SPORTS

Phil Kessel shows off his shot that still wows his Maple Leafs teammates

11/13/2014 01:18 EST | Updated 01/13/2015 05:59 EST
TORONTO - After watching Phil Kessel score two goals on perfect wrist shots, Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle drew comparisons to former teammate Rick Kehoe.

"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."

Kessel doesn't want to reveal his secret, or doesn't think he has one.

"I've been doing it for a long time," the star right-winger said. "I just kind of shoot it."

Now 34 years after his 55-goal season, Kehoe marvels at Kessel's release but still can't explain his own scoring ability.

"I don't even know how I released it," Kehoe, now a New York Rangers scout, said in a phone interview Thursday. "It's just something that I worked at when I was younger and as soon as I got the puck I shot it. It was how quick I could release it and hopefully it went where I wanted it to."

Kehoe enjoyed six 30-goal seasons in the NHL, and as a Penguins assistant and head coach he helped teach Jaromir Jagr how to shoot.

Kessel already has five 30-goal campaigns at the age of 27.

"He has one of the better shots in the league," Kehoe said of Kessel. "There's a couple other guys that can release it pretty good. He's right up there in the top five that's for sure."

Kessel's Maple Leafs teammates are still often in awe of how Kessel shoots the puck. On Wednesday night, he went far stick side on Vezina Trophy winner Tuukka Rask for his first goal and then far glove side for the other.

"We just talked about it on the bench, it's unbelievable," forward Leo Komarov said. "That's why he's so good."

Centre Peter Holland asked goaltender James Reimer last week why Kessel's shot is so difficult to stop.

"It's just I guess the way the puck comes off the blade," Holland recalled. "It's tough for the goalies to read where it's going, whether it's going to be low, high, right corner, left corner."

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 look 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.

During Wednesday night's 6-1 rout of the Boston Bruins, Kessel not impressed with how he scored but where he shot the puck from. Each one came 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."

Linemate and friend Tyler Bozak would appreciate Kessel explaining it 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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