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

WATCH LIVE: High stakes in Tampa Bay Lightning at Boston Bruins


The first contest in NBCSN’s doubleheader is big for the Boston Bruins and enormous for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Bolts trail the Bruins by four points in the race for the East’s final spot, and while other Atlantic teams are in Boston’s zip code, Tampa Bay’s best way of making up ground is simply beating the Bruins in regulation.

Don’t expect the Bruins to make it easy, however, as playoff positioning could change dramatically if they can keep it together this week:

Atlantic at a glance (Montreal clinched division title)

2. Maple Leafs – 93 points in 78 games
3. Senators – 92 points in 78 games

Bruins – 92 points in 79 games
Lightning – 88 points in 78 games

Yep, as you can see, the Bolts’ most realistic route to the postseason is by beating the B’s, especially since Boston will only play two more games after tonight.

Check out this preview of both NBCSN games, which also includes a big contest for the Edmonton Oilers against the Los Angeles Kings. You can also watch this game online and via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream link.

Montreal Canadiens clinch Atlantic Division title


The Atlantic Division teams took care of business on Monday, so it only makes sense that the division title was locked down. The Montreal Canadiens did just that tonight after beating the Florida Panthers 4-1.

The Canadiens are now at 46-24-9 with 101 points in 79 games after this, their fifth-consecutive win.

Artturi Lehkonen was the difference-maker in that win tonight, scoring consecutive goals as Montreal scored three unanswered tallies to finish off Florida.

Now Claude Julien has an interesting opportunity.

With the Metro title winner virtually assured of the East’s top spot, Montreal doesn’t have much to gain (beyond pride) in winning its final three games. That would, then, be a good opportunity to rest players; perhaps heavy workload-type like Carey Price and Max Pacioretty could use a breather?

Whatever the case may be, the Canadiens bounced back from last season’s letdown in a big way, even after changing coaches. Next step: topping all of these accomplishments in the playoffs.

Senators scratch and claw for significant point in shootout loss to Red Wings


Things were looking especially dicey for the Ottawa Senators more than once against the Detroit Red Wings on Monday.

Ottawa entered the third period down 2-1. Erik Karlsson scored his second point of the evening to tie it up early in the final frame … but then things got grim as Gustav Nyquist netted back-to-back goals.

The Senators didn’t shrink from the challenge, however, as Kyle Turris provided a goal and an assist to tie it 4-4. After a lengthy shootout, the Red Wings ultimately won 5-4 (SO) … but Ottawa grabbed a crucial point.

With this result, the Senators now lead the Tampa Bay Lightning by four points with four games remaining for each squad. Securing a playoff spot is most important.

At least … it is now that the Sens have dropped five straight games. Carving out a point could be key in seeding, too, as you may notice from the Atlantic standings.

Atlantic update

2. Maple Leafs – 93 points in 78 games
3. Senators – 92 points in 78 games

Bruins – 92 points in 79 games
Lightning – 88 points in 78 games

It wasn’t always pretty, but this was an important point for the Senators. Honestly, you can almost absolve them for viewing this almost as a win.

Maple Leafs take care of business in important win against Sabres


The Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t clinch anything (aside from rookie records) on Monday. This wasn’t a must-win game against the Buffalo Sabres.

You could categorize it as a really-should-win game, though, and they really took care of business. After rushing out to a 3-0 lead, the Maple Leafs ended up beating the Sabres 4-2 tonight.

With that, Toronto is now at 93 points with four games remaining. And those four games look pretty challenging on paper:

Tuesday: vs. Capitals
Thursday: vs. Lightning
Saturday: vs. Penguins
Sunday: vs. Blue Jackets

No big deal, just three of the best teams in the NHL and a desperate squad that arguably should have been one of the best in the NHL this season. With tomorrow’s game and this coming weekend in mind, Toronto also faces two back-to-back sets.

Woof, that’s tough.

On the bright side, the Maple Leafs get all of those games at home. They also bought themselves some room to breathe with this win.

And, hey, they’ve now won four in a row, seven of eight and have gone 10-2-1 since March 7. Instead of hurting the Maple Leafs in the tight Atlantic seeding … perhaps they’ll gain confidence against some of the East’s best and go into the playoffs on fire?

We’ll need to wait and see, but this looks like a key win at the moment.

Players absolutely roast NHL’s decision to skip 2018 Winter Olympics


There are plenty of takes balancing the blame for the NHL skipping the 2018 Winter Olympics between the league, the players and the IOC. The NHLPA is having none of that.

Of all the responses to that decision – and this post will get to a few key players’ responses – the union really ripped into the NHL for a “shortsighted decision.”

Here’s the full release via the NHLPA, with a transcript below it:

“The players are extraordinarily disappointed and adamantly disagree with the NHL’s shortsighted decision to not continue our participation in the Olympics.

Any sort of inconvenience the Olympics may cause to next season’s schedule is a small price to pay compared to the opportunity to showcase our game and our greatest players on this enormous international stage.

A unique opportunity lies ahead with the 2018 and 2022 Olympics in Asia. The NHL may believe it is penalizing the IOC or the players, or both, for not giving the owners some meaningful concessions in order to induce them to agree to go to PyeongChang. Instead, this impedes the growth of our great game by walking away from an opportunity to reach sports fans worldwide.

Moreover, it is doing so after financial issues relating to insurance and transportation have been resolved with the IOC and IIHF. The league’s efforts to blame others for its decision is as unfortunate as the decision itself.

NHL players are patriotic and they do not take this lightly. A decent respect for the opinions of the players matters. This is the NHL’s decision, and its alone. It is very unfortunate for the game, the players and millions of loyal hockey fans.”

Phew. /wipes away sweat

There are already people responding to this release with fear of lockouts, which … (reaches for antacid).

Anyway, on a day of run-of-the-mill, PR-speak-soaked releases, it’s nice to see a little spirit in this response. Key players like Henrik Lundqvist, Carey Price and Marc-Edouard Vlasic have added to the discontented fray.

See Price’s thoughts in the video above this post’s headline, while Lundqvist was pretty straightforward:

… And Vlasic was a bit more symbolic:

Much has been made about players like Alex Ovechkin possibly participating anyway, while other players like Erik Karlsson may receive a “flat-no” for doing so.

Speaking of that …

Overall? Well, the NHL’s apparently putting discussions on hold:

So … kind of a mess, but at least this added some spice to something that’s been almost universally sour for fans (and, apparently, players?).