James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Sounds like Bishop, Lightning could go into training camp healthier

This is just a small part of a report from the Tampa Bay Times, yet if it holds true, it stands as a big relief for Tampa Bay Lightning fans:

notes: G Ben Bishop continues to work out at Amalie Arena, saying the left ankle/shin injury he sustained in the Cup final is getting better and won’t affect his offseason work. … Yzerman confirmed no players will need offseason procedures that will impact their camp availability.

In other words, the Lightning might not limp into the 2016-17 season after this past motley year of injuries and bad luck.

Of course, the off-season is a time of almost boundless optimism, where seemingly everyone is in “the best shape of their lives.”

A lot can change between June and training camp in September and the start of the regular season in October. Bishop and any number of other injured Bolts could suffer setbacks or summer sports/leisure mishaps.

Still, it sure beats hearing about summer surgeries, as inevitably “successful” as they seem to be.

So, what if Canada can’t send NHL players to the 2018 Olympics?

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Tom Renney didn’t seem fatalistic when discussing recent, not-so-positive comments about the NHL’s possible lack of participation in the 2018 Olympics.

“Yikes, I don’t know how we did it in 1994 to be honest with you — smoke and mirrors,” the Hockey Canada president joked on Monday. “There is a Plan B that we’re starting to work on now, just in case. Hockey Canada’s done that every single time. There’s no question we would be ready.”

“The big thing is to be nimble enough to respond to that, should the need be.”

As unfortunate as it would be to see the NHL sit out the Olympics, it would indeed create a fascinating role reversal.

While Shane Doan joked that Canada wouldn’t make a movie about a “Miracle” scenario, the bottom line is that the mighty hockey nation only really began stockpiling Olympic gold medals once NHL players became available.

What happens if they’re forced to go from a loaded juggernaut to … whatever a “smoke and mirrors” setup would amount to?

Renney was understandably slim on details, seemingly shrugging off the suggestion that Spengler Cup preparations would make a huge difference (and also noting that he isn’t sure AHL players would even be available).

It really does stoke the imagination to picture Canadian and American teams, in particular, if they were forced to go without NHL players. Perhaps college and junior players could make early impressions while cast-offs might have a shot at making names for themselves?

Sure, such a reality wouldn’t be ideal, yet it could also be pretty intriguing.

Kessel-to-Malkin goal puts Sharks in deeper trouble

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After a pretty strong (or at least even) first period, the San Jose Sharks are faltering.

The bright side might be that the margin isn’t THAT steep, at least as of this writing. The Pittsburgh Penguins fattened their lead, yet it’s still a reasonable mountain to climb at 2-0.

That’s not bad considering San Jose’s second-period lull:

Even so, the Sharks need to find an answer for the Penguins, as Phil Kessel continues his great play and Evgeni Malkin already has two points in Game 4.

Marvel at that combination as Kessel assisted on this Malkin tally, which stands as Pittsburgh’s first power-play goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final (see video above).

Such displays are already heating up Kessel-for-Conn-Smythe talk.

Imagine how unhappy Kessel’s loudest critics must feel right now …

Update: The game remains 2-0 heading into the third period. The Sharks couldn’t convert on a key power play chance after Brent Burns drew a penalty:

San Jose needs at least two goals in the third period or they’ll stare down a 3-1 deficit in the series. Buckle up.

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Cole gives Penguins yet another lead vs. Sharks after first period

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Metallica sure seemed to set the tone for a lightning-fast (one might even say speed-metal-like) start to Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.

There weren’t a ton of actual shots on goal, yet the action was exciting and there were plenty of close calls.

Ultimately, the Pittsburgh Penguins once again enjoyed a lead – the San Jose Sharks haven’t had to protect one yet with Game 3’s overtime goal in mind – as they ended the first period up 1-0.

An unexpected trend

The Penguins have enjoyed remarkable production from defensemen not named Kris Letang during this series. Ben Lovejoy helped produce some big points in Game 3, while an ultra-rare Ian Cole goal stood as the only tally in the first period.

It came after Brian Dumoulin somehow didn’t score the 1-0 goal; when you consider Justin Braun‘s production for San Jose, the 2016 Stanley Cup Final has been surprisingly rich in offense for lesser-known blueliners.

Understatement: goals have been rare for Cole.

Again, there were some memorable moments, such as this Marc-Edouard Vlasic interference on Sidney Crosby:

The Sharks are standing toe-to-toe with the Penguins, yet they’re still struggling to get on the board. We’ll see if that changes going forward.

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Metallica rocks national anthem before Stanley Cup Final Game 4

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Metallica has long been a sports arena mainstay, whether an in-house arena goes with something obvious like “Enter Sandman” or a deeper cut like “Seek and Destroy.”

For Game 4 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, the San Jose Sharks are going beyond the DJ to have Metallica rev up the crowd by playing the national anthem.

(Let’s take a moment to either be sad or appreciative that the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, thus depriving the world of about a thousand bad “Ride the Lightning” puns.)

You can enjoy that performance by Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield in the video above and also see Hetfield explain why the Sharks could win it all in the clip below:

Want more Metallica and intro stuff? Of course you do: