James O'Brien

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

Haula on another Wild playoff letdown: ‘We’re all sick of it’


The Minnesota Wild have tried a lot of different things and spent plenty of money since returning to the playoffs in 2012-13, but the story seems to end the same, unpleasant way.

In the past five playoff runs, they’ve never won more than a single series. They’ve now been bounced in the first round two years in a row.

Sure, they went down fighting. And, yes, Bruce Boudreau helped young stars rise and veterans find new life. But an early end to the postseason means that many will dismiss all of those positives in the grand scheme of things.

“It’s going to be a long offseason for sure,” Zach Parise said.

Indeed, the Wild swung for the fences, paying a big price for Martin Hanzal as the West seemed open. They were right about the conference being more ripe for the picking than any time since they became competitive again … but it seems that the Wild overestimated their chances at making a deep run.

Now they have to deal with that all-too-familiar empty feeling.

More on the Wild’s unsuccessful gamble here.

With key young players such as Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter needing new deals, Martin Hanzal ranking among veterans becoming UFAs and the expansion draft putting a quality player in danger of being plucked away, it’s likely that next year’s team could look different even if management stays in place.

If this was Minnesota’s big chance, then the bottom line is that they whiffed on it.

Blues eliminate Wild in five games, prepare for Predators


Call it Magnus Paajarvi‘s payday.

The Minnesota Wild provided some push back both in Game 5 and after falling behind 3-0 in the series, but the St. Louis Blues ultimately ended it in overtime on Saturday, collecting a 4-3 OT win.

The Blues saw a 3-1 lead evaporate in the third period, and with the Nashville Predators resting up after sweeping the Chicago Blackhawks, one couldn’t help but wonder if Minnesota was going to keep fighting back.

MORE:Experience Minnesota’s ultimately ill-fated comeback here

St. Louis got that decisive goal after Paajarvi finished a great chance set up by Vladimir Sobotka, however, and the Blues now get to advance.

While the 3-3 goal was one that Jake Allen would like to have back, Saturday provided additional reminders that he’s at the top of his game. Then again, there might not be much margin of error as Allen will try to win a goalie duel against Pekka Rinne.

Perhaps there’s some solace for Bruce Boudreau & the Wild after putting up some impressive last-gasp efforts. Still, this season ended with disappointment once again, continuing a frustrating narrative for both that franchise and its coach.

They also must hope for the best regarding Eric Staal, who was hospitalized after a frightening fall into the boards.

It’s been a season of ups and downs for the Blues, however, who now glance at a fascinatingly wide-open West with their heads held high.

Video: Wild refuse to go quietly, push Blues to overtime with mad rush


The Minnesota Wild could have buckled when they went down 3-0 in their series against the St. Louis Blues.

They easily could have shut down shop when a goal was disallowed during the third period of Game 5, maintaining the Blues’ lead at 3-1.

Instead, they just kept fighting and fighting, maybe to avoid this gesture from Bruce Boudreau.

They fought back to score two goals that actually counted, starting with this tally by Mikko Koivu.

The 3-3 goal was a combination of arguably a rare mistake by Jake Allen as he seemed to be a touch too aggressive, although you have to credit Jason Zucker‘s instincts and speed. Ultimately, that goal sent Game 5 to overtime.

Impressive stuff. We’ll see if the Wild can force a Game 6, but either way, this team showed that they have some fight left in them.

Bruce Boudreau speaks for us all after confusing goalie interference review


Bruce Boudreau’s frequently one of the most colorful coaches to watch during a big game … sometimes literally.*

He’s provided some entertaining moments of frustration, with his … frank reaction to a Mathew Dumba penalty ranking among the highlights of Game 5.

Whether you feel that Nino Niederreiter should have been called for goalie interference on a would-be goal or not, the Twitter consensus is that the call is becoming about as clear as what constitutes a catch in an NFL game.

With that in mind, Boudreau’s gesture spoke for us all after the tally was not allowed on Saturday:

Check out video above. It’s been a hectic third period, as the Blues aren’t out of the woods even after a nice Paul Stastny goal where he squeezed the puck through an unlikely window.

Here’s a shot of the interference in GIF form, too.

Even Kerry Fraser didn’t know which way to call the review, by the way. A bit of a mess for the NHL, eh.

(Oh, and the game is now tied 3-3, so check it out on NBC.)

* – Seriously, it gets a little worrisome when his face goes red. It’s not unlike Barry Trotz’s nervous eyebrow(s).

Eric Staal released from hospital after scary fall (Update)


Update: Good news for Eric Staal and the Minnesota Wild; the forward was released from the hospital on Saturday night, as the team announced.


Trainers helped Eric Staal off the ice during the second period of Saturday’s Blues – Wild game, and it didn’t look good.

He was tripped up by Jake Allen (inadvertently) while going in for a scoring chance and was unable to brace himself as he went head-first into the boards. Staal clearly looked woozy as he took quite a bit of time leaving for the locker room.

(It’s promising that he left the ice with help rather than going out on a stretcher, though there were moments where his difficulty moving made you wonder if that might have been a safer choice.)

You can see it in video form above.

Update: The Wild announced that he’s been hospitalized but is alert and stable.