Zack Kassian snaps on Matthew Tkachuk, throws punches in wild attack

(The Department of Player Safety announced that Zack Kassian will face a Monday hearing.)

Just, wow. Zack Kassian absolutely lost his mind on Matthew Tkachuk during Saturday’s 4-3 Flames win over the Oilers. While many probably responded with “understandable” at losing your cool at Tkachuk, Kassian responded to the pest in an extreme way.

Yes, even for Tkachuk, whose pesty play borders on Kaufman-like troll art.

[Speaking of trolling, they exchanged serious trash talk after the game.]

The first hit

“The Battle of Alberta” often brings the heat, and Saturday appears to be a prime edition.

Tkachuk set the stage for Kassian rage with this first hit, which certainly qualifies as questionable:

From here, it looked like Tkachuk made contact with Kassian’s head, but there was no penalty. Maybe that made Kassian even angrier? Really, a long game of Tkachuk jawing and having that freaking mouthpiece hanging out would be enough to wear on even the Zen-like among us.

Another Tkachuk hit, and then lots of Kassian punches

So here’s where things really got out of hand.

Tkachuk leveled Kassian with yet another aggressive check, and that was enough. Kassian responded with a stunning flurry of violence on Tkachuk that you really need to see to believe. He even ragdolls Tkachuk during that attack. Watch it, probably with your jaw dropped, in the video above this post’s headline.

Again: wow.

Optics-wise, you’d think that Kassian might see supplemental discipline. That was an epic meltdown, one where the “fight” seemed like it should be over at least once.

While time will tell if the NHL decides to suspend Kassian at some point, the gritty winger put the Oilers in a tough spot. Kassian received a misconduct, but most importantly, a double-minor for roughing late in the second. The Flames began the third period with a golden opportunity, and took a 4-3 lead early in the final frame of regulation.

Say what you will about Tkachuk, he finds a way to get under the skin of his opponents. Even if Kassian avoids supplemental discipline, he already made a mistake.

What do you think should result from Kassian’s actions? Should Tkachuk receive supplemental discipline for his questionable hit(s)?

Also, what’s the perfect soundtrack for the slow-motion footage? No, “Toss a Coin to Your Witcher” doesn’t really work here, in my opinion.

Final question: does Kassian despise Tkachuk more than Drew Doughty now? Lofty stuff.

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.

Thornton, Sharks maintain edge on Red Wings

Conventional “wisdom” dictates that Joe Thornton and the San Jose Sharks can’t get it done in the clutch. If you hear a Detroit Red Wings fan spout such an opinion, it’s probably safe to just call it a defense mechanism at this point.

The Red Wings had a chance to avenge a second straight second round playoff defeat to the Sharks tonight, but Thornton & Co. foiled them by a score of 4-2. Thornton scored twice while fellow go-to scapegoat (and Red Wings abuser) Patrick Marleau earned a goal and a helper of his own.

What the Red Wings should really be worried about

My guess is that Mike Babcock is far more concerned about what’s now a three-game losing streak than the growing perception that the Sharks “have their number,” though. The biggest area of concern should be their defense.

For the last two seasons or so, talk of Nicklas Lidstrom’s sustained brilliance masked an unusually vulnerable Red Wings defense. It seemed like they might have plugged those holes early in the season (just seven goals allowed in the first five games), but now they’ve been out-scored 15-4 in their last three.


The takeaway should be that the Red Wings have bigger things to worry about than the Sharks, but both words collided in this rare Joe Thornton breakaway goal.

Phoenix beats Winnipeg in battle for Jet supremacy

Players and coaches will tell you that no game is more important than any other. Fans—well, “fan” is short for “fanatic.” There’s no doubt that fans on both sides of the equation wanted to win the Jets/Coyotes game in Phoenix on Saturday night. Plenty was made about the new Jets flying down to the desert for their first game against the Phoenix Coyotes. With all of the drama between the fanbases, bragging rights were on the line.

Round 1 went to the Coyotes by a score of 4-1; and it was decided with a quick KO 34 seconds into the game.

Daymond Langkow buried a shot past Chris Mason before fans even had a chance to get comfortable in their seats. Defensive super prospect Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored the next two goals of the game to give Phoenix a 3-0 lead before Andrew Ladd was able to end the shutout bid with 19 seconds left in the 2nd period. Ray Whitney iced the game with about 13 minutes left in the 3rd period to send the Phoenix faithful home happy.

Dave Tippett knew it would be a different atmosphere at home and it would be important to get off to a strong start at home:

“There’s a lot made with the situation from the past, with the situation that we were supposed to move, to them getting a team, the hoopla about their team there. Ultimately, when the puck dropped, I was very proud of our guys.

“We wanted to get off to a great start; I think we did that. Scoring on the first shift certainly helps gets our crowd in the game and helps dissolve some of the emotion coming from the Winnipeg fans.”

Aside from the win, another positive from the game was the attendance. Not only was it an over capacity sellout, it was estimated that it was 80-85% Coyotes fans in the stands. For people who were afraid that Winnipeggers were going to take over Jobing.com Arena, the Coyotes fans came out in force for the home opener.

The Coyotes did their part to make sure the fans had a good time once they got there.

The Coyotes are now 2-1-1 after getting blasted by the Sharks on opening night. Mike Smith is showing signs of being the goaltender that Coyotes management thought he could be, Oliver Ekman-Larsson is continuing to develop into a very good defenseman, and Martin Hanzal and Shane Doan are continuing to do what they do.

Sooner or later, we’ll stop being surprised when the Coyotes string wins together.

Tim Thomas says that he doesn’t have any issues with Roberto Luongo


There are quite a few revenge cliches out there, but I prefer the upbeat tone of “Living well is the best revenge.”

Practically speaking, that advice might fall a bit short of being useful for many people. When you’re angry with someone, it’s tough to imagine your own triumphs burning that opponent as much as a direct confrontation. In most cases, it should probably be said that “Living well is the best [way to avoid the messy consequences of] revenge.”

Sports are one of the rare places in which you can put that philosophy to direct use, though. Winning individual trophies and the Stanley Cup must be the best hockey example of “living well,” so it makes sense when Tim Thomas says that he has no issues with Roberto Luongo, whom he beat out for the Vezina Trophy and Stanley Cup in 2010-11.

Perhaps Thomas should even thank Luongo for deflating his tires in that championship round. It’s hard to imagine a player getting more inspiration to succeed than the chance to raise the Cup, but Thomas was also asked to defend his unorthodox style even after proving its merit countless times during the winding road that has been his NHL career.

Luongo recently admitted that he regrets his comments about Thomas during that seven-game series, but Thomas reiterated that he doesn’t have any hard feelings for Bobby Lou.

Tim Thomas had his second day with the Stanley Cup on Saturday, taking the trophy back to his alma mater the University of Vermont, where he played four seasons (1993-97) and led the Catamounts to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances, including a Frozen Four in 1996.

Thomas was asked about his unorthodox goaltending style, and he referenced that opponents still question his technique. Following a press conference at the university, Thomas was asked if he had the chance to speak with Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo — who earlier this summer admitted that he regretted questioning Thomas’ goaltending style following Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals — at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas.

Thomas said it was never an issue as far as he was concerned.

“That was the media,” Thomas said. “We’re fine.”

At this point in his career, Thomas shouldn’t have much more to prove. Thomas proved that his first Vezina Trophy season wasn’t a fluke by adding another one to his mantle while also earning a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy. Going forward, his feisty competitive spirit (and maybe a dark horse candidacy for a Hall of Fame bid?) are the two things that might drive him to maintain his place as an all-world goalie.

Thomas is probably used to slights after fighting through European leagues and finally finding a place in the NHL, so it’s nice that he’s not bothered by those comments – or at least he’s saying the right things publicly. His opponents might want to think twice about critiquing his style in the future, though.

Bruins’ 8-6 win over Habs had everything: fights, goals and plenty of hate


The Boston Bruins beat the Montreal Canadiens 8-6 in a game that will stoke the fires of two opposing forces: those who love and hate hockey’s dichotomy between brutality and beauty.

Boston 8, Montreal 6

Before we get to the carnage and goal scoring frenzy, it’s important to note that this game had serious implications on the Northeast Division title race. With this win, the Bruins open up a four-point lead over the Habs and Boston also holds a game in hand.

That four-point lead might be the most important number to come from this game, but there were plenty of others. The second period included eight goals (four for Boston, four for Montreal), including seven in 6:19. That’s the fastest seven goal spree in this historic rivalry. Carey Price allowed the most goals of his career, letting eight Bruins shots pass him by.

But the game wasn’t just a bloodbath in a figurative sense, as the two sides threw enough knuckles that even Carey Price and Tim Thomas got involved. Well, sort of:

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Overall, the Bruins finished the game with a staggering 85 penalty minutes while the Canadiens received 55. The contest devolved into a Slap Shot-like brawl, with some questionable fights as some Bruins seemed to take advantage of rarely fighting Canadiens.

Tom Pyatt’s mangled face is probably a pretty good microcosm of a rough game for Montreal. (H/T to Seth Rorabaugh.)

Jacques Martin probably won’t be happy with anything that happened in this game (with the possible exception of Max Pacioretty’s two-goal game), but Boston coach Claude Julien cannot be completely satisfied either. Tim Thomas allowed six goals while finesse forward David Krejci might have put himself in danger of injury by getting involved in the final frame fight fest.

Milan Lucic scored two goals and had an assist while Michael Ryder also scored two goals in a game that provided 14 scores, none of which resulted from an empty net.

While the game had its regrettable moments, it is the kind of night one would expect from a long-time, hate-filled rivalry like the one shared between the Habs and Bruins. There still isn’t much of a gap between the two teams in the Northeast, so their final two games (March 8 and 24th) should be interesting to watch.

Something tells me the league’s office will have their eyes on those two contests, as tonight’s game got out of control.