James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.

Let’s appreciate the unpredictable Stanley Cup Playoffs


Hockey fans greet Saturday with a beautiful thing: uncertainty.

Remarkably, both the Eastern and Western Conference Final series are tied at 2-2. There’s a solid chance that the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs will set a new record for overtime games. The Chicago Blackhawks were swept in the first round; the Los Angeles Kings didn’t even make the playoffs.

Yes, there are some common threads. The Washington Capitals, somehow, ended their season with heartbreak once again. The Pittsburgh Penguins, meanwhile, find ways to compete even as their defensemen barely enjoy better luck than Spinal Tap drummers.

In the grand scheme of things, the postseason is very, very difficult to forecast. And it’s been that way for quite some time.

Now, contrast that to the NBA.

Basketball’s postseason sometimes feels like a long coronation for the status quo, but the 2017 playoffs have taken that to an extreme.

The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are both two wins away from a third consecutive championship bout and neither team has even lost a game yet. Last night, the Cavaliers absolutely demolished the Boston Celtics by a double-take score of 130-86. If this was NBA2K17, you would need to raise the difficulty level to avoid total boredom.

Don’t take this as a #PleaseLikeMySport screed. The uncertainty of the Stanley Cup Playoffs isn’t inherently “better” than the consistency on the hardwood. Sports fans love seeing a clash of the titans, after all, and it doesn’t get much better than Lebron vs. Seth and Durant.

Still, it’s reasonable to take a step back and note just how different these two postseasons have been.

The tantalizing part is that there might be more surprises ahead in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, too.

Canada continues to torment Russia with stunning comeback at Worlds


It almost feels … mean.

Russia seemed like it would finally beat Canada in a significant international competition involving a decent number of top-level players on Saturday. Then the third period happened.

Canada stormed back from a 2-0 deficit in that final frame, ultimately taking the semifinal match with a 4-2 win. Thanks to that dizzying comeback, they’ll face either Sweden or Finland for the gold. Russia, meanwhile, is relegated to the bronze match.

The rally began with a Mark Scheifele power-play goal early in the third, yet Russia had a 2-1 lead deep into the contest. Nathan MacKinnon‘s 2-2 tally came with less than five minutes remaining in regulation.

Not long after, Ryan O'Reilly scored the decisive tally, while Sean Couturier‘s empty-netter ended any drama. Canada generated a 19-5 shot differential in that third-period push.

Check out full highlights above this post’s headline.

2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule for Saturday, May 20

It’s amazing how a few breaks can change the outlook of a series.

When Filip Forsberg sent Game 4 to overtime, it was reasonable to wonder if the Nashville Predators could steal the contest from the Ducks, placing Anaheim on the brink of elimination. Instead, the Ducks dug deep to win in overtime, tying the series 2-2.

If that wasn’t enough, the Predators dealt with stunning news shortly thereafter: their top center Ryan Johansen is out for the playoffs.

All of a sudden, things are leaning heavily toward the Ducks … but the playoffs are a strange beast. The Western Conference Final has been a violent, exciting affair so far, so expect more of that fun in Game 5 on NBC tonight.

Here’s what you need to know:

Nashville Predators vs. Anaheim Ducks (Series tied 2-2)

Time: 7:15 p.m. ET

Network: NBC (Stream online here)

Check out highlights from Anaheim’s 3-2 overtime win in Game 4


Predators know it won’t be easy, especially without Johansen

Mike Fisher stands as another injury situation to watch

WATCH LIVE: Canada vs. Russia, World Hockey Championship semifinal

The World Hockey Championship features two classic rivalry matchups for its semifinal round on Saturday.

Later on, Sweden takes on Finland, because of course. The juiciest battle may just be coming up, however, as many in the hockey world still – justifiably – get excited for Canada vs. Russia.

To little surprise, both countries boast a heavy presence on the tournament’s points leaders listArtemi Panarin and Nikita Kucherov have carried over strong 2016-17 success to the tourney, while Nathan MacKinnon and Mitch Marner are leading the way for a typically loaded Canadian group.

The action is slated to begin at 9:15 a.m. ET. CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE.

What Mike Fisher’s injury could mean for Predators


No doubt about it, a wild Game 4 between the Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators produced some aches and pains for just about every player. One would imagine many bags of ice deployed in each locker room.

Two players – one per team – stood out as possibly hurt during overtime, though: Rickard Rakell of the Ducks and Mike Fisher of the Predators.

When it comes to Fisher, his status for Saturday’s Game 5 seems quite fuzzy.

He’s not an obvious scorer, yet he has his uses for Nashville. Check the video above to find out what his absence might mean for the Preds.

As typical this time of year, things are murkier for Rakell, who did make an impact even in overtime. Still, there’s reason to believe that he could be available for Anaheim:

Naturally, we’ll get a better idea as time goes along, possibly extending to game time.

Game 5 airs on NBC at 7:15 p.m. ET. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App (Click here for the livestream link).