James O'Brien

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

Cody Eakin suspended four games for ‘intentional’ hit on Henrik Lundqvist

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The NHL rendered its verdict on that controversial hit from Thursday: Dallas Stars forward Cody Eakin will sit four games for his “intentional, forceful” check on New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

Sitting out four games without pay will cost Eakin $85,555.56.

As you can see from the explanation video below, the league believed that he didn’t make a reasonable effort to avoid contact with Lundqvist, instead “loading up” and “bracing for” the collision. They consider this charging.

On the other hand, Lundqvist returning to the game and Eakin’s lack of a suspension history helped to limit the punishment:

Measure of revenge: Lundqvist shuts out Stars after controversial hit

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In life, “Living well is the best revenge.”

In sports, the best revenge usually comes down to winning the game.

Henrik Lundqvist took a huge, polarizing hit from Cody Eakin during tonight’s Dallas Stars – New York Rangers game, briefly leaving the contest. Luckily for the Rangers – and unluckily for the Stars – Lundqvist returned to the action and gave his opponents nothing.

Rick Nash and Mats Zuccarello scored two goals in the third period of what was a pretty nice goalie duel, all things considered. And it’s little surprise that Lundqvist (particularly a possibly angry Lundqvist) ended up winning that duel.

That’s sort of what he does.

Click here for more on the hit, including plenty of discussion in the comments.

Also on fire: Devan Dubnyk and the Minnesota Wild

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When discussing top goalies, it’s tempting to stop at goalies like Carey Price, but don’t sleep on Devan Dubnyk. The same could be said for including the Minnesota Wild among the NHL’s hottest teams.

(It turns out you can be red-hot even if you’re NOT in the Metropolitan Division. Who knew?)

In beating the Nashville Predators 5-2 on Thursday, the Wild rattled off their sixth consecutive win and seem to keep collecting points (only failing to do so once in their last 13).

Dubnyk, meanwhile, is on a career-best 8-0-2 run, as the Star Tribune’s Michael Russo points out.

You may look at that 5-2 score and believe that it was a blowout, but that final score is deceptive thanks to two empty-netters by the Wild. Minnesota was actually up 3-1 at the end of the first period and leaned pretty heavily upon Dubnyk, who only allowed one more Predators goal.

Beating the Predators in a game where Nashville carried much of the play holds extra meaning for Dubnyk, as some of the darkest days of his NHL career came during his very brief time in that country music hotbed.

Let’s face it, at this point, any team doubting Dubnyk simply isn’t paying much attention.

Peter Holland made the difference for Coyotes vs. Leafs, because of course

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Sheesh, this one’s a bit “on the nose.”

It would be way too obvious for Peter Holland to make the difference in the Arizona Coyotes’ 3-2 shootout win for the Toronto Maple Leafs. So, of course, he did.

Holland scored the shootout-winner, and it was a pretty nice move, as well. In doing so, he stole some of the limelight of Auston Matthews scoring a goal against the team he grew up cheering for in Arizona.

Feel free to insert “Scowling Mike Babcock” after that goal.

This storyline was so easy to see coming that plenty of Maple Leafs fans cringed at the likelihood of it happening:

Ouch.

Again, ouch.

Islanders’ latest way to bum fans out: Blown leads, this time vs. Blackhawks

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From ice issues to dreaded votes of confidence and lacking play, the New York Islanders have been a big letdown in 2016-17. They aren’t consciously trying to leave their fans depressed, but if that was the goal, they’d be excelling in that area.

Lately, the Islanders have been unable to protect leads, including tonight’s 5-4 defeat to the Chicago Blackhawks.

As Newsday’s Arthur Staple notes, the Islanders are now on a three-game losing streak, a run in which they’ve held a third-period lead in all three games. Just, ouch.

To be fair to the Islanders, this streak also comes against three playoff-quality teams (arguably three Cup contenders) in the Blue Jackets, Capitals and now Blackhawks. Chicago stands as a particular contrast to the Islanders in the way they’ve been closing out games.

So, it’s not like the Islanders are just awful. Sometimes, it’s actually worse for a fan base to go through that yo-yo effect, though; the Isles would likely flirt with “most frustrating team” status for this season.

This losing streak comes after the Islanders won five of six games, collecting a point in all six (5-0-1). They’re now 11-13-5, a more disastrous situation when you consider the context of the astoundingly potent top rankings of the Metropolitan Division.

With it being mid-December, it’s possible that the Islanders will turn things around and reward their patient fans. The Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t look so hot this time last year, as just one example of a team making it work mid-season.

Still, it’s been a slog early on, and we’re not just talking about the roundly critiqued playing surface.