James O'Brien

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

Cause for concern? Canes hand Blue Jackets their third loss in four games


When you experience unexpected success at the level the Columbus Blue Jackets’ 2016-17 season, people look for the other shoe to drop. Those types might be alerted to a relative slump for Columbus.

The Carolina Hurricanes scored twice in the third period to pull away from the Blue Jackets on Tuesday, handing Columbus a 5-3 loss. With that, the Blue Jackets have lost three out of their last four games after winning 16 games in a row (not to mention going undefeated in December).

Most will write that off as a blip on the radar. Especially with Sergei Bobrovsky needing to miss tonight’s game thanks to an illness.

The Blue Jackets showed some fight, too, tying the game back up twice (once when Carolina went up 2-1, the second time when the Hurricanes briefly build a 3-2 lead). The team notes that the possession stats came up mostly Columbus:

Jordan Staal and Victor Rask made the difference with goals in that final frame as Anton Forsberg gave up four tallies on just 27 shots (the 5-3 goal was an empty-netter).

The Blue Jackets began a three-game road trip in Carolina, with a back-to-back set in Florida (at Tampa Bay Friday, at the Panthers on Saturday). Overall, they’ll play seven of their next 10 games on the road. So, perhaps it’s a bumpy road ahead, but isn’t that also a great way to see just how “legit” these Blue Jackets really are?

Of course, David Backes gets in fight in return vs. Blues (Video)


There was a time when a sputtering St. Louis Blues might have expected David Backes to fight. They’re sputtering, and Backes fought, but it was in a Boston Bruins uniform on Tuesday.

Backes also received an instigator penalty and misconduct for dropping the gloves with Joel Edmundson, which you can watch in the video above.

As great as this game has been so far for the Bruins (with them currently leading 4-1), there have been some rough moments for the B’s. Adam McQuaid left the game and won’t return because of an injury, and David Krejci got banged up here:

(Krejci might be OK, but he certainly has had better nights.)

Two very different hustle plays from Oilers’ McDavid, Russell


With a mere standings point separating the San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers – at least if you ignore San Jose’s games in hand – this is a fairly significant game between the two Pacific teams.

The Oilers are showing that, if it comes down to effort, they’re likely to stand a better chance than, oh, the last decade-or-so of Edmonton squads.

Two plays really make that stand out.

First, we have a reminder that Connor McDavid‘s blazing speed doesn’t just translate to points. It can also help the Oilers clean up messes in their own zone … and then turn ice upside down as he burns by everyone in transition:

On the other end of the spectrum, you have oft-criticized Kris Russell. However you feel about his overall presence (whether he’s a net-positive or something of an anchor), there’s little denying that he’s adept at blocking shots. That becomes clearer when a blueliner blurs the line between “blocked shot” and “save.”

Does any of this mean that the Oilers will beat the Sharks tonight? Nope, but they’re two fun examples of this team going all-out.

Blues a little too welcoming to Backes and Bruins, dominated early on


The St. Louis Blues claimed that it would be “business as usual” on Tuesday as they faced David Backes and the Boston Bruins. So far, they’re not up to their best practices.

(They nailed the tribute part, at least.)

St. Louis started the game about as flat as you could get. Boston charged out to a 3-0 lead through the first period, holding the Blues to a mere two shots on goal. Yikes.

Fair or not, that slow start prompted the Blues to replace Jake Allen. Here’s the last goal he allowed:

Torey Krug didn’t take long to score on Blues backup Carter Hutton in the second period, underscoring the notion that it’s not all Allen’s fault.

Perhaps this will serve as a wake-up call for the Blues, as they’ve been playing better so far in the middle frame, including getting a goal from Colton Parayko.

Video: Blues pay heartfelt tribute to David Backes


The St. Louis Blues made it clear that David Backes meant a lot to their organization. Their tribute said it all as they welcomed Backes and the Boston Bruins on Tuesday.

Judge for yourself, but it also looked like Backes managed to keep it together and fight the urge to cry, as was his stated goal.

Here’s the tribute via the Blues:

Blues fans followed suit with a rousing ovation of their own, to little surprise.

Pierre McGuire caught up with Backes for his thoughts on his return right before the game: