NHL Playoffs: Golden Knights' Phil Kessel scratched for first time since 2009

Kessel is the NHL's all-time ironman streak leader, having appeared in 1064 consecutive games.

Phil Kessel is missing an NHL hockey game for the first time since 2009. (Reuters)
Phil Kessel is sitting out an NHL hockey game for the first time since 2009. (Reuters)

In Game 5 against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday, the Vegas Golden Knights did something an NHL team hasn’t done in 15 years: they sat Phil Kessel.

As far as regular-season games go, Kessel last missed such a game on Oct. 31, 2009.

As many people have noted, the Golden Knights’ decision to healthy-scratch Kessel in favor of William Carrier doesn’t technically end the 35-year-old winger’s NHL-record “ironman” streak. That’s because Kessel’s streak — currently active at 1,064 — pertains solely to the regular season.

Regardless, it’s still a stunning moment. As John Shannon notes, it’s also been ages since Kessel sat out a playoff game. The last time Kessel missed a playoff game was April 15, 2008. To reinforce how long ago that was, consider that the Montreal Canadiens beat Kessel’s first team, the Boston Bruins, 1-0 in a game where only Patrice Brisebois scored to take a 3-1 series lead.

Since then, the NHL’s thankfully seen in a tremendous surge in scoring. The Bruins went on to trade Phil Kessel in a move that helped them land Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton, win a Stanley Cup and eventually trade both Seguin and Hamilton in memorable moves.

Of course, Kessel himself has accumulated a ton of life and hockey experiences since then. He played six productive yet polarizing seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, prompting some ridiculous feuds along the way. From there, it’s slightly hard to believe that he only spent four seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins, considering the back-to-back Stanley Cups, genuine Conn Smythe hype and mild bit of drama he developed with teammates (including Evgeni Malkin).

Since April 15, 2008, Kessel ranks 29th in playoff goals (29) and points (82), along with being a top-10 player in regular-season goals (383) and 11th-best in points (926).

You’re putting things mildly when you say the world (and pop culture) changed the last time Kessel was in street clothes during a relevant hockey game, too.

Still, you usually end up a healthy scratch for a reason. Generally speaking, people reacted to Carrier replacing Kessel for the Golden Knights in Game 5 by being surprised by the courageous move, rather than outraged by a coaching mistake.

The Golden Knights cruised to an easy 4-1 victory to take the series in five games and become the first team to move on to the second round of this year's playoffs.