Zach Kassian

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Tkachuk brothers keep proving they’re not just trolls

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There’s just something annoying, maybe enraging, about Brady Tkachuk and Matthew Tkachuk.

Keith’s progeny bring a lot to the table of obnoxiousness. Some of their facial expressions practically demand a mitt in the mush. That only intensifies when they stick their mouthpieces out like plastic tongues. One can only imagine how irritating their trash talk can be, considering that even Brady refers to Matthew as a “pest.”

For opponents, the worst part is that they aren’t just the worst, they’re also among the best players on their respective teams. And it sure seems like they keep getting better, which should only make them bigger headaches.

The Brad Marchand Club

While pure pests are becoming an endangered species in the NHL, there are still some who can eke out a living even if they do little beyond getting under your skin.

It’s early, even in Matthew’s career, but it sure feels like it’s going to be increasingly appropriate to compare the Tkachuk brothers to Brad Marchand, a hyper-talented hyper-pest.

Through 24 games, Matthew Tkachuk has generated an impressive 27 points for the Calgary Flames.

Remarkably, he continues to do a significant chunk of his damage at even-strength, as only nine of his 27 points have come on the power play. Brady Tkachuk is creating a similar impact so far, as he’s managed 16 points in his first 14 games with the Ottawa Senators, with a mere four being PPP.

Now, it’s important to note the Tkachuk puck luck at hand. Matthew’s 12 goals come on just 54 SOG (22.2 percent), while Brady’s nine goals happened on a mere 43 SOG (20.9 percent).

With such high percentages in mind, it’s probably dangerous to pencil them in as point-per-game players, at least not until they start generating a little more offense on special teams. Regardless, the overarching point remains sound: like Marchand, Claude Lemieux, and select few, the Tkachuk brothers can hurt your soul, harm your body, and embarrass you on the scoreboard.

Smart pests

It remains to be seen if either Tkachuk can truly join Marchand in the NHL’s upper crust, but it sure seems like both stand a chance of using their wits to make a difference. After all, Marchand is a testament to agitating players sometimes being their own worst enemies.

As Ryan Pike recently explained for Flames Nation, there was a time when Matthew Tkachuk made some dumb decisions that landed him on the Department of Player Safety’s rolodex,* yet there are signs that he’s learning how to pick his spots. Instead of engaging Zach Kassian in a fight during a rowdy Battle of Alberta, Matthew decided not to take the bait, ultimately putting the Oilers in the penalty box for three minors:

* – Come on, they probably still ride the train and use typewriters, right?

Even earlier in his career, Matthew Tkachuk was drawing far more penalties than he was taking, as you can see from Natural Stat Trick’s handy penalties drawn/taken numbers.

Brady hasn’t mastered that art yet, but there are already signs of an advanced hockey IQ. Like Matthew, he’s beginning his career with more defensive zone starts than shifts beginning in the attacking zone, a sign that he has two-way smarts and the trust of his coach. That trust has been justified in each case, as both Tkachuk brothers are puck possession monsters so far.

The younger Tkachuk brother also showed some great vision and awareness in identifying this loose puck before anyone else, starting a run of consecutive shifts with goals during Ottawa’s comeback win against the Flyers on Tuesday:

***

The Tkachuk brothers seem to have the requisite “nose for the net” to score ugly goals, but let’s hope that they keep their mouthpieces in at key times. They don’t want to be like their father Keith, who apparently needed to transplant part of his hip bone during especially ghastly dental surgery after taking a puck to the face. Even trolls (probably) deserve better than that.

/gags

Again, it’s remarkable – and for opponents, unnerving – to realize how young these two are. Matthew’s proven to be a fantastic top-six forward, and he’s in the final year of his rookie deal at 20, setting the stage for a big raise. Brady, meanwhile, looks very much like a 19-year-old rookie, except when it comes to producing on the ice. If healthy, it’s tough to imagine Brady not at least being an honorable mention for the Calder.

Their great play might slip under the radar just a touch considering their struggling teams (Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is being compared to Larry David, after all), but opponents and opposing fan bases will find them both very difficult to ignore.

And stop.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Jimmy Vesey lost a tooth in his lip

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New York Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey was hit in the mouth by the skate of Edmonton Oilers forward Zach Kassian on Saturday afternoon, leaving his mouth a bloodied mess and knocking out a couple of teeth.

Where did those teeth go you might be wondering?

Somewhere on the ice? Picked up by an ice crew member or swept away by the Zamboni only to be Lost forever?

Nope. They are still attached to his mouth. Sort of. They were lodged in his bottom lip.

Notice the X-ray.

That makes it look like there is only one tooth stuck in his lip but Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said after the game he actually has two in there and that “they are going to find a way to take them out.”

Vesey played 11 minutes in the Rangers’ 4-2 win.

McDavid scores first playoff goal as Oilers shut out Sharks

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Edmonton Oilers fans have waited a long time for a night like this.

Thanks to a dominant defensive performance, a 16-save shutout from Cam Talbot, and a pair of shorthanded goals the Oilers were 2-0 winners over the San Jose Sharks on Friday night to even their first-round series at one game apiece and give the franchise its first playoff win since the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

As good as the Oilers were, the story for the Sharks on Friday was one of missed opportunities.

Stream Sharks vs. Oilers on NBC Sports

Not only did they fail to capitalize on any of the six power play opportunities they were given by the Oilers, that same power play unit ended up allowing the game’s only two goals.

The first goal came just 42 seconds into the second period when Zach Kassian (who was a one-man wrecking crew on the night, delivering a number of thunderous hits) beat Sharks goalie Martin Jones for what would end up being all the offense the Oilers would need.

But Connor McDavid would add some insurance later in the third period when he scored his first career playoff goal when he pounced on a loose puck in the defensive zone and used his speed to skate away from everyone on the ice and beat Jones with a quick shot off the rush to put the game away.

In the end, this was about as complete of a game as the Oilers could have possibly played, completely shutting down the Sharks offense. While the shots on goal advantage was 36-16 in favor of the Oilers, the total shot attempts (77-36) were even more lopsided. Especially when you consider that San Jose spent an additional four minutes on the power play over the course of the night.

Sharks lose DeMelo for eight weeks to broken wrist

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The San Jose Sharks announced on Friday morning that they will be without defenseman Dylan DeMelo for an extended period of time due to a broken wrist that he suffered on Tuesday against the Edmonton Oilers.

He underwent surgery on Thursday and is expected to be sidelined for at least eight weeks.

Demelo, 23, was a sixth-round pick by the Sharks in 2011 and has appeared in 14 games for the team this season, scoring a goal and adding three assists. He has mostly played alongside veteran Brenden Dillon.

The injury happened in the first period of Tuesday’s game when he was hit behind the net by Oilers forward Zach Kassian.

He was replaced on Wednesday by rookie defenseman Tim Heed who was making his NHL debut.

Taylor Hall had an eventful and physical return to Edmonton

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Taylor Hall was back in Edmonton on Thursday night for the first time as a visiting player, and the Oilers did a nice job welcoming him back with a nice video tribute early in the game.

As for the game itself, which the Oilers ended up taking in overtime 3-2 thanks to a Leon Draisaitl goal that was set up by Connor McDavid, Hall ended up having a pretty eventful evening.

Along with recording an assist on Steven Santini‘s goal in the final minute of the second period to give the Devils a 2-1 lead, Hall also found himself in an altercation with Oilers forward Zach Kassian early in the third period.

Just after a neutral zone faceoff, Hall hit Kassian with a pretty nasty elbow that dropped the Oilers forward to the ice. That resulted Kassian eventually chasing Hall down and trying to confront him.

Have a look.

Hall ended up getting a double-minor for high-sticking while Kassian earned a roughing minor. After the game Oilers coach Todd McLellan didn’t seem thrilled with Hall’s actions and said he did not think it was a clean play “by any means,” and then praised Kassian for sticking up for himself.

After being picked N0. 1 overall in 2010, Hall spent six years with the Oilers, scoring 132 goals and adding 196 assists in 381 games. He was traded to New Jersey over the summer for defenseman Adam Larsson.

More: How much has the Taylor Hall-Adam Larsson trade helped the Oilers