James O'Brien

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

Oilers continue best start in 30 years


Connor McDavid is the most exciting thing that’s happened to the Edmonton Oilers since the gravy days of Wayne Gretzky, so it only makes sense that he’s powering the team’s best start in three decades.

OK, that’s not totally fair; Cam Talbot deserves a ton of the credit for their five-game winning streak and 7-1-0 record, too.

More on how this is Edmonton’s hottest start in ages

Those two stole the headlines once again on Friday. McDavid’s blazing speed was display on the only goal as Talbot and the Oilers blanked the Vancouver Canucks 1-0.

It’s tempting to obsess about McDavid’s heroics, but the bottom line is that Talbot might just be the Oilers player who is on the hottest streak. He has now only allowed a single goal in the past three games.

So much for the Oilers merely out-scoring their problems, huh?

Blackhawks come through in clutch vs. Devils


If the Chicago Blackhawks end up being a bubble team like many expect, they’ll need wins like these.

For the third straight game, they managed to come behind to score at least a point. In Friday’s case, they fought back from a 2-1 deficit to beat the New Jersey Devils 3-2 in overtime.

Marian Hossa scored the tying goal with less than three minutes remaining in regulation:

Artem Anisimov continued his red-hot start to 2016-17 with the clinching tally:

Call it “finding a way to win” if you’d like, but the bottom line is that they’re finishing recent games on a high note. They’ve forced the last three contests to at least go beyond regulation thanks to clutch third period goals, going 2-0-1 in games they were at risk of losing outright.

Hey, whatever works.

Goalie hope for Jets? Hutchinson shuts down Avs


DENVER (AP) Shawn Matthias scored in the second period against his former team, Michael Hutchinson stopped 37 shots for his third career NHL shutout and the Winnipeg Jets beat the Colorado Avalanche 1-0 on Friday night.

The Jets were more energetic despite playing their third game in four days, including a 4-1 win over Dallas the night before. Colorado looked a bit rusty after a week off and couldn’t to solve Hutchinson. It was Hutchinson’s first shutout since Jan. 15, 2015, against Columbus.

The Avalanche pulled Semyon Varlamov with around 1:22 remaining, but couldn’t capitalize.

Varlamov stopped 20 shots, his only mistake not sliding over in time to stop Matthias’ wrist shot.

Colorado, which had a 20-4 advantage on shots in the third, went on the power play late in the period and had a golden chance with Hutchinson down on the ice. But Rene Bourque’s shot from out front appeared to hit forward Brandon Tanev and sail wide of the net.

Hutchinson also came up big midway through the third period by stopping Joe Colborne, who coasted in all alone and tried to thread the puck between Hutchinson’s legs.

Colorado’s alternate blue sweater hasn’t exactly been lucky. The team is 5-9-1 since the jersey’s debut last season.

Jarome Iginla remains in a goal-scoring funk. He had a point-blank shot moments into the third period and was thwarted by Hutchinson. Iginla has just one goal so far this season. He’s 16th on the league’s all-time goal-scoring list.

Matthias gave the Jets 1-0 lead at 8:29 of the second period when he guided in a perfect cross-ice pass from Joel Armia. Matthias played for the Avalanche last season after being acquired in a February deal with Toronto. He had six goals in 20 games for Colorado.

The Jets nearly had a power-play goal midway through the first period when Mark Scheifele poked in a shot between the pads of Varlamov. But the officials blew the whistle just before the puck rolled into the net.

Scheifele pleaded to no avail.

Patrik Laine, the No. 2 overall pick in June who already has six goals, unleashed a few quality shots only to be turned back by Varlamov. Laine is good friends with Avalanche forward Mikko Rantanen, who was making his season debut after being called up from San Antonio of the American Hockey League.

They pair helped Team Finland to the 2016 world junior hockey championship. They also practiced together this summer.

“It will be fun,” Rantanen said of the friendly rival.

Rantanen was the 10th overall pick in 2015. His locker once belonged to Avalanche standout Milan Hejduk.

“Maybe Mikko will take the great energy that was in that stall,” captain Gabriel Landeskog cracked.

NOTES: Jets D Dustin Byfuglien recorded the 800th penalty minute of his career with a tripping call in the second period. He also was called for another penalty in the closing seconds. … F Drew Stafford missed a second straight game with an upper-body injury. … D Fedor Tyutin (groin) sat out a second straight game. … F John Mitchell (hip) made his season debut.


Jets: Host Buffalo on Sunday.

Avalanche: At Arizona on Saturday in their second back-to-back set this season.

Carlyle: Ducks were ‘nowhere near NHL-caliber’ vs. Blue Jackets


John Tortorella has been voicing his concerns about the Columbus Blue Jackets’ lack of scoring punch lately. Perhaps facing Randy Carlyle’s Anaheim Ducks was the tonic.

Columbus stormed off to a 4-0 first period lead on Friday, which ended up being the final score as the Ducks left Ryan Getzlaf‘s bobbleheads looking down at the ground in shame.

The post-game quotes were, um, pretty glum for the Ducks as they fell to 3-4-2 on this young season.

“We were nowhere near NHL-level caliber tonight,” Carlyle said. “They wanted it more than we did. You can’t defend that.”

Carlyle’s critics might interject with a “Well, you might be able to defend that with a more modern system or viewpoint of the game,” but still.

Getzlaf echoed Carlyle’s thoughts, more or less.

“We didn’t accomplish anything tonight, from start to finish,” Getzlaf said. “We came out flat and then we were just chasing the game.”

Yikes. How did John Gibson feel about it, though?


Well, on the bright side for the Ducks, they’re no strangers to slow starts. They bounced back from an early funk in 2015-16, for instance.

Also, Hampus Lindholm didn’t make his season debut yet, and he can make a lot of people look smarter with his understated, borderline-elite skills.

It’s late October, so nothing is settled by any stretch. Even so, this hasn’t been the sort of beginning that the Ducks were hoping for as they try to justify moving from Bruce Boudreau to Carlyle.

Connor McDavid shows off his unfair speed, again


Even for hardcore hockey fans, Connor McDavid is a sight to behold.

It’s one of those so-simple-it’s-stupid points, but it’s true: McDavid’s speed is the first thing that really jumps out to you.

The thing is, McDavid somehow finds a way to do things he shouldn’t be able to do at full speed. Imagine, for a second, a NASCAR driver winning races while taking selfies, sipping coffee and generally flaunting his or her skills.

(Think Jean Girard from “Talladega Nights,” but with a bland public presence.)

Anyway, McDavid reminded us once again that every one of his games is an event with this borderline-unfair display of speed on Friday: