James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Remember this stretch if Bruins settle for wild card spot (or worse?)

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In the last 48 hours, the Boston Bruins have dropped significant games to two teams their jostling for playoff positioning with in the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators. In both instances, they were regulation defeats.

Tyler Bozak sealed Boston’s fate on Monday, while Kyle Turris scored the clincher in a 3-2 win tonight.

With that, the Senators have a six-point lead over the Bruins for second in the Atlantic with a game in hand. At this point, the Senators are more fixated on catching the Canadiens for first in the division … while there’s a serious risk for Boston to slip into a wild card spot (or even worse).

Check out Toronto breathing down Boston’s neck for the third spot in the Atlantic:

Bruins: 82 points in 73 games played
Maple Leafs: 81 points in 71 GP

Yeah, this three-game losing streak stings for the Bruins, particularly these last two. Then again, it’s been the story of the season in some ways, as Boston’s lost key points against these two rivals:

Yikes.

Fight videos: Stewart vs. Haley, Rangers – Devils feel the hate

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Tuesday saw some entertaining and violent tussles, whether the teams involved were both desperate or if some were merely driven by pride (or was it spite?).

To kick off a big game for both the San Jose Sharks and Minnesota Wild, Chris Stewart dropped the gloves with Micheal Haley. As you can see from this post’s main image, it’s not their first bout, as Stewart fought Haley as a member of the Anaheim Ducks.

Stewart probably won that fight with his jab-heavy approach.

The New Jersey Devils didn’t have much to gain against the New York Rangers tonight, yet they edged them 3-2 in overtime nonetheless.

Then again, spite can be quite the motivator, and there were multiple moments of violence that made you think that the Devils are well aware of the teams’ rivalry.

Wow.

Penguins become fourth team to clinch playoffs; Caps keep Metro lead

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Injuries continue to assail the Pittsburgh Penguins, yet they keep battling. Perhaps clinching a playoff berth will soothe some of those wounds, then.

They punched their ticket after beating the Buffalo Sabres in a spirited 3-1 bout on Tuesday, becoming the fourth NHL team to do so in 2016-17. As the latest example of how ridiculous the Metropolitan Division is, consider that the Penguins are the third Metro team to clinch.

Speaking of that stout division, Pittsburgh didn’t get to go to first place tonight, as the Washington Capitals rode a great Alex Ovechkin performance to a 4-2 win against the Calgary Flames.

Let’s take a look at the three-team race for the top spot in the Central after Tuesday’s proceedings:

Capitals – 102 points in 72 games
Penguins – 101 points in 72 GP
Blue Jackets – 100 points in 71 GP

(Those lagging Rangers would merely lead the Atlantic Division. Slackers.)

You can check out some of the nastiness from Penguins – Sabres here and a mixture of Sidney Crosby‘s brilliance and saltiness here.

Video: Torey Krug goes coast-to-coast for impressive Bruins goal

If there’s one obvious choice for a Boston Bruins defenseman who would benefit from the team’s increased emphasis on attacking, it would be Torey Krug.

Usually that means advancing the puck in transition and being a little more aggressive in offensive support … but every now and then, Krug turns on the jets and creates chances more or less by himself.

Tuesday presented one of his most impressive moments, as he made it look way too easy going coast-to-coast to score a goal against the Ottawa Senators. You wonder if Erik Karlsson felt a tinge of jealousy in that moment.

Flu seems to be in the water for Sharks with Vlasic out this time

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The San Jose Sharks have already been struggling to score goals and win games. Now they’re also fighting off the sniffles.

Chris Tierney missed Monday’s game with the flu, now Marc-Edouard Vlasic is missing tonight’s contest against the Minnesota Wild (in progress, on NBCSN) with an illness.

CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz wonders if a bug is going around, and he’s likely not the only one.

With Jannik Hansen hurt – likely injured, at least? – the Sharks are trying to break their three-game skid with a group that’s far from 100 percent.