James O'Brien

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

Time for Streit? Penguins coach ponders using ‘savvy player’

Even with a staggering array of injuries to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Mark Streit hasn’t been able to crack Mike Sullivan’s lineup. Streit might finally get his call in Game 3 against the Ottawa Senators, however.

With the wave of injuries reaching Justin Schultz (added to a mix that includes Trevor Daley and Kris Letang), Sullivan acknowledged the possibility that Streit may get his chance.

The way Sullivan describes him, you almost wonder why Streit hasn’t received a shot sooner.

“Mark’s a guy that has invaluable experience. He’s a really savvy player,” Sullivan said. “I think he could help us on our power play. He could help us get out of our end zone. I think he’s got great puck skills. So that was one of the main reasons why we acquired him when we did … So if Mark’s the guy we go to, we know he can continue to help us win games.”

Fair enough, but the playoffs are an especially useful time to weigh a coach’s words vs. his actions. That gives us an idea of what Sullivan really thinks about a player.

Truth in deployment

In the case of Streit, we don’t have any data there. He’s been a scratch – healthy or unhealthy – throughout this postseason.

Even with the regular season in mind, it doesn’t seem like the 39-year-old’s truly gained Sullivan’s trust.

In 49 games with the Flyers, Streit scored 21 points and averaged 19:23 TOI. In 19 contests with Pittsburgh, he generated six points and averaged just 17:06.

The veteran blueliner’s impact is diminished at this point, yet with Schultz out, it indeed makes sense to bring him in. The Penguins power play clearly struggled in Game 2, with the likes of Olli Maatta seemingly unable to keep up with an elevated role on special teams.

With all the hard minutes going around, Streit can theoretically be protected (if Sullivan doesn’t trust him) while perhaps giving the Penguins a little extra “oomph” on the power play.

Of course, with the way things have been going for the Penguins, Streit could rapidly go from “possibly in the lineup as a specialist” to “suddenly crucial.” It’s been that kind of year, yet the Pens keep plugging along.

Game 3 takes place on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App. (Stream online here)

More on how the Penguins are managing injuries here.

NHL GM of the Year finalists: Oilers’ Chiarelli, Sens’ Dorion, Preds’ Poile


The NHL announced the three finalists for GM of the Year on Tuesday: Peter Chiarelli (Edmonton Oilers), Pierre Dorion (Ottawa Senators) and David Poile (Nashville Predators).

This marks Dorion’s first season of Senators GM, so naturally it’s his first time being a finalist. It’s also the first time for Chiarelli to be a nominee. Poile, meanwhile, earns his fourth nomination.

Here’s how the finalists are determined, via the NHL:

Voting for this award was conducted among the NHL general managers and a panel of league executives, print and broadcast media at the conclusion of the Second Round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

In case you’re wondering, here are previous winners of the GM award.

2016: Jim Rutherford
2015: Steve Yzerman
2014: Bob Murray
2013: Ray Shero
2012: Doug Armstrong
2011: Mike Gillis
2010: Don Maloney

WATCH LIVE: Anaheim Ducks at Nashville Predators – Game 3


The Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators series isn’t just about Ryan Johansen vs. Ryan Kesler; as you likely know, those two aren’t even the only interesting Ryans, as Ryan Getzlaf is likely the best of the bunch.

Still, there’s no denying that Game 3 is that much juicier with that subplot added in. If that’s not enough, the crowd should be boisterous as the scene switches to Nashville.

The contest is on NBCSN. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App.

Here’s the other pertinent information and links:

Anaheim Ducks vs. Nashville Predators (series tied 1-1)

Time: 8:00 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

Check out the highlights from Anaheim’s 5-3 win in Game 2


“I don’t know how you cheer for a guy like that”–Ryan Johansen sounds off on Kesler

Preds avoid Kesler Johansen drama, but can’t deny bad blood

Guy Boucher doesn’t read Twitter, cares not for your entertainment


Let’s face it: there are times when Guy Boucher’s system can be as boring as his scars are intriguing.

Long spans of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ eventual 1-0 Game 2 win qualified as much, as plenty of people went to Twitter to joke about how Boucher’s 1-3-1 trap often looked more like a system described as “0-0-5.” When asked how he handled not seeing an Ottawa Senators shot for about 15 minutes, Marc-Andre Fleury simply said that the only thing he does is “Wait.” For some hockey fans, it felt like a holding pattern of a game at times, in general.

Well, guess what? Guy Boucher doesn’t care if you’re making fun of him on Twitter; he also doesn’t care if you’re less-than-thrilled watching the Senators when they’re, erm, a little “passive.”

“I don’t read Twitter,” Boucher said. “I never read that in my life. I don’t know even how to get on it. I don’t pay attention to it.”

As a reminder, you’re not going to mock a coach toward making a change in style. It’s debatable, for one thing, how conscious the Senators’ “turtling” really was in Game 2.

Even the most dangerous offenses get hemmed in their own zone, so it will be interesting to see if the Senators go on the attack more in Ottawa. After all, there’s the potential for adrenaline from their home crowd, and Boucher may opt to take more chances in Games 3 and 4 if the Penguins continue to be tormented by injuries.

Now, if you’re in Ottawa and want to shame Boucher into change … maybe start “the wave” or a “BOR-ING” chant, because your Twitter barbs will fall on deaf digital ears.

(Note: don’t start the wave.)

Penguins break through against Senators, tie series with Game 2 win


You can understand if the Pittsburgh Penguins were frustrated during much of Game 2 against the Ottawa Senators, and Phil Kessel certainly showed it.

But, to their credit, they just kept hammering away as the Senators seemed content to “turtle” in their own zone, failing to register a shot on goal through about a period’s worth of game time. Kessel finally beat a game Craig Anderson on an extra-effort attempt, scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win as the Penguins tied the series 1-1.

The Senators might have been accused of a “rope-a-dope” technique when it came to trying to counterattack, but they weren’t just leaning on the ropes when it came to the actual physical stuff. Dion Phaneuf delivered some huge hits, including one that possibly injured Bryan Rust, while Justin Schultz may also be hurt thanks to an innocuous Mike Hoffman check.

However you dole out the credits for hits, it was a nasty one at times, including when Evgeni Malkin, Kyle Turris and others were involved in a scuffle in the dying moments.

Marc-Andre Fleury grabbed his 10th career playoff shutout, making 23 saves in uneven waves from the Senators. It will be interesting to see if Guy Boucher deploys a similar strategy against Pittsburgh as the Eastern Conference Final goes along or if he’ll try to take advantage of the growing number of injuries for the Pens’ defense corps.

The narratives could have revolved around the Senators frustrating the Penguins and getting away with a … questionable style of play. They certainly did frustrate the Pens and almost escaped with a 2-0 series lead.

Pittsburgh got that key win, however, so the series will shift tied 1-1 as Games 3 and 4 will take place in Ottawa.

Game 3 takes place on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App. (Stream online here)