James O'Brien

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

New low? Canucks lose eighth in a row, and it was brutal



What else can you say after a loss like this for the Vancouver Canucks?

The sting must be a bit more severe, too, as it came against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Vancouver have been fumbling with a “reload, don’t rebuild” mentality while they got shellacked by Toronto’s rebuilt youth 6-3 on Saturday.

With that, the Maple Leafs have won three in a row while Vancouver is on a disturbing eight-game losing streak (0-7-1).

Chances are, few people will be all that excited about the Canucks scoring after being shut out for two straight games.

There was already talk about Willie Desjardins being on the hot seat and getting “the vote of confidence” before this game, but now?

The penalty-filled finish might stand as just as much of a problem for “Whiteboard Willie” as this putrid streak.

Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston notes that 171 penalty minutes were doled out on this night. How much is that – and this awful streak – on Desjardins?

Update: Naturally, the Maple Leafs were also involved in the fray, and the league will look at a Nazem Kadri hit on Daniel Sedin (according to Sportsnet’s John Shannon). What that and another hit that had some up in arms in the video below:

An ugly night by many standards.

Rangers’ diverse offense keeps rolling along


The New York Rangers can’t keep scoring like this, can they?

They won their fourth game in a row by beating the Boston Bruins 5-2 on Saturday, and as strong as Henrik Lundqvist and Antti Raanta have been in net, their offense is what stands out.

The Rangers have outscored opponents 21-6 during this four-game run. They’ve now scored at least five goals on seven different occasions so far in 2016-17.

And, again, it’s not just one forward doing the damage.

Saturday ranks among the clearer signs of that multi-faceted attack, as five different Rangers supplied those goals. While Kevin Hayes remains red-hot, Derek Stepan was probably the man of the hour with a goal and two assists.

If the Rangers keep this up much longer, they’ll need to be acknowledged as one of the most dangerous attacks in the NHL. With Lundqvist in net – and Raanta available to provide great backup work like he did on Saturday – that could make for a frightening combination.

MORE: PHT didn’t see this coming during the summer, exactly, but was impressed by their bevvy of options.

Panthers lose game and also Jaromir Jagr to injury

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Every now and then, Jaromir Jagr reminds us that he is human (unless he’s trying to throw us off the scent).

It happened in a bad way on Saturday, as it was announced that he won’t return to the Florida Panthers game against the Washington Capitals, according to the AP’s Stephen Whyno.

There’s no word on how serious Jagr’s injury is, at least beyond costing him the remainder of this game.

The Panthers have to hope it doesn’t follow the early-season trend of top-six forwards missing considerable time. Jonathan Huberdeau isn’t expected back for some time while they’re still waiting on Nick Bjugstad to return from a hand injury.

If the “ageless wonder” is dealing with something serious, that would mean a big chunk of the Panthers’ offensive attack would be on the shelf, especially with Jussi Jokinen also day-to-day.

Here’s a clip that might make Panthers fans feel a little better, though: Roberto Luongo holding down the fort.

Update: The Capitals eventually overwhelmed the Panthers, scoring three unanswered goals to beat Florida 4-2. T.J. Oshie scored two goals and authored one of the most heartwarming moments of the night:

Another special night for Craig Anderson, but Robin Lehner wins


When you consider the goalies who are currently on hot streaks, don’t sleep on Robin Lehner.*

The odes given to Craig Anderson and his wife Nicholle Anderson have been tremendous so far, including the goalie wearing her favorite number 23 during warm-ups today. Even beyond this great story, Anderson’s been fantastic lately.

But, again, the guy at the other end has been putting up some fantastic performances.

If highlights make more of an impact on you than stats, this stick save should be sufficient:

Wow. Just, wow.

Circling back to Anderson and the Senators, here’s their great presentation from before the game.

Update: The Sabres ended up winning 2-1, but both goalies enjoyed strong nights.

Video: Oilers’ Puljujarvi, Islanders’ Hamonic suffer injuries

As much as people associate the Edmonton Oilers with failure and high picks, the team also has seen many of its youngsters deal with disturbing injuries. Is Jesse Puljujarvi continuing that unsettling trend?

We’ll have to wait and see after he suffered a knee-to-knee hit from New York Islanders defenseman Dennis Seidenberg during Saturday’s game.

Seidenberg received a two-minute tripping penalty, while Puljujarvi hasn’t yet returned to action – though he’s tried – for Edmonton.

This marks the young Finn’s 10th game with the Oilers, so he’ll burn a year off of his entry-level contract even if this ends up being serious.

Update: Puljujarvi will not return to the game, and Zack Kassian is also banged up for the Oilers. Meanwhile, Travis Hamonic could be hurt for the Isles.

The Oilers ultimately won 4-3 via a shootout.