James O'Brien

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

Video: Boedker’s hat trick paces Sharks past Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers made some nice hustle plays on Tuesday, but the San Jose Sharks got the 5-3 win, fattening their Pacific Division lead ever so slightly.*

On one hand, the Sharks received strong contributions from go-to guys like Brent Burns. The beastly defenseman scored a goal and two assists to continue his astounding, possibly Norris-demanding tear.

On the other, it was a far from familiar contributor making a difference. Coming into tonight, Mikkel Boedker only had three goals in 2016-17. He generated a hat trick against the Oilers, including the game-winner, as you can see in the video above.

As outstanding and seemingly impossible as Burns and a few other Sharks might be, San Jose needs the likes of Boedker to come through more often if they want to take that next step.

* – The Anaheim Ducks look likely to remain neck-and-neck with the Sharks if they can hold on against the Dallas Stars tonight.

OT winners: Keith for Blackhawks, Josi to Jarnkrok for Predators (Video)


To save you a click or two, PHT’s throwing two overtime game-winners from Tuesday into a single post. Convenient!

One can debate which goal was more important. For the Nashville Predators, grabbing a 2-1 overtime win against the Vancouver Canucks was pretty crucial.

After Thursday’s home game against the Boston Bruins, the Predators will head out West for a five-game road trip. The banged-up team needs all the points they can get.

With just 1.5 seconds left, Roman Josi dished to Calle Jarnkrok for a pretty, shorthanded overtime-winner:

Sweet, right?

Duncan Keith‘s 4-3 overtime goal for the Chicago Blackhawks against the Detroit Red Wings was a little more, say, systematic?

The Stars and Ducks could still go into overtime themselves, but at the moment, it looks like Keith and Jarnkrok scored Tuesday’s only OT-winners.

Pay Backes: Bruins beat Blues in possibly costly win


David Backes will likely look back at Tuesday as a special night, as he was welcomed warmly back to St. Louis as a member of the Bruins. His new team might have more mixed feelings.

The bright side is obvious: Boston’s offense looked potent in a 5-3 win against the Blues. The Bruins managed to hold onto a win after a hot start that saw Jake Allen scuttled from the St. Louis net.

Backes made an impact of sorts, getting in a fight on the same night that he received that ovation and video tribute.

The real stars were the usual suspects for the Bruins. Brad Marchand scored two goals and nabbed an assist, David Pastrnak collected three helpers and Patrice Bergeron had two assists himself. It was a strong night for Frank Vatrano, too, with a goal and an assist.

Time will tell if the bumps and bruises the Bruins received will put a damper on this win, however. Adam McQuaid couldn’t return thanks to an upper-body injury, Colin Miller was shaken up bit did return during the third period of the game and David Krejci was a little dinged up in this one.

Losing McQuaid would sting; if two or even three of those players are hurt, that could be quite the blow to the Bruins.

Still, at the moment, Boston has to be pretty happy about this win. They’re currently 2-0-1 during a challenging four-game road trip that ends in Nashville on Thursday and have largely survived a road-heavy stretch that started late in December.

For the Blues, it was a disappointment, although at least they showed a little fight after a lousy start.

How worried should the Philadelphia Flyers be after loss to Sabres?


Things haven’t been going well for the Philadelphia Flyers since their 10-game winning streak came to an end.

Tuesday represented the latest setback, as Philly fell to the up-and-down Buffalo Sabres by a score of 4-1. While the Flyers have gotten some “charity points” for their trouble here and there, the bottom line is that they’ve only won two games since Dec. 17. They’re now 2-6-3 during that span.

Much like with the slightly stumbling Columbus Blue Jackets, it’s silly to panic, though the Flyers have bigger issues than Columbus right now.

The best news is that, regardless of how the rest of Tuesday goes, they’re still comfortably in the East’s final wild card spot. The not-so-good-news is that their margin for error is getting slimmer.

The rest of January could also be challenging. Beginning with Thursday’s home game against the upward-trending Vancouver Canucks, the Flyers will play four of six on the road and five of eight away from Philly to end the first month of January. That isn’t a murderous schedule, but it’s not a cakewalk either.

Ultimately, the Flyers are still in a good spot. They still have some work to do.

Cause for concern? Canes hand Blue Jackets their third loss in four games


When you experience unexpected success at the level the Columbus Blue Jackets’ 2016-17 season, people look for the other shoe to drop. Those types might be alerted to a relative slump for Columbus.

The Carolina Hurricanes scored twice in the third period to pull away from the Blue Jackets on Tuesday, handing Columbus a 5-3 loss. With that, the Blue Jackets have lost three out of their last four games after winning 16 games in a row (not to mention going undefeated in December).

Most will write that off as a blip on the radar. Especially with Sergei Bobrovsky needing to miss tonight’s game thanks to an illness.

The Blue Jackets showed some fight, too, tying the game back up twice (once when Carolina went up 2-1, the second time when the Hurricanes briefly build a 3-2 lead). The team notes that the possession stats came up mostly Columbus:

Jordan Staal and Victor Rask made the difference with goals in that final frame as Anton Forsberg gave up four tallies on just 27 shots (the 5-3 goal was an empty-netter).

The Blue Jackets began a three-game road trip in Carolina, with a back-to-back set in Florida (at Tampa Bay Friday, at the Panthers on Saturday). Overall, they’ll play seven of their next 10 games on the road. So, perhaps it’s a bumpy road ahead, but isn’t that also a great way to see just how “legit” these Blue Jackets really are?