Why Matt Kassian needs to stay in the lineup
Last night, against the Oilers, Matt Kassian was on the ice for 2:12, in the penalty box for 20 minutes and ended up as the first star.
On the surface, that’s an absolutely ridiculous stat line to end up as a first star. But, in those 2 minutes and 12 seconds, though, Kassian had as much of an impact on the outcome of the game, if not more, than the majority of his teammates.
The score was 3-1 when Kassian opted to drop the gloves with Darcy Hordichuk. On the surface, for Kassian, it’s a horrible fight to take. You’re an NHL rookie, your team has a 3-1 lead (with the two goal lead, generally, being thought of as the worst lead in hockey) and you’re facing off against a veteran NHL enforcer in Hordichuk. To boot, at this point, the Wild were dominating the Oilers. They had scored three straight goals and were rolling.
Kassian, though, saw the opportunity to turn the screws on the Oilers a little more and he took it to the tune of a dominating victory over Hordichuk.
Any momentum Edmonton might have gained from the fight was, for all intents and purposes, gone.
Now, to the Oilers’ credit, they responded quite well and were able to stem the Wild’s momentum a bit, scoring just a few minutes later, but it certainly wasn’t from anything Kassian did.
At the start of the third period, the situation was the same and, again Kassian dropped the gloves and exerted his dominance over Hordichuk once more.
Again, nothing came from the momentum gained, but it again took a situation that would have given the Oilers a lot of wind in their sails and pushed the advantage back to the Wild.
What’s more, the line of Kassian, Warren Peters and Brad Staubitz may not have done much on paper, but their presence undoubtedly kept Edmonton’s dirtier players (we’re looking at you, Theo Peckham and Ben Eager) at bay, which leads me to wonder – should this line be a staple for the Wild going forward? More to the point, should Matt Kassian become a staple for the Wild going forward?
No one’s ever going to mistake Kassian for a scorer. His career high in points is 18 in his final season in the WHL. But Kassian gives the Wild an added level of protection for their stars.
On top of that, having a line like Kassian, Peters and Staubitz gives the Wild the option to send out a line that can just flat out hit – something that they don’t necessarily have, otherwise, and also something that can change the momentum of a game in a heartbeat.
It’s for that reason that, at least until the Wild are fully healthy, Kassian needs to stay in the line up. He brings an intensity and an edge that others (even Staubitz) on the Wild roster simply don’t have.
So, a note to Mike Yeo. Keep playing Matt Kassian his two minutes per night. You’ll be pleased at the results.