James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Blues didn’t just beat Kings; they won in regulation

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The Los Angeles Kings fought hard to try to rally back against the St. Louis Blues, but they simply dug themselves too big of a hole on Monday.

Looking at the standings, you wonder if that might also be the story of their push for a playoff spot:

Wild card races in the West

1. Oilers – 79 points in 68 games
2. Blues – 77 in 68 GP

Kings – 72 points in 68 GP

With every meaningful team outside of the West playoffs losing, the Blues gaining a five-point edge on the Kings is significant enough that St. Louis is likely setting its sights higher.

The Blues are only two points behind Edmonton for a higher wild card spot and two points behind the Predators for the third seed in the Central Division.

David Perron made it 1-0 midway through the game, while Magus Paajarvi scored what would be the game-winner early in the third. Dustin Brown really accelerated the Kings’ charge to tie things up with their only goal, with Alexander Steen‘s empty-netter coming really late.

Ultimately, Jake Allen was the clear standout for the Blues’ 3-1 win. Allen stopped 38 out of 39 shots as the Kings carried much of the play. St. Louis is now on a five-game winning streak and might just have the buffer it needs to lock down a playoff spot.

Flames edge Penguins, push streak to 10 straight wins

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There were times this season – and really not that long ago – when it seemed like the Calgary Flames wouldn’t make the playoffs. Things look very different as of Monday night.

With a 4-3 shootout victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Flames extended their winning streak to a remarkable 10 straight games. This franchise hasn’t been so hot since the Flames’ Atlanta days.

Wins also stand as tiebreakers for the Flames, who also moved to second in the Pacific ahead of the Anaheim Ducks thanks to more wins and regulation/overtime wins:

Yes, there are a lot of surprises on display, yet some things might be expected. Johnny Gaudreau steering the ship isn’t too big of a surprise, for instance:

And, while the good times arrived late, it’s also somewhat expected that Brian Elliott has been instrumental to the Flames’ success:

If Calgary keeps this up, the Flames will get a round of home-ice advantage in the playoffs. What a difference a bunch of wins can make …

Video: Predators made life difficult for Jets’ Dano

The Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets traded blows in an eventual 5-4 overtime win for Nashville on Monday.

Marko Dano might be the sorest after that Jets loss, but he’ll likely feel that way in a more literal sense, as he received two significant hits.

In the opening minutes of the game, Cody McLeod received a two-minute roughing minor for a hit on Dano, which you can see in the video above.

That might not have been Dano’s worst moment. Instead, this hit by Ryan Ellis was especially brutal:

There’s no update regarding his condition just yet, but either way, it was a tough night for the Jets forward:

Doan manages to play for Coyotes after scary collision in warm-up

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Look, there isn’t much on the line between the Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes tonight. That doesn’t mean that a player can’t get hurt.

You don’t even need to wait until the actual game action kicks off to see the hazards, either.

Shane Doan was shaken up after a scary collision with teammate Jakob Chychrun during pre-game warm-ups, as you can see from this GIF:

Doan missed most of the first period, but did manage to take a few shifts, so it looks like the long-time captain should be OK.

This is already the Blue Jackets’ best regular season in franchise history

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The Columbus Blue Jackets had every reason to end Monday in frustration. Instead, they should feel proud.

Despite eight power plays for the Philadelphia Flyers (including seven through the first two periods), the Blue Jackets hung in there for a 5-3 win.

With that, the Blue Jackets set new franchise records for wins (44) and points (94) generated in a single season. And they have about a month (14 games) to make those new marks much tougher to match.

In a typical division, the Blue Jackets would be in first place … possibly by a huge margin. Instead, they’re jockeying with the Pittsburgh Penguins for second in the Metro.

That said, with the Washington Capitals experiencing unusual difficulties, that division crown – and the Presidents’ Trophy – are just a point away.

Speaking of the Metro, the Blue Jackets hit this new peak in spite of the Philadelphia Flyers, who sit six points behind the East’s second wild card spot after losing three in a row.

Brandon Dubinsky generated another game-winner while usual suspects Cam Atkinson (two goals) and Zach Werenski (goal, assist) were also difference-makers against Philly.