James O'Brien

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

More Penguins injuries pile up vs. Flyers, including Jarry

As of this writing, the Pittsburgh Penguins are in a strong position to get a much-needed win against the Philadelphia Flyers, what with their 4-1 lead. It could be a costly win if they hold on, though.

It seems like Matt Murray‘s barely been available for the Penguins from injury issues, and now Tristan Jarry is a concern. Jarry left the game in the second period after awkwardly making a save, and you can see some of it in the video above this post’s headline. Cameras caught footage indicating that it could be a hand injury, or that hand issues could be part of Jarry’s problems.

That wasn’t the only issue that might arise from this in-state rivalry contest.

A Claude Giroux high shot caught Brian Dumoulin in the head, while forwards Conor Sheary and Carter Rowney seemed to deal with issues during the game (Jamie Oleksiak also needed to ice his hand, but that was from winning a fight handily). Rowney and Dumoulin continued to miss time during the third period.

We’ll see if the Penguins provide further updates. For a team already dealing with a lot of issues this season, including continuing to be without Bryan Rust and Chad Ruhwedel thanks to injuries, these are notable concerns.

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

Why Flyers need strong start to 2018

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When things are as tight as they are in the highly competitive Metropolitan Division, each team needs to exploit opportunities; such a point only becomes clearer for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers, two teams currently on the outside looking in on the playoff picture.

Earlier today, PHT’s Adam Gretz took a look at how the Penguins need to pick things up. The Flyers are in a similar spot themselves, and despite holding games in hand, are in a tougher spot as far as the postseason goes depending upon which projections you look at. (Sports Club Stats smiles more upon them than the Penguins, on the contrary.)

As this post was being constructed, Tuesday’s NBCSN game against the Penguins (watch live) really started to fall apart for the Flyers, with a 1-1 tie devolving into a 4-1 deficit.

Anytime the Flyers fall* to the Penguins, it stings, considering their cross-state rivalry. They either need to wage a comeback or shake this one off quickly, though, as a bad start to 2018 could really shovel some dirt on Philly’s up-and-down 2017-18 season. Consider how the calendar year begins for Philly:

Tue, Jan 2 vs Pittsburgh
Thu, Jan 4 vs NY Islanders
Sat, Jan 6 vs St. Louis
Sun, Jan 7 vs Buffalo
Sat, Jan 13 @ New Jersey
Tue, Jan 16 @ NY Rangers
Thu, Jan 18 vs Toronto
Sat, Jan 20 vs New Jersey

Coming into tonight’s game, the Flyers experienced an even home-ice split (19 games each way), so this four-game homestand and stretch of six of eight games in Philadelphia stands as a crucial opportunity.

If this goes especially poorly, it may very well push the Flyers closer to becoming sellers at the trade deadline, among other considerations. With five games against Metropolitan Division teams and only one on-paper “easy” contest (Jan. 7 against a Sabres team that might be making positive strides), it’s a true test for a Flyers team that’s often difficult to gauge.

* – In this case, potentially fall, as there’s plenty of time for a comeback.

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

Whose blunder was worse: Capitals’ Carlson or Bruins’ Carlo?

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Let’s assume that defensemen John Carlson (Washington Capitals) and Brandon Carlo (Boston Bruins) didn’t resolve to land on more blooper reels in 2018.

Either way, these two prominent defensemen suffered from some groan-worthy gaffes early on Tuesday, with each mistake resulting in pucks in their teams nets. So, which one makes you shake your head more?

Personally, I’d go with Carlson’s blunder, which you can see in the video above this post’s headline.

As you can see below, Jordan Eberle jumped on the opportunity when Carlo seemed a little out of sorts:

Hey, these mistakes happen to the best of them, so here’s to both Carlson and Carlo shaking it off and enjoying 2018.

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

Rangers face treacherous path after Winter Classic

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Ultimately, the 2018 Winter Classic only counts as one game from the New York Rangers’ and Buffalo Sabres’ respective 82-game seasons.

It’s something that was special for players and fans, yet it counts as it usually would: two points for the Rangers and one for the Sabres after New York won 3-2 in overtime thanks to J.T. Miller‘s power-play goal.

(Soak in some of that atmosphere here, with no need for mittens.)

With all of that acknowledged, allow an observation: when we look back at the 2017-18 season, the win might just come in awfully handy for the Rangers, particularly in a skin-tight race for positioning in the East’s brutal Metropolitan Division.

Here’s how the Metro’s top four looks after the Rangers’ win; if you want a full view of the very competitive division, check out the standings.

1. Capitals: 24-13-3, 51 points in 40 games played
2. Devils: 22-10-6, 50 pts in 38 GP
3. Rangers: 21-13-5, 47 pts in 37 GP
4. Blue Jackets: 22-15-3, 47 pts in 40 GP

Pretty remarkable stuff from the Rangers, especially since the team’s season seemed to be swirling around the sink early in 2017-18, with the team as bad as 1-5-2 on Oct. 19.

There’s a lot to celebrate here with the Rangers, but this win means something because of how imbalanced this team’s schedule has been so far. Let’s put it this way: the Rangers should be glad that the 2018 Winter Classic was considered a “road game.”

So far this season, the Rangers have played 24 games at Madison Square Garden, going 15-6-3. They’ve only played 15 games on the road, counting the Winter Classic, generating a 6-7-2 record. They now only have 17 home games and 26 road games to go during the remainder of 2017-18, so that means nine more road than home contests.

The Rangers face a tough haul from late January to early February, in particular:

Sat, Jan 20 @ Colorado
Sun, Jan 21 @ Los Angeles
Tue, Jan 23 @ Anaheim
Thu, Jan 25 @ San Jose
Thu, Feb 1 vs Toronto
Sat, Feb 3 @ Nashville
Mon, Feb 5 @ Dallas
Wed, Feb 7 vs Boston
Fri, Feb 9 vs Calgary
Sun, Feb 11 @ Winnipeg
Tue, Feb 13 @ Minnesota
Thu, Feb 15 @ NY Islanders
Sat, Feb 17 @ Ottawa

As you can see, that’s a stretch where the Rangers play 10 of 13 games on the road. The best break there is that they only face one back-to-back stretch during that span, when they begin a four-game road trip.

There are two other away-heavy runs following that: five of six games on the road (Feb. 28 – March 10) and then they close the season with a four-game road trip. The interesting wrinkle regarding that season-ending span is that all four games come against Metropolitan Division teams.

Sat, Mar 31 @ Carolina
Tue, Apr 3 @ New Jersey
Thu, Apr 5 @ NY Islanders
Sat, Apr 7 @ Philadelphia

Interesting stuff. Could we run into another situation where a shootout decides a playoff spot during the last game of the season?

With this current 6-7-2 road record in mind, a lot of games away from MSG stands as a concern. That said, the Rangers have a recent history of being a strong road team under Alain Vigneault, including a 27-12-2 record in 2016-17 (which was better than their 21-16-4 mark at home that season).

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None of these concerns bury the Rangers by any means, particularly during a season when they’ve already “cheated death” once.

Still, with things so tight in the Metro races, that schedule stands as foreboding, especially since their peers have experienced more home-road balance. For all we know, every standings point could really end up counting … so hey, maybe this Winter Classic win might mean quite a bit.

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

Soak in 2018 Winter Classic, no sweater needed

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So, the bad news is that (most of?) us didn’t get to attend the 2018 Winter Classic at Citi Field. The good news is that those of us who didn’t get to go also didn’t have to be really cold.

Luckily, photographers and fans were around to record the fun times, so we can at least get an idea of what it was like. Without the teeth chattering. Enjoy.

Unusual conditions

The cold weather’s coming next.

Playing outdoors means dealing with other factors that NFL players usually only deal with: the wind and shadows (or blinding light) can suddenly be an issue, especially for goalies. Henrik Lundqvist and Robin Lehner deserve kudos for fighting through it.

by Abbie Parr/Getty Images
by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

BREAKING: It was cold

This wasn’t the coldest Winter Classic, let alone the coldest outdoor NHL game, but such facts didn’t exactly warm up those who were still very, very cold. But, hey, bundling up makes for some cool shots, if nothing else.

Fans provided some great images:

by Abbie Parr/Getty Images
by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

While the players wore some extra gear, at least during warm-ups, and that provided some extra fun:

Not that fun: your mullet/hockey hair getting icey.

A good time

It’s been 10 years since the first Winter Classic, but it doesn’t sound like the novelty is wearing off for players. (Granted, as you see in the video above the post’s headline, Jimmy Vesey was just 14 when he first watched it.)

(Apparently there were some complaints about a fan showing up in Flyers gear, if you want to dive into that rabbit hole.)

Fire and fun

Let’s just run down some of the really cool images under this miscellaneous category.

Honestly, this shot’s existence is a rebuttal to anyone complaining about outdoor games. So cool.

The Mets gave the Winter Classic a nod and referenced that SNL skit:

Good old puns:

More 2018 Winter Classic material from PHT

A breakdown of the Rangers’ 3-2 overtime win.

U.S. Olympic rosters were named during the Winter Classic.

Jeremy Roenick took the polar bear plunge.

Rangers, Sabres take advantage of Winter Classic distraction.

Old friends Lehner, Lundqvist ready to face off at Winter Classic.

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