James O'Brien

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

Poll: Marc-Andre Fleury or Matt Murray for Pens in Game 6


After the Pittsburgh Penguins lost in overtime to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5, Marc-Andre Fleury admitted that he needs to play better.

The question is: will Mike Sullivan give him another chance, or will he go back to Matt Murray with Pittsburgh’s season on the line in Game 6?

We won’t get an answer from Sullivan until tomorrow morning:

Fair enough.

This allows us an opportunity to play armchair head coach without that pesky “getting second-guessed on Twitter either way” nuisance.

So, if you were Sullivan, who would you start tomorrow night?

(Note: for the sake of simplicity, Jeff Zatkoff isn’t included as we’ll make the assumption that both Fleury and Murray can actually play tomorrow.)

Panthers’ front office upheaval continues with firing of scouting director


The Florida Panthers made quite a leap forward in 2015-16, yet many of the architects of their transformation are either being moved to new positions or fired altogether.

The latest to get fired is Scott Luce, a scouting director who first joined the Panthers way back in 2002.

This report surfaced from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and was confirmed by new GM Tom Rowe by way of George Richards of the Miami Herald.

It sounds like this might come down to “creative differences.”

Other members of the front office are expected to take on larger roles, though Rowe may also hire a replacement for Luce’s duties.

The executive is expected to draw considerable demand from around the NHL.

To recap, the Panthers changed at the top, with Rowe taking over the GM position while Dale Tallon moved on to a president-type role. Florida also parted ways with assistant coach and former player John Madden.

The Panthers will look different on the ice with new duds in 2016-17, and may sport a few philosophical changes that may not be as apparent to the naked eye.

Perhaps we’re in for an intriguing off-season of moves?

Brodziak: Blues should ‘play as if our lives are on the line’


Open question: have the St. Louis Blues played at a high level during any of their first three games against the San Jose Sharks?

Yes, they won Game 1, but even Ken Hitchcock seemed to think that their efforts were a little lacking. (Something that caught up with them afterward.)

The Sharks have been successful in slowing the Blues down, and thus haven’t been firing away chance after chance themselves, yet the shots on goal totals make you wonder if the Blues have been a little flat:

Game 1: Blues win 2-1, St. Louis generates 23 shots on goal, Sharks get 32

Game 2: Sharks win 4-0, St. Louis generates 26 SOG, Sharks get 24

Game 3: Sharks win 3-0, St. Louis generates 22 SOG, Sharks get 16

No doubt, much of those results revolve around tempo (and sharp play by Martin Jones, who’s only allowed two goals so far during this series).

Still, you do kind of want to see a little more desperation …

When a goalie change happens during a game, it’s sometimes as much about sending a message to that netminder’s teammates than to condemn the way the goalie is playing. It seems like Hitch is doing a similar for this series.

Will that (and Hitch’s mysterious “change”) be enough to get the Blues back on track? We’ll find out soon enough.

Canada edges U.S., advances to worlds final vs. Finland


It was closer than you’d expect – if, say, a video game simulated the match – but Canada’s bounty of talent was too much for the United States.

Ryan Ellis‘ booming shot ended up being the decisive tally as the Canadians beat the U.S. 4-3 on Saturday, advancing to the gold medal round of the worlds against Finland.

The United States takes on Russia for the bronze, with both games taking place on Sunday.

As this post illustrates, the U.S. made things interesting. Canada built a 2-0 lead, then Auston Matthews began the charge with three straight goals. Derick Brassard‘s power-play goal seemed to settle things down for the favorites, however.

Ultimately, that Ellis score was the difference:

Canada’s loaded roster (boasting the likes of Connor McDavid, Corey Perry, Taylor Hall and Matt Duchene) means that they’ll face a scrappy upstart once more tomorrow. If today’s game is any indication, it could be a lot of fun.

(And the same may be true of Russia vs. the U.S.)

No surprise: Auston Matthews continues to impress at worlds

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After falling behind 2-0 in the first period, the United States is coming roaring back against Canada in Saturday’s entertaining semifinals game at the worlds.

You know what’s even more fun? Seeing how a hot prospect looks against various collections of NHL and professional-level players.

Earlier today, Patrik Laine looked sharp in assisting Finland’s 3-1 upset(?) against Russia.

Auston Matthews seems to be the odds-on No.1 overall pick for the 2016 NHL Draft, and the hockey world is getting some sneak previews of his fantastic talent. He began the U.S. comeback with this howling shot of a goal:

That began a run of three goals for the United States, but Derick Brassard tied it up 3-3 on the power play mere moments ago.

Another significant moment came when a David Warsofsky tying goal counted:

Click here to watch the remainder of this exciting game.