James O'Brien

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

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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.

Eric Staal isn’t happy about goalie interference call

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You know what’s always fun? Arguing about goalie interference calls.

(Tomas Holmstrom is glaring at us so hard right now.)

The Minnesota Wild seemed to score a tying goal in the waning minute of the third period vs. the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday. Instead, Charlie Coyle‘s tally was waved off, as it was ruled that Eric Staal prevented Calvin Pickard from making the save:

Here’s the official league explanation for the call, via the NHL’s Situation Room blog.

After reviewing all available replays and consulting with NHL Hockey Operations staff, the Referee determined that the actions of Minnesota’s Eric Staal caused Colorado’s Erik Johnson to contact Calvin Pickard before the puck crossed the goal line, preventing Pickard from doing his job. 

Staal, for one, disagrees, stating that Pickard was “way out” of the blue and in “terrible position,” according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo.

Ultimately, Pickard ended the game with a 32-save shutout, whether it was the right call or not.

Calvin Pickard is making a case for Avs’ starting job

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For a while, it seemed like Devan Dubnyk was going to be the story of Saturday’s Colorado Avalanche – Minnesota Wild game. Instead, he lost a goalie duel to Calvin Pickard.

It’s remarkable that it all really did come down to one save. Pickard made 32 of 32 while Dubnyk stopped 31 of 32, and that was the difference in a 1-0 win for the Avalanche.

Now it brings up a question that is either already on the mind of the Avalanche, or should be soon: is Pickard actually a better option in net than Semyon Varlamov?

That’s something of a mind-blowing thought when you consider that Varlamov often propped up some terrible Avalanche defenses. No goalie faced more shots than Varlamov has since he took over in Colorado’s net in 2011-12.

Still, Jared Bednar isn’t being paid to look in the past, and more recent results make it a question worth asking.

Pickard now has three wins in as many starts. Varlamov is stuck at 2-5-0, and most troubingly, his .891 save percentage sits in “bad backup” territory.

Also, his numbers have been drifting downward every season since his impressive 2013-14 campaign (when he faced a ridiculous 2,013 and stopped 92.7 percent of them).

Yes, there’s a cruel “What have you done for me lately?” element to this, but fortunes can turn on a dime in sports.

On that note, consider this: Dubnyk has only allowed three goals total in his last four games. This run included another team record. And for that? He has two wins in those four contests.

Goaltending, everyone.