James O'Brien

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

Game 5 of Penguins – Capitals drew great ratings for NBC


Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals is a star-studded series, and it showed with Game 5’s ratings in particular.

NBC Sports PR released some numbers regarding last night’s must-win game for the Capitals, with some striking ratings for this latest showdown between Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Nicklas Backstrom and more.

Game 5 set a new bar for a playoff game in the first or second round on NBC:

Here are a few other impressive tidbits:

People are already calling for Fleury to replace Murray


If you needed a reminder about the “What have you done for me lately?” nature of sports, check some of the takes about the Pittsburgh Penguins’ goaltending situation.

By just about any measure, Matt Murray‘s been a revelation in his first playoff experiences. He’s stolen a game or two against the Washington Capitals alone.

Still, the Penguins failed in their first opportunity to close out the Caps in Game 5 with a 3-1 loss. That was enough to prompt some to wonder if the Penguins would be wise to return to “The Flower.”

Granted, there are also plenty of people who mock the idea.

Nature of the beast, perhaps?

It would be surprising if the Penguins went in that direction against the Capitals in Game 6 on Tuesday … though not impossible, apparently.

On the other hand, if the Capitals force a Game 7, all bets are off.

Report: Front-office changes coming to Panthers, including new GM


The Florida Panthers seem to be making some tweaks to their front office, with official word expected to come soon, according to George Richards of the Miami Herald.

Richards reports that the team will have a new GM, but that doesn’t mean that Dale Tallon (pictured) will be fired.

Instead, Tallon will be moved up the chain to a “director of hockey operations”-type title, much like the New York Rangers did with veteran executive Glen Sather last summer.

(Anyone else think of this show when they read “Tom/Eric?”)

Tom Rowe will reportedly take over the GM gig while others will serve as assistants. Tallon is also expected to have a voice in the matters, according to Richards.

It’s plausible that this shuffling was in the making for some time. The Panthers announced extensions for Tallon and Rowe in January. Other pieces are also locked up for the next few years, including head coach (and Jack Adams finalist) Gerard Gallant.

The Panthers took a big step in 2015-16, and it seems clear that they’re keeping their eyes toward the future.

For more details, check out Richards’ feed.

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

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The Stanley Cup playoffs continue with one game on Sunday afternoon. You can catch tonight’s action via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

NY Islanders at Tampa Bay (3:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 5 will be on NBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here. The Lightning lead the series 3-1.

Check out some reading material to warm up for the action:

– Lightning view elimination victories as “the toughest win to get.”

Nikita Kucherov is lighting it up for the Lightning.

Jason Garrison scored the Game 4 overtime-winner.

Bad blood boils over.

Just for Men: Sidney Crosby


People love star athletes because they can do amazing things. Even so, people also often love to see the occasional moment of weakness.

Aside from the occasional injury hiccup, Sidney Crosby‘s been as advertised after being a super-hyped No. 1 overall pick. He has that “Golden Goal,” two Olympic gold medals, a Stanley Cup ring and plenty of individual accolades.

… Yet he can’t really grow much of a beard.

Granted, his facial hair is thicker now that he’s “Sid the star nearing 30” rather than “Sid the Kid,” but no one will confuse him for Brent Burns and his living-in-a-cabin-in-the-woods beard.

For some, especially Crosby-haters, it’s fodder for mockery.

For the rest of us, it’s merely comforting to see that people like Crosby are human and actually have a few flaws.