Fair is Fair
One, a wall of boos. Two, Zdeno Chara, all 6-foot-9 of him, is standing in front of him. Three, his own lack of options.
See, I don't believe for a second Kessel is intimidated by Boston's hockey hostility. This is a kid, don't forget, who spurned his hometown University of Wisconsin Badgers to go out-of-state and play for the hated Golden Gophers of the University of Minnesota as a teenager.
He's been a target since he was 13 and he's not afraid of hard choices - like telling the B's he didn't want to play there anymore - or putting himself in the line of fire.
But Kessel lacks different approaches to different problems, not surprising for a young man who just turned 23. Playing his usual speed game isn't going to work against Boston, or hasn't so far, and it would do him a lot of good, and his team, if he spent a little more time battling in the crease than backing away from it a la Jimmy Carson.
Again, it's not that Kessel's scared. It's more along the lines of that like goalscorers like Brett Hull, he figures finding open space is the way to score goals, not going to where all the checkers are.
But the way the boring Bruins so effectively pack the slot and crease, there's just no way goals are going to be found on the periphery, particularly after Claude Julien's club gets a lead (playoffs excepted, apparently, as the Flyers could testify to.)
What will be interesting, meanwhile, is how, or if, the ACC crowd chooses to support its scoring star when the Bruins come to town Dec. 4.
Targetting opposing players to constant booing is nothing new in this league. All's fair in hockey and war, and Toronto, the place that booed Bobby Orr, has happily booed Daniel Alfredsson of the Senators for years, apparently for his run-in with Darcy Tucker in the playoffs.
It's not just T.O., of course. Chris Pronger gets booed in Edmonton. Actually, he gets booed everywhere. Dion Phaneuf, for reasons hard to explain, was the target of boos at Madison Square Garden in New York when the Leafs visited there recently, giving the MSG fans a temporary break from booing Michal Roszival.
Anyways, it's tit-for-tat, and Ottawa has tried to reply to the taunting of Alfredsson by booing various Leaf players, from Mats Sundin to Kessel.
So if you're a Leaf fan, how do you respond to what Bruin fans are doing to Kessel? (The "Thank You, Kessel" chant last night was particulary biting. And funny.)
Why, boo 18-year-old Tyler Seguin, of course. That won't please the family of Seguin, a GTA lad, but fair is fair.
If Kessel has to face years of dealing with boos every time he goes to whatever name the Boston rink has this week, then Leaf fans, if they're competitive (or even in their seats paying attention), might as well fire back at Seguin.
Makes you think that a playoff series between these two towns could be an awful lot of fun.