Shock and Jaw: Canucks Streamroll Oilers

On Friday night the Vancouver Canucks spanked the Edmonton Oilers with a 4-0 victory that wasn’t as closely contested as the score might indicate. It was probably Vancouver’s most thoroughly dominant performance of the season.

At the end of it Zack Kassian made waves by probably mocking Sam Gagner’s jaw shield (y’know, the one Gagner wears to protect his jaw after Kassian broke it with a vicious errant stick this past September). It was such a controversial move by Kassian that it soaked up all of the postgame oxygen overshadowing the fact that the Canucks have won six in a row, have given up one goal in their last three games, and that Dale Weise scored a power-play goal… 

Read past the jump for more.

The Edmonton Oilers have been playing better hockey of late, but they were on the second game of back-to-backs (they played the flu striken Boston Bruins close on Thursday night) and still don’t really have any serviceable top-pairing defensemen who can hang with the likes of the Sedin twins, or Kesler, or Zac Dalpe apparently.

That correlation of factors led to a lopsided affair as the Canucks controlled 24 shot attempts in the first 20 minutes to just 6 for the Oilers. In all Vancouver controlled 81% of shot attempts with the score tied, outshot the Oilers 34 to 18 at even-strength despite leading for much of the game, and out-chanced the Oilers 26 to 10 (according to Jonathan Willis).

Vancouver’s special teams units continued to dominate. The Canucks’ penalty-killers permitted only a single shot against in four minutes of 4on5 time and frustrated Edmonton enormously on entries with their passive 1-3 formation in the neutral zone. Meanwhile Vancouver’s power-play continued to regress with two goals. Jason Garrison managed three assists on the night, so he’s already broken his career high for assists (set during his contract year with Florida in 2011-12) which is neat.

Among Vancouver’s defenders, Chris Tanev also had a particularly strong game for the Canucks. His pairing with Dan Hamhuis drew the primary matchup against Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, David Perron and Jordan Eberle, and with Tanev on the ice the Canucks attempted 25 shots to just 7 attempts against. Those are some stratospheric results at even-strength, and it’ll be really interesting to see how Tanev and Hamhuis fare against Boston – and presumably the David Krejci, Milan Lucic line – on Saturday.

Most importantly for Vancouver: the team managed their most important players’ minutes rigorously in preparation for a game against a legitimate NHL team tomorrow. Ryan Stanton received the second most ice-time at even-stregnth among all Canucks defenseman, which tells you all you need to know. Henrik Sedin played just a hair over 16 minutes, Daniel played fewer than 20, and Kesler only just broke the 20 minute mark. So Saturday’s game against Boston is "the second of back-to-back games" in name only.

As a result of these metered minutes, Tortorella actually rolled with his fourth line an appreciable amount, and Dalpe, Jeremy Welsh and Weise played prety well all things considered (though Dalpe was the only Canucks forward who was "even" in terms of shots on goal controlled at even-strength). I would very much like to see those three get some run as Vancouver’s fourth-line, having three energy guys who can skate on the fourth unit seems like it could potentially be useful.

But it all comes back to Zack Kassian, who managed a goal and even remorselessly taunted the player he maimed only a few months ago. Kassian has seemed to be playing much better of late, wearing smaller players like a house coat along the boards and just generally being a belligerent menace. The underlying numbers aren’t there yet, neither is the consistency, or the trust of Vancouver’s coaching staff – but Kassian’s scoring at a very efficient clip, and looks to be tangibly improving for the first time in his Vancouver tenure.

Obviously the Canucks have long believed they needed a presence like Kassian can bring on their roster. Against a team that likes to play rough (like the Bruins do), it’ll be fascinating to see how Kassian’s latest baby steps hold up.

Finally: let’s all make sure to enjoy the moralistic ‘hot sports takes’ ruminating on Kassian’s trash talking that are sure to permeate on the internet over the next 12 hours! The hate: embrace it. is the best site on the internet and provided most of the numbers in this gamer.

  • Peachy

    I came to the realization that the Canucks would never be thought of as ‘protagonists’ in any sports narrative after the 2011 playoffs, though I’m more than happy to see them play proper villains to those who despise. I could do without the broken jaws, but otherwise Kassian terrorizing the Oilers and leaving their fans smoldering fills me with joy.

  • pheenster

    Speaking of embracing the hate… anyone else find it amusing that the Oilers are up in arms promising retribution for Kassian’s mocking of Gagner… and yet they promised retribution for the actual injury of Gagner as well, but that hasn’t materialized yet.

    Ah well, I guess getting back at Kassian is behind “Win the lottery draft” on the Oiler’s to-do list.

  • pheenster

    Impressive win by the Nucks. However, I’m embarassed that Kassian is on our team. We all know he was not born the sharpest knife in the drawer. Clearly, he was born without any class too. His lack of remorse is similar to that of a hardened criminal and if not for hockey, he could well end up in a penitentiary.

  • Peachy

    I love that Kassian gets as much flack for saying something mean as he did for breaking a guy’s jaw.

    I’d much rather have him getting under the opponent’s skin by being a big old meanie with his words, rather than physically injuring other players.

    “BC Salmon”, I think you’re probably an Oiler plant, but if you’re not, get some perspective.

  • Brent

    Enjoyed the game and the write up! Looking forward to tomorrows tilt! I am actually pretty optimistic now.

    Only down side was Kassian’s taunt. I mean come on, you broke the guys jaw on a pretty dirty play and then you mock him. Felt embarrassed. Just play the game! He had a good game, drove the play, got a goal, had some good hits. That is all the statements you have to make.

  • Brent

    The explanation of why Kassian is not playing with the twins on HNIC makes perfect sense. He just isn’t defensive minded enough! The twins are going to take chances and if Bieksa is pinching someone has to cover…. Watching Hasen I with Danny and Hank is not fun right now, but I see what Torts is doing. Kass and Booth worked their way out of the dog house to the fourth line and tonight showed some hustle and smarts! Tied 1-1 Kass had a chance to level an oil in the Canucks corner… But pulled up and the rush went the other way, not a double minor. Then Booths, stay on my skates whip pass to a Kass in front deflection? Wonderful! Merry Xmas to all Canucks fans out there. I see why Torts develops players, you play well you play! Shorthouse said it all tonight, he is honest and tells the truth. AV was like your wierd ex girlfriend that would try and motivate you by not answering your calls for 3 days….. After a while, you are done! The AV Canucks were talented, frustrating and enigmatic, this group is starting to seem solid. Stanton, Richardson and Santorelli are glue guys that we needed to bring some hustle and grit to the team. No matter if we beat the B’s on HNIC tomorrow . I see the positives, good D, great PK….. The O will come up and the PP will be the usual by the end of the season. the Nucks are 17-0-1 when scoring 3 goals or more! That goal can be accomplished with this group. Unlike last season…. This is a long one and I look at the 2012 Kings as a blue print. Solid group that gets hot at the right time….The Playoffs! For a change?

  • Brent

    The explanation for why Kassian doesn’t play with the Sedins lines up perfectly with the type of player Burrows is. He’s so good defensively and yet can contribute offensively.

    I really wish he would at least get some consideration for team Canada, especially since that rat, Marchand, is getting some consideration. Burrows is a great forechecker, can score 20-30 goals with good linemates, and most importantly is an ace on defense.

    Bah, I’m just butthurt that he gets no consideration.

    Also, I really hope someone, somewhere, starts trying to get #dutchgretzky to be a thing on Twitter or something else (since I don’t use it). He’s been looking very good the past little while, I’m wondering if he’s starting to transition his dependable d-zone play into the o-zone.


  • acg5151

    I like Kassian on the third line. Obviously needs a better centre than Richardson, but Kassian-Booth look good together. Maybe if you slightly sheltered them with Schroeder. The way Santorelli is playing, you could easily give Higg-Santo-Hans the tough assignments and unleash Booth-Kesler-Kassian. Think Torts prefers to lean on his best guys rather than sheltering them though.

  • pheenster

    The Kassian taunt is blown way out of proportion. Gagner engaged with him and started talking trash — for good reason, as he has every right to be pissed at Kassian for his reckless and stupid play in the preseason that’s basically wrecked this early season for Gagner. Kassian chirped back when Gadzic tried to then get him to fight but really why would Kassian have to? Oilers fans are all over themselves screaming about the outrage except that little taunt is nothing compared to the vitriol aimed at Gagner on their boards based on his play and giveaways this season.

    I guess it’s a lot easier to focus on these 8 seconds than the rest of the dismantling and the clear evidence this season that this is a borderline AHL team (actually probably wouldn’t even do that well there, probably as good as Utica…) Or to bring up yet again that the Oilers won cups a long time ago in a galaxy far far away. Yeah, because that will bring the playoffs closer, maybe next decade. Maybe the Oilers should get one of the players from those years to step in and help right the ship, just like Roy and Sakic in Colorado. Oh wait…

    • pheenster

      Hey, surprised you can talk, seeing as how you taking all those loads from your husband Sedin must be a difficult chore to swallow.

      Oh wait, that’s why you call it a ” double Double”. LMFAO You like to eat Sedins nuts while the other sister watches. LOL

      Hey, what are you still doing here, Sedins balls aint gonna suck itself now!


    • pheenster

      Nothing wrong with Hodgson’s character other than the fact of not wanting to be here and wanting more ice time. He now has his wish on a truly epic Sabres team, one that looks like it will be just as competitive for the next few years. Hopefully they will get him better wingers to play with, at least Girgensons looks like the real deal.

      • pheenster

        “Nothing wrong with Hodgson’s character other than the fact of not wanting to be here and wanting more ice time.”

        It’s amusing that Kassian’s “character”, of which we have some tangible evidence, is condoned whereas Hodgson’s “character” is condemned based entirely on rumours and organizational vilification…

        • pheenster

          How does wanting more ice time make Hodgson more villainous? I think you’re reading a lot into that…

          The point is that Hodgson (and his reps) wanted him to have more ice time, he likely wasn’t going to get it ahead of the two other centers on the depth chart, and he got himself traded.

          Kassian isn’t a particularly villainous character either. His play on Gagner was reckless, idiotic and mindless. He’s a bit of a caveman sometimes but I haven’t seen any evidence of him being a cheap shot artist. Or perhaps you have some other tangible evidence? Please don’t use the vine clip. Unless you want to say that Backes mocking Kassian was also villainous? Or Lapierre making the finger chomping motion to Bergeron was villainous? Or Burrows pretending to do lines in front of Carter and Richards was villainous?

          Honestly, sometimes it feels like people have no clue what trash talk in games looks like.

    • pheenster

      You have no idea what was being said by the players on the ice. You can bet the players on the Oilers bench weren’t paying Kassian compliments on his dental work.

      What Kassian did to Gagner was unfortunate, and yes it was a reckless disregard for where his stick was, but it was obviously not intentional.

      People are reading way too much into this. On the ice there is no rules to trash talk. Far worse has been said and done then what Kassian did, he just happened to have a camera in his face.

  • pheenster

    Dear Vancouver,
    You wonder why the ENTIRE nation hates you?
    Let’s look at facts:
    1. You flash laser pointers at opposing goalies.
    2. You damn near burn your city down after losing in the SCF.
    3. You spray paint churches that are associated with opposing team members
    4. You attack opposing team members in the street.

    As a fan of hockey I can find members on most hockey teams that I can admire for their skill and dedication to the sport. Yours? No.

    Watching the classless, gutless taunting of one player on another in a game that had become meaningless was disgusting. I now understand why this behavior is tolerated and condoned by the fan base. It fits in perfectly with you all.

    May the hockey gods continue your string of futility indefinitely.