James O'Brien

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

Capitals are just on another level right now, especially at home


Is this finally the year that the Washington Capitals put it all together? If they play anything like this beyond Game 82, the answer might just be a resounding “Yes.”

The Capitals can’t do anything about those inevitable playoff questions right now, but they can take care of the business in front of them, something they’re accomplishing in a resounding way.

Tuesday was the latest example of their dominant play. The Capitals beat the Carolina Hurricanes by a score of 5-0, their second consecutive 5-0 win after doing the same to the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday.

When you’re riding as high as the Capitals are at the moment, you can dice up the numbers in a wide variety of impressive ways. Whatever you do, you’ll likely come up with pretty jaw-dropping stats.

Want to focus on Braden Holtby‘s continued brilliant play? This should work:

How about all those goals, though? As you can see the Capitals have been difficult to contain, especially with home-ice advantage.

(This tweet actually combines the great goaltending and scoring stats.)

The Capitals stand as the first team to hit 80 standings points in 2016-17, seemingly in a position to even leave their robust Metropolitan Division competition in the dust. They already have 10 players with at least 10 goals on the season.

No one gets a Stanley Cup ring for their work in February, but the Capitals sure look legit as of this moment. Some would argue that they’ve never looked better.

Derek Stepan seemingly OK after scary check from behind (Video)


The New York Rangers got a scare during Tuesday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks, as Derek Stepan was shaken up by a hit from behind by Logan Shaw.

Stepan left for some time, but as the team noted, he was able to return to the ice during the game. This doesn’t mean Stepan is certain to have avoided injury, but it’s naturally a better sign than Stepan sitting out the remainder of the contest.

As you can see in the video above, Ryan Getzlaf showed some sportsmanship in trying to move Stepan out of the fray.

The Rangers ended up beating the Ducks 4-1 on Tuesday.

Video: Sven Baertschi suffers concussion, won’t return because of this hit


The Vancouver Canucks lost a key forward as they began a do-or-die road trip against the Nashville Predators, as Sven Baertschi won’t return to Tuesday’s game after suffering a concussion.

(Somewhat unusually, the Canucks specifically labeled it a concussion rather than an “upper-body injury.”)

Baertschi suffered the injury thanks to a check by Predators forward Cody McLeod, a play that did not draw a penalty.

Today already ranks as a tough day for the Canucks health-wise, as news surfaced that Anton Rodin underwent knee surgery.

Video: Jonathan Drouin scores clever goal, takes another huge hit

Jonathan Drouin has a knack for scoring the sort of ludicrous goals that just a select few other players could even hope to match. Unfortunately, he’s also absorbed his fair share of huge hits, sometimes in the same games.

Tuesday presented a situation like that, as Drouin looked off Peter Budaj before scoring an outstanding 1-0 goal. You can watch that sublimely skilled tally in the video above.

Later on in the game, Los Angeles Kings forward Nic Dowd caught Drouin with a huge hit, with the young Lightning star only recognizing the danger of his situation mere moments before the check. Drouin seemed insistent on staying on the Bolts’ bench after the hit at first, but he eventually left for observation (perhaps after a request from a tracker?).

Here’s the hit:

We’ll find out soon enough if Drouin avoided injury here. He returned to the game midway through the second period, but sometimes players suffer setbacks once the adrenaline subsides.

The Lightning are already playing down one forward, as Alex Killorn was unable to go on Tuesday due to an undisclosed injury. Tampa Bay currently holds a 2-0 lead against the Kings.

Gallagher could be back to boost Canadiens’ struggling offense soon


Leave it to a hockey player to defy injury recovery windows.

Back in early January, the Montreal Canadiens believed that Brendan Gallagher would miss a “minimum” of eight weeks after hand surgery. While NHL.com notes that Michel Therrien ruled Gallagher out of Montreal’s next two games, it sounds like the agitating young forward could be back soon.

In other words, he might be back closer to six weeks after that surgery.

One wonders if his team’s relative recent struggles might give him the extra motivation to return sooner than expected.

The Canadiens have lost three games in a row and four of their last five. They’ve only scored three goals during this three-game skid and four in those four losses, with a 5-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres being the standout for an otherwise struggling offense.

Gallagher’s had a rough year in his own right. He managed a single goal and zero assists in his last 11 games, so this procedure could be key for a forward who was quietly moving up the ranks among agitating scorers before these stumbles.

The Canadiens face the Avalanche on Tuesday and the Coyotes on Thursday, both games on the road and both games with Gallagher believed to be unavailable.

The Habs play back-to-back games this weekend (home vs. Blues on Saturday, at Bruins on Sunday), followed by a bye week. Those back-to-back games could be a good opportunity to ease Gallagher back in, though if they opt to give him extra rest this weekend, they’d buy him more time while limiting the drawbacks for his team.

Whatever the case may be, Gallagher’s return will be welcome, and he could get enough time to shake off any rust before the playoffs kick in.