James O'Brien

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

Blue Jackets tie for Metro lead, but Isles’ loss isn’t all bad news for Capitals


Thomas Greiss did what he could – and helped the New York Islanders earn a “charity point” – but eventually he couldn’t contain Cam Atkinson and the Columbus Blue Jackets.

John Tavares scored the goal that sent a fairly one-sided game (Columbus generated a 38-22 shot advantage) to overtime, but ultimately the Blue Jackets edged the Islanders 3-2 in OT on Saturday afternoon.

With that, a variety of races get more interesting. Let’s begin with the top of the Metro (and generally the top of the East/NHL):

1. Capitals- 98 points, 70 games played
2. Blue Jackets – 98 points, 70 GP
3. Penguins – 97 points, 70 GP

Yes, that’s a tight squeeze, especially since both Washington and Columbus boast 44 regulation/overtime wins, the first tiebreaker. One would think that the Blue Jackets winning in overtime was a totally crummy break for the Caps, but there is this fun caveat: with a victory tonight, the Caps can be the league’s first team to clinch a trip to the playoffs.

As far as the three-team race for the top spots in the Metro goes, some teams will get more of an opportunity to “control their own destiny” than others:

The Blue Jackets thwarted the Islanders’ attempt to climb back into the East’s final wild card spot:

Final wild card: Maple Leafs: 78 points in 69 GP

Islanders: 78 in 71 GP
Lightning: 77 in 70 GP

Yeah, that’s a skin-tight race too, with this loss really stinging for an Islanders team that now must watch the Bolts and Maple Leafs while biting their nails a bit more.

Video evidence of Saturday’s unluckiest sports fan


If you want to witness an unfortunate fan accident that’s probably less likely than someone getting hit by lightning, Saturday’s Colorado Avalanche – Detroit Red Wings game provided such a moment.

Avalanche defenseman Francois Beauchemin was attempting to make a clear passing, only the puck went through a hole in the glass designed for a camera and hit a fan.

Actually, allow a moment for proper emphasis: the puck went through a hole in the glass designed for a camera and hit a fan. That’s better.

For what it’s worth, Beauchemin tried to make that unlucky fan’s afternoon a little better:

Here’s hoping we just witnessed the unluckiest fan of the day (and that said fan ends up OK).

Positive Penguins injury updates, including Malkin being day-to-day


There’s no denying that the Pittsburgh Penguins are banged up, but unlike the Tampa Bay Lightning, they received some heartening injury news on Saturday morning.

(Granted, they share a thing in common with the Lightning in still having quite a few guys expected to miss at least a bit of time.)

The most important: Evgeni Malkin‘s injury isn’t serious and is considered day-to-day, according to head coach Mike Sullivan.

Sullivan also seems quite happy about Bryan Rust‘s progress, as the forward at least resumed skating. That said, he didn’t give a precise timeline of when Rust might return, noting that he must take the next step in absorbing contact.

So, while these updates amount to a “work in progress,” at least it’s easy for Pittsburgh to see that things are on an upward climb. Their next game comes against the Florida Panthers on Sunday afternoon.

Goalie nods: Dubnyk tries to get Wild back on track

1 Comment

The Minnesota Wild have been able to count on Devan Dubnyk all season long, almost like clockwork.

Yet, with some tough times lately and the Chicago Blackhawks’ blistering pace, the Wild find themselves trailing in the Central Division. It seems crass to “expect” Vezina-type performances, but considering what Minnesota is up against, they might need that level of work from Dubnyk to regain the Central lead.

One would expect Dubnyk to face Antti Raanta and the New York Rangers tonight.

Note: this post comes early in the day, so there may be an update later this afternoon. (? – means an educated guess that’s a little shakier than “probably.”)

Elsewhere …

Avalanche: Calvin Pickard vs. Red Wings: Jimmy Howard
Blue Jackets: Joonas Korpisalo vs. Islanders: Thomas Greiss
Canadiens: Carey Price vs. Senators Mike Condon (?)
Capitals: Braden Holtby (?) vs. Lightning: Andrei Vasilevskiy (?)
Blackhawks: Corey Crawford vs. Leafs: Frederik Andersen
Predators: Probably Juuse Saros vs. Hurricanes: Eddie Lack
Blues: Jake Allen (?) vs. Coyotes: Mike Smith (?)
Canucks: Richard Bachman vs. Oilers: Cam Talbot
Ducks: Jonathan Bernier (?) vs. Martin Jones

Not a lot of good injury news for Lightning (Stamkos or otherwise)


For nearly all of this season, the Tampa Bay Lightning have had to grit their teeth through injuries and bad luck. It looks like they should expect much of the same on Saturday … and probably going forward.

While Steven Stamkos was out there skating this morning, he admitted to Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times that he still doesn’t know when he might be back (calling that vigorous bit of exercise “a start”).

That Stamkos news isn’t great, and it’s also not the only downer for a Lightning team that will need to put out a lot of effort against the Washington Capitals tonight.

It turns out that Tyler JohnsonCedric Paquette and Vladislav Namestnikov won’t be able to play against the Caps, either, and it’s unclear when they’ll be back.

So … yeah, that’s all pretty much bad news. Maybe this will bring Bolts fans at least a moment of serenity?

The Capitals are getting Andre Burakovsky back on their end, activating him off IR. You have to wonder if the Lightning might be a touch envious of Washington’s relative injury luck.