilson said, referring to his team’s 8-4-1 run in 2012. “It’s pretty good. We’re getting the goals we need. We’re playing sound defence.
“They’re getting scoring chances. It’s just one of those times where the well’s a little dry. They get a goal here or there and suddenly their confidence will bloom just like it has for [Mikhail Grabovski]or Clarke MacArthur in the last couple weeks.”
Even so, it is notable that Kessel and Lupul’s drought hit the 10-game mark in the Leafs 1-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday.
Since both had two-point nights against the Detroit Red Wings in early January, Kessel has only two goals and an assist and Lupul has a goal and four assists.
Toronto is 5-4-1 over that stretch mainly due to the fact they’ve gotten 20 goals from their secondary scorers and played sound defensively.
Grabovski leads the way with six of those goals followed by MacArthur and Matt Lombardi with four each.
Kessel and Lupul, meanwhile, have been sliding down the ranks of NHL scoring leaders over the last month. Entering Friday’s games, Kessel sat 11th in the league with 51 points. Lupul was tied for eighth with 52 after 51 games.
Wilson was focused on the team’s wilting power play in practice on Friday, hoping to find part of the solution. Toronto’s man advantage has scored only twice in its last 31 attempts (6.5 per cent) as teams have adjusted to what was working earlier.
“We knew at the start of the year,” Lupul said. “I remember saying it a bunch of times, too: It’s not going to be smooth sailing for our line the whole way through. Right now, we’ll just keep working and we’ll have one of those breakout games.
“But it’s not an issue where you can get too down on yourself for letting the team down. I mean, we’re winning games and other guys are stepping up. That’s what good teams do.”
Tyler Bozak, the pair’s centre, echoed that sentiment.
“We’ll go as many games as it takes not getting points if we’re going to win them all,” Bozak said. “The main thing is we want to get in the playoffs.”
Saturday’s game could well be a pivotal one on that front, as heading into Friday night’s games, Ottawa was only two points ahead of Toronto in the standings.
The Leafs have struggled against the Sens (1-3-0) and against teams in their division (5-10-0) so far this season, a trend that needs to change given they still have nine games remaining against Northeast Division rivals.
Kessel and Lupul, however, haven’t been the problem against Ottawa, as they lead the team with three goals apiece in those four games.
Kessel has also been more productive versus the Sens than any other team in his career, with 18 goals, 11 assists and a plus-13 rating in 35 games.
His team could certainly use another big night on Saturday.
“They’re a team on our radar,” Lupul said of the Sens. “We looked at the all-star break, and they’re a team we think we can catch. And that’s a goal of ours.”Report Typo/Error