James O'Brien

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

Penguins chase Lundqvist, boot Rangers from playoffs


The New York Rangers raced out to a nice start to take a 1-0 lead in Game 5 … and that about covers the positives for Henrik Lundqvist & Co.

The Pittsburgh Penguins ended this first-round series 4-1 thanks to Saturday’s 6-3 rout, winning the last three games in increasingly lopsided ways.

It’s impossible to ignore Henrik Lundqvist’s struggles, even if you pin many of the goals he allowed on his teammates’ inability to contain the Penguins’ speed and skill. Lundqvist will enter the summer in sobering fashion as he was pulled from two straight games.

Let’s face it; the Penguins owned the perennial All-Star in 2015-16. Remember when they made Lundqvist flip out?

The Penguins enjoyed great performances from big guns such as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Phil Kessel. Even so, Pittsburgh looks especially dangerous because this team isn’t just leaning on those core scorers.

Indeed, the Penguins saw the likes of Matt Cullen, Bryan Rust and Conor Sheary pitch in goals and other big plays (not to mention a speedy and focused Carl Hagelin).

Things really got out of hand in the second period; a 2-2 tie transformed into a foreboding 6-2 lead for the Rangers pushed back in the final frame but couldn’t beat Matt Murray very often.

Special teams will stand as one of the other key differences between the teams.

The Rangers’ power play was barren …

… While the Penguins’ man advantage was downright prolific, generating at least one power-play goal in each game of the series and eight tallies overall.

Fair or not, this defeat generated a lot of heat on Lundqvist and the Rangers in general.

(Not a good sign when people are writing your sports career obituary.)

Now the Rangers look ahead to an offseason rife with plenty of questions. Meanwhile, the Penguins await the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers in what should be a captivating series either way.

The Rangers had been getting the better of the Penguins lately, yet history is on Pittsburgh’s side:

Just for Men: Brent Burns


Chances are, you are probably not like Brent Burns.

Most people probably don’t sport a beard like Burns does … and let’s be honest, it’s probably for the best.

Burns has a patient wife, as he admits and you can see from his beard (which is so large and unruly that some might speculate about it being sentient). If you need further evidence, see headlines like “Burns wants a tiger but his wife says no.”

Most people don’t have significant others willing to deal with facial hair of such monstrosity, and most people would struggle to keep a job looking like Burns.

Most people can’t score 27 goals at the NHL level, let alone as a defenseman. Nor could most NHL players seamlessly move between defense and forward positions at an All-Star level. Charles Barkley once said that athletes aren’t role models, and it’s especially foolish to try to emulate the San Jose Sharks’ Chewbacca-like blueliner.

That’s not to say you can’t be anything like Brent Burns, mind you.

Who doesn’t love pizza or especially the idea of eating pizza after a tough day of work? Burns’ love of animals and charitable work is something we should all aspire to. And, let’s make no doubt about: the guy is amazing at his job.

Let’s be honest, though: you can do better than Burns’ beard, at least if you want to avoid weird looks anytime you go out in public.

Also: honorable mention to teammate Joe Thornton, who clearly does want to follow in Burns’ fuzzy footsteps.

FILE - In this March 24, 2016, file photo, San Jose Sharks' Joe Thornton (19) sakes during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Edmonton Oilers in San Jose, Calif. Thornton has had a career renaissance at age 36 to help lead San Jose back to the playoffs. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
via AP

Penguins send Tristan Jarry back to the AHL


A day after Matt Murray won in his playoff debut, the Pittsburgh Penguins sent Tristan Jarry back to the AHL.

Jarry didn’t get to see any postseason action at the NHL level, as Jeff Zatkoff played the first two games against the New York Rangers before giving way to Murray.

In a way, this assignment should be a comfort to Penguins fans: it makes it pretty clear that they’re confident in the health of Murray. With Marc-Andre Fleury‘s status still fuzzy, Pittsburgh can still turn to Murray and Zatkoff.

Speaking of the playoffs, Jarry will get a little playoff experience at the AHL level:

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

The Stanley Cup playoffs continue on Wednesday and the NBC Sports group has you covered with extended coverage across both television and digital platforms.

Here is the full slate…

Washington at Philadelphia (7:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 4 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Florida at NY Islanders (7:00 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 4 will be on the USA Network. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Dallas at Minnesota (9:30 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 3 will be on the NBCSN. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Los Angeles at San Jose (10:30 p.m. ET)

The TV broadcast of Game 4 will be on USA Network. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

Here’s some reading material to get you ready for tonight’s games:

All about that wristband fiasco in Philly.

Roberto Luongo was left “exhausted” with the way the early part of Panthers – Isles went.

— Lindy Ruff was not happy at all with the Stars’ Game 3 effort.

Dustin Brown‘s big hit made a big difference in the Kings’ OT win in Game 3.

Drew Doughty evokes the history between the Kings and Sharks.

PHT Morning Skate: On that Fabbri-Crawford fight, the latest Drouin spin


PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Mark Spector believes that the Chicago Blackhawks’ lack of depth is being exposed. (Sportsnet)

“Bad Philly fan behavior explained.” (Philadelphia Inquirer)

From the department of revisionist history: Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper claims that they “never gave up” on Jonathan Drouin.

This probably captures the general reaction to Cooper’s comments:

Stats back up the rather obvious: Drouin is playing well, regardless of spin. (TSN)

Want a little more context on that unusual brawl between Corey Crawford and Robby Fabbri from Tuesday?

Fabbri said he did his best to avoid Crawford:

Crawford felt like he got hit in the head:

Ken Hitchcock’s latest old-timer-sounding reference:

The Blues accomplished something rare in winning the past two games in Chicago:

Agreed, CM Punk. Agreed.