Mike Gillis preached it during his tenure, but is the combination of size and skill finally starting to come through for the Canucks?
Mike Gillis – "I think we need to get younger. I think we need to get bigger and stronger. We're going to continue with the plan".
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) April 24, 2012
The Canucks had the fourth smallest team to begin this season, so saying that size and skill is starting to show on their roster could be a bit of a stretch. However certain players are stepping up to add some grit and scoring to the line-up.
Jannik Hansen, Bo Horvat, and Ronalds Kenins have been using their size to get the puck to the net and create chances. The fourth line has been crucial to the Canucks success all season long, and its nice to see them scoring with more regularity.
Hansen is now fourth on the team in points behind the twins and Radim Vrbata. Kenins has eight points in 13 games since being called up from Utica, and has had some memorable games physically. He registered eight hits against the Boston Bruins on February 13, with four of those coming against Zdeno Chara.
However there are two players on the Canucks roster who, and sorry for the Pierre McGuire reference, had a monster month of February.
After the first few months of the season, many were wondering if Zack Kassian was done in Vancouver after a lacklustre season. He had two goals through his first 26 games, and found himself up in the press box as a healthy scratch.
After sitting for three straight games, Willie Desjardins put Kassian back in the line-up for a game against Pittsburgh on February 7. He scored an empty-net goal on a gaffe by goalie Thomas Greiss, which was his first goal since the end of October.
Since that game, Kassian has gone on to register six goals and two assists over his last nine games. He had also found himself on the top line with the Sedin twins since Alex Burrows went down with an injury. He is gaining more trust from Desjardins as he continues to produce.
He also has the best hit ratio on the Canucks in the past ten games, with 17 hits for, and 6 hits against. His 17 hits are third to only Kenins and Derek Dorsett, who have 18 hits a piece in that time span.
His inconsistency still is troubling, and when Burrows or Brad Richardson return from injury, he could easily find himself in the press box once again. That’s hard to imagine considering Kassian was tied for the team lead in goals during February.
The 6’4, 223 pound Matthias hasn’t been throwing his weight around as much as Kassian, but he is definitely putting the puck in the net with some regularity.
Just like Kassian, Matthias has scored seven times in his last ten games, including his first career hat trick against the Boston Bruins on February 13. He’s shown he can score on two different lines, and he’s shown that he can score as a centreman or a winger.
His versatility and scoring ability has been crucial for the Canucks secondary scoring, which has dried up a bit with the lack of a second line. On many nights, the third line or the fourth line is producing more than the second line, which features the great disappearing act of Nick Bonino.
Matthias has already set a career high in goals with 15, which is good for second on the Canucks. He is also just two points shy of setting a career-high in that category as well.
The 27-year-old forward is becoming a top priority for Jim Benning in the off-season, and the rookie general manager should be doing everything he can to re-sign Matthias.