James O'Brien

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

Leafs cool Predators on strength of JVR’s hat trick

Both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Nashville Predators came into 2016-17 looking to jump a level or more in the NHL pecking order. Each team’s seen its share of stumbles.

On Tuesday, there was no mistaking who was having the better night, though. That designation goes to the Maple Leafs and James van Riemsdyk‘s line in particular during a 6-2 smashing of the Predators.

JVR generated the second hat trick of his NHL career – and the first he’s ever generated with the Maple Leafs – and also grabbed an assist in a masterful performance. Those four points also constitute a career-high for van Riemsdyk. (You can see his hat trick in the video above this post’s headline.)

Honestly, the most impressive moment may have come from his linemate, as Mitch Marner scored one of his three points (1G, 2A) via this tally:

The Predators came into Tuesday’s game having won three in a row by a combined score of 11-2. They had also generated at least one standings point (4-0-2) in every November game until running into a brick wall against the Maple Leafs.

Even with Pekka Rinne out with a lower-body injury, there must be a “one step forward, two steps back” feeling for the Predators.

Then again, the Maple Leafs have likely felt that way as well early in 2016-17, so perhaps the silver lining of this lopsided loss is that Nashville should keep at it just like Toronto is doing.

Ott’s huge hit prompted a fight; should it earn a suspension?

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It’s no secret that the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning often get nasty … surprisingly so for two franchises that aren’t exactly the quickest to drop their gloves.

Tuesday presented the latest moments of violence in the increasingly bitter rivalry, and it’s probably not TOO surprising that Steve Ott was in the thick of things.

As you can see in the video above, Ott delivered a huge hit on fellow pest Cedric Paquette. Brian Boyle took exception to that check, challenging Ott to a boisterous fight.

The question both in-game and perhaps to the Department of Player Safety, is whether it’s a dirty hit or not. Specifically, does Ott leave his feet and is there direct contact to the head?

One thing that benefits both teams – the Red Wings for avoiding a suspension, the Lightning with Steven Stamkos and others getting bruised tonight – is that Paquette did return to the game.

*Phew*

That’s a lot to digest. Ultimately, the Lightning remain up 2-1 despite all the fireworks.

Once again, Michael Matheson with an unlikely assist

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It’s possible that a substantial chunk of hockey fans are unaware of Michael Matheson, but the Florida Panthers defenseman might not be anonymous to fanatics much longer.

Earlier this season, Matheson made a hit and great feed for the kind of goal that would make video game players grumble about “how that never happens.”

He blew some minds again on Tuesday, sending a pass from behind the net (and between his legs) to Kyle Rau for a goal against the Montreal Canadiens:

Nicely done.

This game presents multiple examples of players showing bewildering skill in the blink of an eye, as you can also see from this impressive Max Pacioretty goal:

Hot take: Patches can still score.

Video: Steven Stamkos won’t return from lower-body injury

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With an early 2-0 lead, it seemed like Tuesday started well for the Tampa Bay Lightning against the Detroit Red Wings.

Steven Stamkos contributed to that edge with a goal, but that excitement’s turned to concern as the team’s captain might have suffered an injury.

As you can see in the video below, Stamkos left the ice under some duress. It looks like he was favoring his right leg:

Update: There’s no word on how severe the issue is, but the Lightning announced that he won’t return to the game and label Stamkos’ issue as a lower-body injury.

GMs mixed about blindside hits, but maybe shootouts get spruced up?

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Hey, the NHL might take its time with policing different forms of hits, but the league’s always interested in tweaking what happens after regulation.

From going to 3-on-3 overtime to eliminating the scourge that was the spin-o-rama, those changes seem to catch the eyes of GMs and others. So, it’s not too surprising that the league seems to be at an impasse when it comes to the controversial blindside hit Nazem Kadri delivered, yet they might change the “skills competition” thanks to the latest GM meetings.

“This isn’t a meeting where you make fundamental changes,” Gary Bettman said, via NHL.com. “It’s really more of an update.”

So while TSN’s Pierre LeBrun believes that the “hawks and doves” are split on what to do with blindside hits, St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong’s shootout tweak might be more likely to gain some traction.

Specifically, Armstrong looks to take a cue from the Sochi Olympics, when T.J. Oshie put on quite the display by taking shootout attempt after shootout attempt for the U.S. against Russia.

Armstrong’s tweak would allow teams to keep trotting out the same shooter Oshie-style after the first three shooters for each team.

Want more regarding those discussions? NHL.com’s Dan Rosen runs it down in this video.