Phil Kessel may be the face of the Toronto Maple Leafs but he made his mark with the Boston Bruins.
The Bruins are attempting to chase down the shocking Montreal Canadiens in the Northeast Division, while the Leafs are trying to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2003-04 season.
This is an emotional series that has been dominated by Boston in recent years.
When the Bruins and the Maple Leafs get together, it's clearly a measuring stick for the Leafs. Head coach Randy Carlyle will have a much better understanding after his team plays back-to-back games with the Bruins.
Here are five reasons to love this rivalry.
The Boston Bruins don't have the blood feud with the Toronto Maple Leafs that they do with the Montreal Canadiens.
However, they have been going at each other since 1924-25, the Bruins' first season of existence. The Bruins played the Maple Leafs in their second game ever, dropping a 5-3 decision in Toronto. They would lose their first six games against Toronto before finally picking up their first win in the series.
The Bruins lead the all-time series 277-263-105. The Maple Leafs dominated the series until the arrival of Bobby Orr in 1966-67. Since then, the Bruins have had their way in most years.
The Bruins have won the last eight games between the two teams. They swept the season series 6-0-0 last year and have won the first two games this year.
When you think of hockey's greatest superstar performances, the names that come to mind are Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Mario Lemieux, Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, Maurice Richard and Sidney Crosby.
Darryl Sittler was an excellent player for the Toronto Maple Leafs in in the 1970s, but he was not in a category with the all-time greats.
However, when the Leafs hosted the Bruins Feb. 7, 1976, Sittler put on the best individual scoring performance in the history of the NHL. He scored six goals and added four assists in an 11-4 Toronto victory. His 10-point night exceeded the previous record held by Richard (eight points).
It's a performance that lives on in NHL lore as basically every puck that Sittler touched ended up in the back of the Boston net.
Once Bobby Orr arrived in Boston, the Bruins-Maple Leafs series turned around.
Some of the great NHL playoff rivalries of the past have not had much relevance in the last four decades.
The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins have met in 13 playoff series. However, none of them have taken place after 1974.
The Maple Leafs are 8-5 all time in the postseason versus the Bruins. The Maple Leafs won eight of the first 10 playoff series between the two teams, but after Bobby Orr's arrival in Boston, the Bruins won the last three playoffs between the two teams in 1969, 1972 and 1974.
There have been many reasons why the Boston Bruins have gotten the better of the Toronto Maple Leafs in recent years.
Size, strength, toughness and execution are four of the basic reasons. However, the Bruins' biggest edge has been in the goaltending department.
Prior to the 2013 season, the Bruins depended on the combination of Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask in goal. That gave the Bruins one of the best goaltending duos in the league. Thomas is taking the year off and has since been traded to the New York Islanders, but the combination of Rask and Anton Khudobin has been top-notch this season.
The Bruins have given up the least amount of goals in the NHL.
The Leafs have been afflicted with mediocre goaltending for years. James Reimer and Ben Scrivens have been decent in net this year—at least by Maple Leafs standards—but they don't compare with Boston's duo.
Phil Kessel is perhaps the Leafs' best offensive player. He is second on the team in scoring this season with 30 points to Nazem Kadri (33), but when the Leafs need a clutch goal, they want to see Kessel loading up for his vicious wrist shot.
Kessel has been a Leafs mainstay since 2009-10. He has scored at least 30 goals in each of his full seasons with the Leafs.
Prior to coming to the Leafs, Kessel was an up-and-coming star for the Boston Bruins. He scored 36 goals in 2008-09 and was a fan favorite.
He is still a fan favorite in Boston. He is greeted with the "Thank you, Kessel," chant every time he steps on the ice in Boston.
When he was traded by the Bruins to Toronto in 2009, the Bruins received a package of draft picks. The Bruins used those picks to select Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton and Jared Knight. Seguin and Hamilton are the Bruins' brightest young players, while Knight has not been called up to the Bruins.
Kessel has been a two-time All-Star for the Leafs, but he has struggled against his old team. In 20 games against Boston, Kessel has scored three goals and six assists and is minus-20 (source: NationalPost.com).