James O'Brien

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

Red Wings make Game 3 tweaks, including starting Mrazek


Staring at a 2-0 deficit as their series heads back to Detroit, it’s not exactly shocking that the Red Wings are making changes for Game 3.

The most immediately apparent change will be in net as Petr Mrazek takes the reins from Jimmy Howard.

Whether you put a lot or very little blame on Howard’s shoulders, changing goalies was one of the most natural tweaks, especially since Mrazek carried the ball for most of the 2015-16 season. Howard finished the season strong to wrestle the starting job back, but now that’s in flux.

The other significant change is that the Red Wings are tweaking just about everything as far as their lines go, including splitting up Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, according to MLive.com’s Ansar Khan.

Justin Abdelkader gets a demotion, though it could make for a nice depth line:

It also looks like Brendan Smith will take Kyle Quincey‘s spot alongside Danny DeKeyser.

(Keep in mind that lines can fluctuate, especially during the playoffs.)

With home-ice advantage shifting and some pretty big lineup changes, things will look different for Detroit, yet it remains to be seen if they’ll yield the right sort of results.

Stopping the Lightning’s red-hot line would be a good place to start …

Now Hitchcock says Blues ‘need to move on’ from goal review


Let out a sigh of relief: Ken Hitchcock is going to stop milking that goal review controversy. For now.

He urged his St. Louis Blues to move on as Game 3 rapidly approaches in Chicago on Sunday, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

“That’s probably for summer time conversation,” Hitchcock said. “I’m sure there’ll be lots of discussion. That (offside call) will be a video that will get played over and over again, but for right now, all I know is it’s a call that went against us and we need to move on and get ready for (Sunday) afternoon.”

It’s amusing to see Hitchcock basically follow the coach’s blueprint for situations like these.

Step 1: Plead for make-up calls either implicitly or explicitly (Hitch was pretty close to outright demanding them).

Step 2: Change course and act like you’re above the fray.

Step 3: ?

Step 4: Profit

Well, the process goes something like that.

In all seriousness, it would be silly for Hitchcock to leave any stone un-turned, particularly with patience for a Blues’ first-round exit likely at an all-time low. If his reactions inspire a ref not to blow a whistle with the fear of looking “one-sided” even once during the rest of the series, it’s worth every word Hitchcock uttered in reaction to that memorable fiasco.

It might be beneficial for those comments to stick in the mind of officials, but Hitchcock’s justified in hoping that the Blues focus on their world-class opponent in the Blackhawks.

Penguins send Tom Sestito back to the AHL

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The Pittsburgh Penguins re-assigned tough guy Tom Sestito back to the AHL on Sunday.

While the Penguins and New York Rangers are engaging in the typical rough stuff you’d expect from a first-round series between two familiar adversaries, it’s not as if Sestito was a factor. He last suited up for the Penguins on April 9.

He appeared in four regular season games for the Penguins in 2015-16. He only saw three games of NHL action the season before in Vancouver, so it’s reasonable to wonder how often he’ll pop up from the AHL going forward.

The Penguins and Rangers will vie for a 2-1 series lead when the series resumes in New York on Tuesday.

Holtby smothers Flyers, Capitals take 2-0 series lead


Goaltending was, at times, the difference for the Flyers and Capitals in Game 2. That’s not meant as a jab at Steve Mason, either.

Braden Holtby was just that good on Saturday, turning in a performance that was arguably more impressive than his Game 1 shutout as Washington beat Philadelphia 4-1.

The Flyers hammered 19 shots on goal in the first period alone as Holtby was tested early and often. Philly was only able to best the likely 2016 Vezina winner once, and it was thanks to a deceptive move by Jakub Voracek.

The Capitals already scored twice (including a goal that will probably haunt Mason for the rest of his career) by the time Voracek generated Philly’s first goal of this postseason, and that’s apparently all Washington would need. Really, it was a rare performance from Holby by many measures.

Again, Mason made plenty of impressive saves …

… Yet that goal may live on for some time.

Alex Ovechkin found the net for the first time in the 2016 postseason. He also delivered another big hit or five.

The Capitals managed to hold serve at home to go up 2-0. The Flyers have shown flashes of brilliance, yet they find their backs against the wall once more.

This time it’s happening against the Presidents’ Trophy-winning team and its all-world goalie, so this may stand as an even tougher challenge for the Flyers.

More on that goal

Steve Mason allows historically bad goal after making split save


If you think you’ve suffered through a rough stretch on Saturday, try Steve Mason on for size.

In the span of mere moments, the Philadelphia Flyers goalie made a borderline inhuman split save that left him slowly getting to his feet … and then he allowed one of the worst goals you’ll ever see.

You can label it as any number of things, including “Adding insult to injury.”

The 2-0 goal is the sort that could really hurt your confidence:

People are legitimately stunned by how bad it was.

Now, how much does that goal have to do with that painful moment that came before it? One can debate that both ways, but the bottom line is that the Flyers are down after dominating the first period.

The good news: Jakub Voracek finally beat Braden Holtby, so Philly’s only down 2-1.