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"Fall Kessel" & "Big Game Phil": A statistical analysis of Phil Kessel

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With Phil Kessel's future in The Hub of Hockey still up in the air, I thought I would take a closer look at what he has done over the past two seasons. What I found were a few interesting trends.

Trend #1: "Fall Kessel"

Phil Kessel produces more in the early months of the season.

This past season, in 34 games before Christmas, Phil Kessel racked up 21 goals (0.62 goals per game). After that time, Kessel had 15 goals in 36 games (0.42 goals per game). Of course some of that may of had to do with recovering from mono or his shoulder problems.

In the '07-'08 season, Kessel finished the year with 19 goals. 9 of those goals were scored in the 36 games before Christmas (0.25 goals per game). The remaining 10 goals took 46 games to compile (.22 goals per game). This wasn't as big of a late season drop off as in '08-'09, but there were still long stretches of time where he was not producing (see Trend #2). 

Trend #2: "Big Game Phil"

Phil Kessel pads his stats against weak teams and is virtually invisiable on the scoresheet during the playoff race.

Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe recently took a look at how Kessel's production declined in big games this season, but I decide to delved a little deeper.

Fluto determined that only 19.4% of Phil Kessel's regular season goals in '08-'09 came against teams that qualified for the playoffs. During the '08-'09 regular season, Phil Kessel appeared in 34 games against playoff teams. In those 34 games Kessel scored  just 7 goals (0.21 goals per game). In the remaining 36 games against non-playoff teams, Kessel potted 29 goals (.81 goals per game). Phil Kessel scored 6 goals in the 23 games played in February and March (0.26 goals per game), when his team was battling for playoff position. It should be pointed out that Kessel was recovering from mono during this time.

In '07-'08, Kessel scored 4 of his 19 goals in 42 games against playoff teams (21.1%, 0.10 goals per game). He scored the remaining 16 goals in 40 games against teams that did not make the post season (0.40 goals per game). During February and March, he scored 4 goals in 28 games (0.14 goals per game).