As if Edmonton needed tormenting anymore, the Oilers have a new nemesis and his name is Zack Kassian, the rough-and-tumble Vancouver power forward.
As if Edmonton needed tormenting anymore, the Oilers have a new nemesis and his name is Zack Kassian. The Vancouver Canucks power forward started off the year by breaking Sam Gagner's jaw with an errant high stick, then allegedly mocked the face shield Gagner had to wear upon his return.
Last night, Kassian scored the clinching goal in a game both Vancouver and Edmonton desperately needed to win. Not only that, but he sluffed off an attempt by Oilers enforcer Luke Gazdic to fight, despite the fact Kassian can handle himself pretty well when the gloves are dropped.
In this instance, Kassian made the right move. His Canucks needed the two points and if he had engaged with Gazdic and lost (a pretty likely scenario given Gazdic's heavyweight credentials), the Oilers' bench would have been super-energized. Plus, with 10 goals on the year through 45 games, Kassian is much more of a scoring threat than Gazdic (two goals), so having both in the box for five minutes would have helped the Oilers.
And with revenge still unslaked, you'd have to imagine some of the Oilers were at least a little distracted by Kassian after that. Again, advantage Vancouver.
I'm sure there are a lot of fans out there who consider Kassian to be a lunkhead. His resume isn't exactly Stanford material, but he's a big dude who can physical punish opponents with both his hits and his fists, while also contributing to the Canucks' secondary scoring. He knows what he's doing out there.
Kassian has fought three times this season, in three different scenarios. He took on Philly's Luke Schenn after the blueliner put a stiff hit on Vancouver's David Booth; he fought Chris Stewart after the Blues power forward slashed him; and he took on Daniel Carcillo of the Kings after Kassian wiped out Jarret Stoll with a big hit.
So he will defend teammates and he will answer the bell when another enforcer comes calling – but only when it doesn't hurt his team.
And you can guarantee the last person the Oilers wanted to see sniping one past Ben Scrivens last night was Kassian. These two teams meet again Monday and I would bet that while Edmonton coach Dallas Eakins will beg his players to focus on the Sedins and Ryan Kesler, minds will wander and a certain nemesis will drift into focus.
Once again, advantage Vancouver.