James O'Brien

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

Video: Leon Draisaitl ejected for ugly spear to Chris Tierney’s groin


It’s bad enough to get utterly dominated. It’s worse if the frustration and embarrassment angers a player to the point that he puts himself at risk of a future suspension.

Edmonton Oilers rising star Leon Draisaitl was ejected from Game 4 and might face further discipline for an ugly spear to the groin of Chris Tierney as the San Jose Sharks continue to run away with tonight’s contest.

Plenty of people consider it an ugly display, and not just those who have Sharks leanings:

Seeing this series go 2-2 already stings for Edmonton. If they lose Draisaitl for Game 5 or more, this defeat would be even more painful.

As of this writing, it looks like we’ll enter the third period with the Sharks up 6-0. Could things get even uglier?

Watch Sharks vs. Oilers: Game 5 on Thursday (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, NBC Sports app)p)

Sharks score fastest goal in team playoff history after being shut out twice


Sometimes stats are almost too fitting.

Cam Talbot had shut out the San Jose Sharks for two straight games, helping the Edmonton Oilers turn the series on its head with a 2-1 edge. To be totally honest, the Sharks didn’t make life that difficult for Talbot, as the Oilers netminder’s shutouts involved 16 and 23 stops.

So, of course the Sharks broke their epic slump by scoring the fastest goal in franchise playoff history. What other type of goal would do? Joe Pavelski made it 1-0 just 15 seconds in.

That’s weird stuff, although the bar has been raised on weird a bit lately.

This ended Talbot’s shutout streak at a neat-and-tidy 120:15, as the last shot that beat him was Game 1’s overtime-winner.

Watch Sharks vs. Oilers: Game 5 on Thursday (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, NBC Sports app)

Blue Jackets baffle Fleury, Crosby; push Penguins to Game 5


Did the Columbus Blue Jackets get back in the groove, even in falling behind 3-0 in their series, considering the four goals they scored against Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 3? Either way, they really made “The Flower” wilt on Tuesday.

Granted, Columbus didn’t beat Pittsburgh 5-4 in Game 4 due to Fleury’s struggles alone.

Instead, they played exactly like you’d picture a team would need to play to fight off a sweep: aggressive while shaking off setbacks.

Stream Penguins vs. Blue Jackets on NBC Sports

Early in the second period, the Blue Jackets went up 3-0, only to see the Penguins enter the final frame down a single goal. You could argue that a more fragile team might have fallen apart, especially against an opponent as dangerous as the Penguins.

Instead, the Blue Jackets just kept pushing forward.

William Karlsson made it 4-2 just 27 seconds into the third, a huge goal that prompted fun hair-flip GIFs. Yet … there was another opportunity for frustration to take over when Tom Kuhnhackl shrunk the lead to one goal again about 90 seconds later.

Again, the Blue Jackets just kept fighting. Boone Jenner made it 5-3 mere minutes later on what would ultimately stand as the game-winner.

(Yes, the Penguins scored once again … but too late this time around.)

It was also a rare rough night for Sidney Crosby, who failed to generate a shot on goal and suffered a -3 rating. Three assists from Phil Kessel and two from Evgeni Malkin just weren’t enough to knock the Blue Jackets out.

While Fleury faces some questions after allowing four and five goals in Columbus, Sergei Bobrovsky breathes a sigh of relief … though you wonder if there’s still some self-doubt. Merely looking at this stat could make Bobrovsky and others shudder.

They can work on that in Pittsburgh for Game 5. At least tonight they finally won a playoff game in regulation – and stayed alive in the series – on Tuesday.

It’s a long ride to getting the most important first on their minds (first Blue Jackets comeback from a 3-0 deficit), but they took that initial leap tonight.

Rangers end home woes, tie series with Canadiens


The New York Rangers dropped their sixth straight playoff game at Madison Square Garden in Game 3 against the Montreal Canadiens, and it wasn’t pretty. They buried that stat on Tuesday, though.

Henrik Lundqvist went from frustrated late in the first period to pumping his fist at the end, guiding the Rangers to a tight 2-1 win against the Canadiens. With that, the intriguing first-round series shifts back to Montreal at a 2-2 tie.

Sometimes, it’s easy to sell a transformation just by looking at the shots on goal, even if that can also be overly simple:

Game 2: Rangers – 38 shots on goal, Canadiens – 58 SOG
Game 3: Rangers – 21 SOG, Canadiens – 29 SOG
Game 4: Rangers – 32 SOG, Canadiens – 24 SOG

As other teams see leads evaporate to dizzying degrees, the Rangers managed to protect a 2-1 lead generated by Rick Nash just 4:28 into the second period. That feels like a lifetime by recent standards.

Watch Rangers vs. Canadiens: Game 5 on Thursday (7 p.m. ET, USA, NBC Sports app)

There was some nasty stuff at times in this Game 4, with Brendan Smith ranking among those who take the most abuse. With this series going to a minimum of six contests and almost every match being tight, this one could get nasty.

The goalies have delivered as advertised, too.

Just like that, Blue Jackets at risk of continuing trend of squandered leads


The Columbus Blue Jackets put themselves in a great position to win after the first 20 minutes of Game 4, taking a 2-0 lead against the Pittsburgh Penguins. They even – seemingly – reversed the trend of bad second-period play, fattening their edge to 3-0 early on.

It was really looking like, maybe, possibly, the Blue Jackets would cruise to their first win of the series.

They enter the second intermission in a … far different state of mind, however.

Stream Penguins vs. Blue Jackets on NBC Sports

After a Monday full of heart-stopping comebacks, the Blue Jackets rapidly saw a 3-0 edge degrade to a more tenuous 3-2 lead.

The mini-comeback began with Patric Hornqvist scoring from his office (or is it Wayne Simmonds‘ office now?):

A few jaws dropped (or at least some nail-biting commenced) after Ron Hainsey made it 3-2 with just a handful of minutes remaining in the second:

The Blue Jackets merely need to draw even in the third to get to a Game 5. It should be interesting to see if they go aggressive or try to play “prevent defense.” Either way, they’re dangerously close to being swept after a shockingly successful run in 2016-17.