TORONTO - Even Toronto Maple Leafs teammate Peter Holland wonders how Phil Kessel scores goals so effectively.
"I was talking to (James) Reimer the other day and I was just asking it, 'What is it about Phil's shot that makes it so hard to save?'" Holland said. "It's just I guess the way the puck comes off the blade. It's tough for the goalies to read where it's going, whether it's going to be low, high, right corner, left corner."
Wednesday night, Kessel made more teammates wonder by beating Vezina Trophy winning Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask with two perfect wrist shots.
"We just talked about it on the bench, it's unbelievable," forward Leo Komarov said. "That's why he's so good."
Those goals were Nos. 231 and 232 of his NHL career and Nos. 9 and 10 of the season. So this is nothing new for Kessel.
The 27-year-old doesn't want reveal his secret. Or maybe he doesn't think he has one.
"I've been doing it for a long time," Kessel said. "I just kind of shoot it."
Better than just about everyone in the NHL. Reimer, who has been on the receiving end of Kessel's shots in practice for four-plus seasons, said only Kessel and Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals can get the puck off that quickly and with scarcely a hint of where it's going in the net.
"He has such a great release and it's heavy and he can put it in a two-inch area," Reimer said. "As a guy who faces it every day, you just know how impressive it is because he can score on you and you know all his moves, per se, and he can still come in and snipe on you."
It's much like a pitcher who can make a fastball and a curveball looks the same out of his hand. Ovechkin is slightly better at the deception, but like many great goal-scorers Kessel excels because of how little time and effort he needs to get rid of the puck.
In Wednesday night's 6-1 victory against the Bruins, Kessel skated down the right wing and beat Rask far (stick) side in the very top corner for his first goal. He went far (glove) side on his second but also from an angle that Reimer said is usually not a place for quality scoring chances.
"It's a God-given talent," Reimer said. "It's something that you can't even really explain as a goaltender."
That's partially why it's hard to explain why Rask was so helpless to stop Kessel on each goal. Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said Kessel was able to put the puck in a place one of the best goalies in the league couldn't get to it.
For Carlyle, Kessel's shot is reminiscent of former Pittsburgh Penguins teammate Rick Kehoe, who had six 30-plus-goal seasons, including 55 in 1980-81.
"He had the same kind of a release ??? a quick wrist shot," Carlyle said. "A different type of player but that release. Those are the things that those special, goal-scoring players have. The release is always something natural to them and they don't waste any time.
"They catch more people with quickness and they get the puck directed and it hits areas of the net that you never think they can score from."
Veteran star forward Jaromir Jagr has said Kehoe taught him to shoot during his time as a Penguins assistant and head coach.
Linemate and friend Tyler Bozak would appreciate Kessel teaching him and the rest of the Leafs. That's easier said than done.
"It's fun to watch," Bozak said. "Most of us in here would love to have a shot like that if we could."
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