Someone on Twitter on Saturday made the point that the Leafs don't deserve nice things because they treat their nice things badly.
While that might sound harsh, there's some truth to it. Phil Kessel was a nice thing. In fact, he was one of the nicest things in the NHL for the six years he wore a blue Maple Leafs sweater. Few players in the game today can combine elite speed and shooting abilities like Kessel. He was (and is) a game breaker.
And the Leafs treated him badly. Surely I don't have to post links here as proof; the stories and barbs thrown around him and at him for years were inescapable in the hockey world. (If you really are out of the loop, just type "Phil Kessel hot dog" into Google and hit the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button). A player of his caliber shouldn't suffer the unceremonious departure he did.
The least the Leafs and their fans could do on Saturday was acknowledge his contributions when he returned as a Penguin for the first time on Saturday. The standard going rate for a returning former player with tenure is a video tribute and a polite ovation. Superficial things that still mean something on some level.
Kessel got neither. He got boos from the fans and silent treatment from the franchise, which seemed rather odd. Kessel will tell you it doesn't matter to him, and (knowing him) it probably doesn't. But that doesn't mean that sort of treatment goes unnoticed, whether it's his teammates or the rest of the league. Hostility and flippancy have real effects, something the franchise should consider as it tries to rebuild itself into a contender again.
Penguins 4, Maple Leafs 0
3 things we learned
1. L.A. is on the rise
Add the Kings to the list of teams everyone overreacted to after a slow start to the season. It's actually a bit silly looking back; the Kings had only lost their first three games before fans started to worry. Seven wins later, everything is back to normal. The key has been the ascension of young winger Tyler Toffoli, who scored twice on Saturday to tie Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn for the league lead (nine).
2. Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Patrick Sharp might be the best line in hockey
We all knew Benn and Seguin would get their points. But the addition of Sharp has enhanced the Stars' top line on so many levels you have to consider them the best trio in the league. Not only is Sharp another threat to score, but he adds another layer of elite defensive responsibility to a line that was already decent at it last year. Benn (17) and Seguin (16) lead the league in points, Benn leads the league in goals and Seguin leads the league in assists. Oh, and Sharp has four goals in his last three games.
I could go on, but you get the point. These guys are good.
3. The Flames are broken
We're not even going to get into it here. All you need to know is the Flames gave up four goals for the fifth straight game and blew a lead against the Oilers. They seem rather helpless and sad so let's just move on to the next section very quickly.
Evgeny Kuznetsov scored the best overtime goal of the year by faking out two Panthers defensemen.
Rookie of the Night
Since the league is absolutely flooded with talented rookies this year, we might as well make this a new thing. The first award goes to Detroit Red Wings center Dylan Larkin, who scored his third goal of the season off this excellent wraparound attempt.
Larkin goal, 4-1 Detroit pic.twitter.com/5ae0G4dLd5— Stephanie (@myregularface) November 1, 2015
That's eight points in 11 games for Larkin, who sits fifth in rookie scoring.
Stat of the Night
The Leafs have 12 wins in their last 61 games going back to last season!— James Mirtle (@mirtle) November 1, 2015
That is un-good.