Statistical breakdowns of player performance versus individual teams are mostly just the noise of variation. But it is hard to ignore Boston's effect on Phil Kessel.
Kessel played his first game as a Leaf on November 3, 2009. In fifteen games he scored ten goals and five assists. Kessel was, at this point, a point-a-game player, on pace to score 47 goals for the season, despite having missed the first ten games.
Then, starting on December 5, the Leafs played Boston three times in nine games, over two weeks. Kessel did not score a point against his former team. The first two games were in Boston. After the second, Kessel scored three goals in three games.
Then, Boston came to Toronto. Kessel's failure to score in Boston had been attributed to the hostile crowd and line-matching that forced Kessel to play against Zdeno Chara on every shift. It was hoped that in the friendly confines of the ACC he would do better.
He didn't. Then he derailed. For four games, he did not score a point. Then he scored a goal--against Edmonton--his only point in nine games, and his only goal in nineteen.
This season, Kessel made another good start: he scored seven goals and two assists in eight games. Then, on Oct. 28, the Leafs went to Boston, and Kessel was kept off the scorecard again. He did not get another point for six games, and has scored only two goals in the seventeen games since.
To quote the great hockey sage Yogi Berra, "Ninety percent of this game is half mental." Somehow, playing Boston seems to sap Kessel's confidence.
What is the solution? The Leafs will face the Bruins next on January 3 at the ACC. Will Kessel be back to scoring goals by then? If he is, should Wilson bench him, lest he lose his confidence again, or would that just make things worse? And if he finally does score a goal against Boston (I mean while playing hockey, not those skills competitions the NHL keeps staging after ties) will that end the slump?