James O'Brien

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

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

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.

Hurricanes hand Islanders a brutal, jarring loss


After a night like this, the best the New York Islanders can probably say is “Well, it’s only one game.”

This one game was a stunner, though, with the Carolina Hurricanes shrugging off a 3-2 deficit to throttle the Islanders by a shocking score of 8-4 on Monday.

The goaltending was rough for both sides, really, but the spotlight shone most harshly on the Isles’ duo. Both Jean-Francois Berube and Thomas Greiss allowed four goals in this one, with some highly questionable shots beating each netminder.

Jaccob Slavin generated a hat trick (plus an assist) in this one. Highlighting how rare this moment is doesn’t come down to picking on the promising young defenseman; cameras caught Slavin himself saying that it was the first time in his “life” that he’s generated a hat trick.

It’s also the first time in the life of the Hurricanes franchise that two defensemen generated at least two goals, as Justin Faulk also enjoyed a two-goal night.

Slavin’s hat trick goal was … well:

You could probably argue that Jeff Skinner‘s nifty-but-debatable penalty-shot goal really broke the Islanders’ will to rally back. Decide if it was a good call by checking it out here.

Fans at the Barclays Center ended the night booing the Islanders’ effort, and it’s tough to totally blame them.

On the bright side, it’s still just one of 82 regular season contests and with a Tuesday game against the Hurricanes in Carolina, the Islanders won’t need to wait long to seek revenge.

Playoffs look increasingly possible for Lightning after another big win


When the Tampa Bay Lightning started to string some wins together, it felt like “too little, too late.” Some trade deadline selling only solidified such thoughts.

A team with high expectations refused to throw the season away, however, and now a playoff run goes from a lofty dream to a pretty reasonable thought.

Now, it’s worth noting that the Lightning will finish the night outside of the East’s top eight. Still, they’re now a breath away, trailing the current second East wild card Toronto by one standings point.

(The Islanders got crushed by Carolina in an 8-4 stunner on Monday. Read more about that here.)

In the case of Monday, Brayden Point earned himself quite the 21st birthday gift with two goals. That included the 3-2 game-winner as the Lightning beat the Rangers despite New York’s 28-16 shots on goal advantage.

This marks three straight wins for the Lightning, who’ve been on quite the tear from multiple perspectives.

Now, does this mean they’ll be able to grind their way to the finish line? Not necessarily, but the gap is small enough that they have an almost-even chance to make it.

Who would have thought as much even a couple weeks ago?

Now, it wasn’t all good news for the Lightning, as Vladislav Namestnikov aggravated a previous injury:

Berube gets hook in a rough Hurricanes – Islanders game for goalies


The New York Islanders let out a sigh of relief after ending a nine-game road trip. Some questionable goaltending made for some dead silence midway through their return to Brooklyn on Monday.

After a busy 2-2 first period, Calvin de Haan scored an especially questionable goal against Cam Ward, giving the Islanders an early 3-2 lead in the middle frame. Ward would be far from the netminder who was most exposed in the second period, however.

Justin Faulk and Jeff Skinner scored goals to chase Jean-Francois Berube and give the Hurricanes a 4-3 lead. Berube got the hook after that Skinner tally, but Thomas Greiss hasn’t been able to stop the bleeding.

Faulk scored his second goal of the night (and period) on the first shot Greiss faced, then Jaccob Slavin made it 6-3 moments later. The Hurricanes ended up scoring four goals in less than five minutes.

To underscore how odd this game has been so far, Joshua Ho-Sang made a nice deflection for another goal to slim Carolina’s lead down to 6-4. It’s the second NHL goal for Ho-Sang and his first at home.

Video: Should Capitals be worried about slump? Roenick weighs in


The Washington Capitals have been a machine this season, to the point that a four-game losing streak is raising plenty of eyebrows.

Sometimes a slump is just a blip on the radar, but in other instances, these low moments can be a sign of disappointments to come.

So, what might it be for the Capitals? Jeremy Roenick weighed in on that subject on NBCSN on Monday night. You can see that discussion in the video above this post’s headline.

As a bonus, check out what the NBCSN crew had to say about the Islanders heading into tonight’s in-progress (and so-far frenetic) game against the Hurricanes:

More on Washington’s struggles

Things have “changed quickly” for them.

The goals have been drying up.