When the Pittsburgh Penguins acquired Derick Brassard three days before the trade deadline, one plan was clear: He would play as the third line center. Word then came out that Phil Kessel would be on his right wing as the Penguins prefer him on his own line. That way, it balances out the scoring and it gives Pittsburgh three outstanding lines.
Through four games, Brassard and Kessel have shown flashes of how great they can be together, so let’s see how this could be one of the deadliest duos in the league down the stretch and into the playoffs.
Pittsburgh Penguins Derick Brassard, Phil Kessel Could Form Insane Duo
Don’t Force the Puck to Phil
Players have to be able to do their own thing even with Kessel being on their line. Brassard on most teams is a second-line center, maybe even a first-line center on some of the lower teams in the league. He has a great shot and great playmaking ability which has been displayed already. During Monday night’s game against the Calgary Flames though, he was forcing the puck to Kessel a bit too much at times instead of trying to do his own thing.
It’s always tempting to do that because of how good Kessel is and how great of a season he’s having. It’s also important to remember that they’re still feeling each other out and that this will likely improve by the playoffs. This was a problem that Nick Bonino had at times in Pittsburgh but then when the playoffs came around, but he became a new player, just like how Brassard has been in the playoffs.
It’s the little things
In Saturday night’s game against the New York Islanders, Brassard scored his first goal as a Penguin thanks to Kessel creating a rebound for him:
Kessel shot the puck low on purpose so Christopher Gibson had to make a pad save. Then Brassard made a great move to his backhand to clean it up and put it in the back of the net. It’s not much, but it’s plays like these that get lost in the grand scheme of things. That goal gave Brassard 19 goals on the season and 40 points. It also marked Kessel’s 400th career assist.
There’s a good chance that more plays like that will happen between these two as they get more comfortable with each other. Coming over from a trapping team and playing on a team that is fast-paced is a bit difficult, especially when the player is playing with arguably the Penguins best player this season.
Both outstanding playoff performers
There’s a reason why people call Brassard “Big Game Brass” and why Phil Kessel has averaged just about a point per game in the playoffs over his career. They both elevate their games during the biggest stage and help their teams win. Brassard has played in 78 playoff games throughout his career and has 22 goals and 55 points. His best playoff season came in 2014-2015 when he had nine goals and 16 points with the New York Rangers. He even scored the first goal of their series against the Penguins:
Last season for the Ottawa Senators, he had four goals and 11 points in their run to the Eastern Conference Final.
As for Kessel, he has 31 goals and 66 points in 71 career playoff games. He almost won the Conn Smythe in 2016 when he had 22 points in 24 playoff games. Last year, he was right back being around there when he had 23 points in 25 playoff games.
Putting both players on the same line in the playoffs may be even better than when the Penguins had Hagelin, Bonino, and Kessel in 2016 when that line just went off. They could conceivably put it back (except it’s with Brassard) but Hagelin has developed some great chemistry this year with Evgeni Malkin.
Whatever the case, even though they’re just starting out together, this could be one of the league’s deadliest duos the rest of the season and into the playoffs once they start to get more familiar with one another.
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