Break up the streaking Blue Jackets!


The Columbus Blue Jackets have officially climbed out of the NHL basement and passed the title of “cellar dweller” to the New York Islanders with a 5-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night. The goals came quick and often as the Blue Jackets jumped out to a four-goal lead before the Sabres were able to put a puck past Curtis Sanford. By that time, it was too late. But just in case the Sabres had their hopes set on a memorable comeback, Rick Nash scored his second goal of the game near the end of the 2nd period to put the final nail in the coffin.

The win is just the latest positive result in an impressive run as the Blue Jackets look to turn around their season. They’ve earned at least a point in six of their last seven games, including points in points in each of their last five. Their 4-1-2 record over the last seven games is impressive on its own, but even more impressive when put in its proper context after Columbus’ historically bad start.

How bad was the Blue Jackets start? It took them until their ninth game to get their first win of the season. They could only manage two pathetic victories in their first 15 games. Not only were they losing, they were losing the vast majority of their games in regulation. The 2-12-1 record was not the kind of start the Blue Jackets’ ownership had in mind when they signed James Wisniewski to a $33 million contract and acquired Jeff Carter (who is starting an 11-year, $58 million contract this season).

The Blue Jackets play over the last two weeks? This is more like what they expected. With six wins and 15 points, the Blue Jackets are only a point away from Anaheim in hopes of climbing out of last place in the Western Conference.

Columbus now sits at 6-13-3 through the first quarter of the season. The record still looks bad, but it’s not nearly as bad as it did two weeks ago. Up next, the Blue Jackets will get to face off against another hot Western Conference team: the St. Louis Blues. Curiously, the Blues exploded on their current streak when they hired Ken Hitchcock away from the Blue Jackets—a man who was heavily rumored to be in line to take over for Scott Arniel behind the Blue Jackets’ bench.

Much has been made of Hitchcock’s ability to turn around the Blues—but his departure may have helped Columbus get back to business as well. After losing their first game after St. Louis’ announcement, Columbus went on their current 4-1-2 streak.

Now if they can only continue this pace for the rest of the season, they may be able to get themselves back into the playoff hunt by the all-star break.

NHL on NBCSN: Blues continue push for playoff spot against banged up Bruins


NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 NHL season continues on Wednesday, as the St. Louis Blues host the Boston Bruins at 8:00 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online by clicking here.

The Boston Bruins are coming off an overtime loss to the red-hot Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night. Sure, the Bruins would liked to have collected two points, but the fact that they managed to force overtime without Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk and Rick Nash in their lineup is still pretty impressive.

One of the players that stepped into the lineup on Monday was rookie Ryan Donato, who the team signed on Sunday night. The former second-rounder made an instant impact offensively, as he recorded a goal and two assists in the defeat.

Funny enough, Donato skipped Bruins practice on Tuesday to attend a class at Harvard.

“I plan on finishing this semester academically,” Donato said on Monday, per WEEI. “Obviously it’s gonna be difficult, but for me it was a dream to graduate from Harvard. Obviously I’m putting that off a little bit, but for me I need to finish this semester to have that opportunity and not put it off an extra couple years.”

Donato will play in tonight’s game.

Although their playoff spot is all but secure, the Bruins still have plenty to play for. With Tampa Bay beating Toronto on Tuesday, Boston is now five points out of top spot in the Atlantic Division with two games in hand.

When the Blues traded Paul Stastny away at the deadline, many (including Brayden Schenn) believed that their playoff hopes took a hit. Instead, they’ve managed to stay in the race.

Heading into this clash against the Bruins, St. Louis finds themselves just three points out of a Wild Card spot with a game in hand.

Unfortunately for them, they’ll likely have to take care of business without Vladimir Tarasenko, who is expected to miss tonight’s contest with an upper-body injury. Alexander Steen will take Tarasenko’s spot on the top line with Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn.

“Obviously we’d love to have him in the lineup,” head coach Mike Yeo said of Tarasenko, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We know what he is and what he means for our team so it’s no question, it’s a significant loss, but we don’t have the opportunity or even the possibility for our team to sit around and think about what could be right now. We have to look at the group we have and we believe we still have a capable group.”


Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

PHT Morning Skate: Senators support Karlssons; Donato misses practice for class

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at

Erik Karlsson and his wife Melinda are going through a really difficult time right now after losing their son, but they’ll have plenty of support from the Ottawa Senators. (Ottawa Citizen)

• Not only has Marc-Andre Fleury been an important figure on the ice for the Vegas Golden Knights, he’s also emerged as a key leader on an expansion team that has exceeded expectations. (Associated Press)

• After scoring a goal and two assists in his NHL debut, Boston Bruins froward Ryan Donato skipped practice to attend class at Harvard. (WEEI)

• Ellen Show executive producer Andy Lassner is a huge Los Angeles Kings fan. He’s also been able to forge a relationship with a few of the team’s players. (

• The University of Minnesota men’s hockey team will be looking for a new head coach for the first time in a long time, as Don Lucia called it quits after 19 years on the job. (Pioneer Press)

• New Jersey Devils GM Ray Shero went out and got Patrick Maroon from Edmonton on deadline day. The trade has worked out relatively well for him team. Even though he isn’t as fast as some of the other players on the roster, Maroon has been a useful asset. (All About the Jersey)

• The Carolina Hurricanes won’t be making the playoffs this season, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t had players step up in 2017-18. Here are their top five MVPs from this season. (Cardiac Cane)

• St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo isn’t the most vocal guy. He does most of his talking and leading on the ice, and the team likes it that way. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Rickard Rakell has filled the net quite a bit over the last two years for the Anaheim Ducks, but he wants to make sure that people also see him as a complete hockey player. (OC Register)

• If the Panthers sneak into the playoffs, Roberto Luongo will have a lot to do with it. He’s been outstanding since returning to Florida’s lineup in February. (Rat Trick)

Alexandar Georgiev has been a pleasant surprise between the pipes for the New York Rangers. Has he earned himself a spot on the team next season? (Blue Seat Blogs)

• Former Minnesota Wild prospect Brett Bulmer is finding his game in the ECHL with the Florida Everblades. (The Sin Bin)

• Up top, check out the highlights from last night’s game between the Flyers and Red Wings. Petr Mrazek‘s return to Detroit didn’t exactly go as planned.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

The Buzzer: Fleury worries; Blackhawks eliminated

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Injury scares

Let’s hope that Tuesday presents dodged bullets instead of long-lasting injuries.

  • You can read more about Patrik Laine not returning to the Jets’ eventual overtime win against the Kings here. The early word is that it “isn’t sinister,” whatever that means.

Here is video of the unfortunate moment:

  • The Vegas Golden Knights must hold their breath again with goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. “MAF” took a shot off of his mask and did not return to Vegas’ eventual win against Vancouver. Considering his struggles with concussion issues, this is a big concern.

For what it’s worth, the team provided no official update, yet similarly to the Jets with Laine, the Golden Knights appear optimistic about Fleury avoided something serious. Either way, it puts a damper on this milestone.

Elimination updates

For the first time since the 2007-08 season, the Chicago Blackhawks won’t participate in the playoffs.

Chicago joins the Arizona Coyotes, Vancouver Canucks, and Buffalo Sabres as teams with the dreaded “e-” next to their names. The Red Wings postponed that fate by beating Philly. Edmonton delayed their own, too; they match the Blackhawks’ 69 standings points but hold a game in hand.

So, expect more names to get officially crossed off the list very soon. The Canadiens and Senators also see their days numbered.

Players of the Night

  • Artemi Panarin is a key figure in the Blue Jackets’ nine-game winning streak (read about how they’ve congested the Metro races in this post). Tuesday served as one of his best nights yet with Columbus, as “The Bread Man” collected a hat trick and also generated an assist. With 68 points on the season, it looks like he’ll hit 70+ points for his third season in a row, meaning he’s done so every year in the NHL. Perhaps he doesn’t need Patrick Kane to produce points, after all?

  • Leon Draisaitl collected a goal and three assists in the Oilers’ surprisingly bombastic 7-3 win against the Hurricanes, which didn’t really require Connor McDavid to dominate (he finished with one assist). Draisaitl’s quietly been showing that, while his contract is expensive, he’s probably the last of the Oilers’ worries.

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]


Matt Benning was basically enjoying batting practice during that Oilers win:

Tremendous pass from Thomas Vanek, who now has eight points in 11 games with Columbus.


Learn why Alex Ovechkin‘s 602nd goal is his latest milestone here.

Nathan MacKinnon continues to tear up the NHL, as he’s second in league scoring with 91 points in just 65 games after collecting two assists on Tuesday. It really feels like he’s adding to his Hart Trophy argument every single game.


Islanders 4, Penguins 1
Blue Jackets 5, Rangers 3
Capitals 4, Stars 3
Oilers 7, Hurricanes 3
Panthers 7, Senators 2
Red Wings 5, Flyers 4 (SO)
Lightning 4, Maple Leafs 3
Jets 2, Kings 1 (OT)
Avalanche 5, Blackhawks 1
Golden Knights 4, Canucks 1
Sharks 6, Devils 2

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

Races heat up between Penguins, Flyers, Blue Jackets


The Philadelphia Flyers could have sulked after a poor performance from Petr Mrazek – again – halfway through Tuesday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings.

Instead, they just wouldn’t roll over, putting forth the sort of gutsy effort you’d expect from a team playing in front of Alex Lyon. (Yes, there were bad puns.)

The Flyers rallied from deficits of 3-1 and 4-3 to grab a standings point in this one, with a memorable 4-4 tally coming when Travis Konecny notched his 20th of 2017-18 in an odd way. The Flyers ended up falling in the shootout as the Red Wings’ 5-4 SO win ended a lengthy skid, but that single point ended up being huge on a busy night in the Metropolitan Division.

Consider some of the other developments around a division that’s felt up for grabs for a while:

  • In slipping by the Dallas Stars 4-3 in regulation, the Capitals might make the division title a little bit less than “up for grabs.” They now lead the Metro by four points with 91 in 73 games played. Alex Ovechkin scored his 44th goal of the season in this one, moving all alone to 19th all-time in goals, as that was the 602nd of his career.
  • The Pittsburgh Penguins squandered an opportunity to stay within striking distance of the Capitals for first place, and also a chance to create separation between themselves and the hard-charging Blue Jackets and tenacious Flyers. The Islanders handed the Penguins a 4-1 loss.
  • Meanwhile, the Columbus Blue Jackets must be considered a serious threat to the Penguins’ second seed, and at least a dark horse candidate to win the Metro.

In defeating the Rangers 5-3, the Blue Jackets are now on a ridiculous nine-game winning streak. Artemi Panarin‘s quietly impressive 2017-18 season was a little tougher to ignore tonight, as he combined a hat trick with an assist.

This win and the Penguins’ loss locks the two teams at 87 points. Pittsburgh has a game in hand (73 GP) on Columbus (74) and some other edges, but that race is now very close.

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

  • Columbus pushed Philadelphia down into the first wild-card spot thanks to Tuesday’s proceedings, but again, getting a point was still huge for Philly. They now have 86 points in 74 games played. That could be crucial in holding off the Devils and Panthers to at least secure a playoff spot. They’re also conceivably a hot streak away from pushing back into the Metro top three, and possibly grabbing a round of home-ice advantage if things go really well.

Need a visual look at the races? Here’s a rundown:

METRO 1: Capitals, 91 points, 73 GP, 39 ROW
METRO 2: Penguins, 87 points, 73 GP, 39 ROW
METRO 3: CBJ, 87 points, 74 GP, 35 ROW

WILD1: Flyers, 86 points, 74 GP, 35 ROW
WILD2: Devils, 82 points, 72 GP, 32 ROW

Ninth place: Panthers, 7-2 win against the Senators tonight, 81 points, 71 GP, 34 ROW


As you can see, the races for the second and third Metro spots, along with jostling for the two wild-card seeds, makes for a congested group. The Panthers hold three games in hand on the Flyers and the Devils have two on Philly, so the current buffer could plummet.

Sure, winning the game would have been better for the Flyers, especially if they could have done it in regulation or during overtime. Considering how glum things looked heading into the second intermission, grabbing a point against Detroit was still important.

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