Edmonton Oilers

NHL getting in their own way punishing Zack Kassian for Matthew Tkachuk beatdown

NHL getting in their own way punishing Zack Kassian for Matthew Tkachuk beatdown

Matthew Tkachuk has only been in the NHL for four seasons, but the reputation is already settling in for what kind of player he’s going to be.

Surely he’s a good one, as evidenced by the 34 goals and 77 points he scored for the Calgary Flames last season. And he’s also an effective agitator that’s already developed a heated, hated rivalry with LA Kings defenseman Drew Doughty.

But the 22-year-old Tkachuk is also developing a reputation as a player that won’t ever make himself accountable for what he does on the ice. Say what you want about guys like Tom Wilson and Brad Marchand that constantly flirt with going over the line, but they will also drop the gloves when the situation calls for it.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Tkachuk made a new enemy on Saturday night in the Battle of Alberta as he drilled Edmonton Oilers tough guy Zack Kassian multiple times, including a pair of borderline hits that knocked off Kassian’s helmet upon impact.

People can say the hits were clean because he didn’t lift his elbow or launch off his skates. But Tkachuk was also clearly looking to get head contact with a vulnerable player that was turned away from him.

Kassian finally had enough after the final time when no penalties were being called and rag-dolled Tkachuk in epic fashion while drilling him with a few punches when he wouldn’t drop the gloves and settle it in old school fashion.

Kassian then let Tkachuk have it after the game as well.

“If you’re going to hit like that you have to answer the bell once in a while. Especially 1, 2, 3…he followed me into the corner in the third and was clearly targeting me. All in all, he’s just a young punk that has to figure out that aspect of the game,” said a pretty frank Kassian to reporters following the game. “It’s sad because he’s a pretty good player, but he’s a [expletive] to be honest. Straight-up. That’s the definition of it. He wouldn’t fight me two years ago because I was a fourth liner, and now I have 14 goals. What’s the excuse now?”

As far as most were concerned, the matter was settled on the ice as it has been in the NHL for decades. Tkachuk ran around without the refs stopping him, and then Kassian sent a message for it to stop in a sequence that ultimately set up the Flames to win the game when the Oilers power forward lost his cool.

Nobody got hurt and the Battle of Alberta had some real heat between the Flames and Oilers for the first time in a long time.

Not so bad, right?

Well, now the NHL Department of Player Safety has forced their way into the situation just like NHL linesmen are forcing their way into on-ice disagreements that used to organically escalate into combatants dropping the gloves. The Player Safety Department announced they will hold a phone hearing for the Oilers forwards “Roughing/Aggressor” role in the fracas.

Since when is the aggressor the guy that got wallpapered into the boards from behind?

Kassian is probably looking at a suspension similar to the two-game sentence tossed at Milan Lucic when he jumped Blue Jackets forward Kole Sherwood, and Tkachuk isn’t facing any discipline after rattling Kassian’s cage throughout the game.

Maybe the NHL will handle it the proper way and simply slap Kassian with a fine rather than a more draconian suspension for doing what many NHL players want to do to Tkachuk. 

It's another example of the NHL protecting a rat-type player that doesn’t want to answer for their predatory actions on the ice and instead going after somebody that was defending themselves in the way they know best.

One player is pretty clearly trying to knock the other one’s head off while lining him up for hits that he doesn’t see coming. The other one is simply trying to curtail the action albeit by throwing the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Tkachuk around like he’s a child that snuck his way into a men’s league hockey game.  

There are times when the NHL is stepping in and Disney-ifying a league that was built on hard hits, rivalries and hatred on the ice, and going far away from part of what drew many fans to the game in the first place. This is one of them.

There were no concussion and no injuries. There was no collateral damage. This was about two players that settled things the old-fashioned way on the ice and a league that needs to get out of the way in the rare instances when it’s still handled the right way between players these days.

Talking Points from Bruins' 4-1 loss to the Oilers

Talking Points from Bruins' 4-1 loss to the Oilers

GOLD STAR: Leon Draisaitl was a stud in this one. He generated a bunch of scoring chances including a sweet 2-on-1 dish to Connor McDavid in the first period that the Oilers star center didn’t convert and finished with a goal and two points after finally landing the empty-net goal toward the end of the third period. 

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

He also finished with a plus-2 rating in 22:54 of ice time along with five shot attempts, a hit and 17 of 25 face-off wins in a pretty strong all-around performance. Draisaitl also picked up the helper on the Darnell Nurse game-winner at the end of the second period that really took all of the air out of Boston’s sails. This was billed as four of the best forwards in the NHL getting together against each other and Draisaitl was the best of the bunch in this one.

BLACK EYE: Jaroslav Halak had some good moments like a sweeping stop on McDavid in the first period when he was at the finishing end of a 2-on-1 rush with Draisaitl and he kept the Oilers off the board for the entire opening 20 minutes while making nine saves. But Halak sprung a leak in the second period when he allowed a wobbling Nurse wrist shot to beat him from a bad angle.

It appeared Halak was fighting the puck for most of the afternoon. There weren’t many clean saves and plenty of rebound chances for the Oilers with Halak allowing three goals on 25 shots. Halak was no better or worse than the rest of the Bruins in this game, but he was at fault on the winning goal for Edmonton.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins were still in okay position down 2-1 headed into the third period, but it was clear they weren’t going to have the legs or the energy to pull this one out with the flu bug going through their dressing room. 

Instead, it was Zdeno Chara who allowed McDavid to get behind him in the third period and zoom in all alone for a play he easily finished to give the Oilers the dagger goal they were looking for. Chara missed practice on Friday with the illness going around and he played like he was dragging on Saturday with less than 18 minutes of ice time and that coverage breakdown at a key point in the game.

HONORABLE MENTION: At least David Pastrnak showed up for the Bruins with his 31st goal of the season in the first period. It was a quick strike, power-play goal at the top of the face-off circle off a feed from Torey Krug.

It was the only real offense from the Bruins as they have become very reliant on No. 88 to provide all the scoring for them. Pastrnak finished with the goal in 22:22 of ice time along with nine shot attempts, a hit and a takeaway and was one of the few B's who showed any kind of energy whatsoever in a sleepy Saturday afternoon matinee performance against the Oilers. So at least give him credit for that.

BY THE NUMBERS: 4-5-6 – Bruins' record the past month as they have definitely sunk into the .500 hockey mediocrity while allowing the Maple Leafs and Lightning to begin gaining ground on them.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Right now we’re going through a stretch where the goals aren’t coming easily, and every goal becomes really important. I think that’s in our heads a little bit.” –Bruce Cassidy, on the lack of extra offense for the Bruins that’s making it seem as if every game is a one-goal grind for the B’s.


NHL Highlights: Bruins losing streak at 3 after Oilers' 4-1 win at Garden

NHL Highlights: Bruins losing streak at 3 after Oilers' 4-1 win at Garden

FINAL SCORE: Oilers 4, Bruins 1 

IN BRIEF: Edmonton scored four unanswered goals after David Pastrnak got the Bruins on the board three minutes into the game and the Oilers came into TD Garden and handed Boston its third loss in a row in their 4-1 matinee victory on Saturday. BOX SCORE 

BRUINS RECORD: 24-8-11, 59 points (1st in Atlantic Division)






@ Nashville Predators, Tuesday, 8 p.m., NESN 
Vs. Winnipeg Jets, Thursday, 7 p.m., NESN