James O'Brien

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

Flames get the sort of win they’ve been craving

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Sticking with a theme of Tuesday night, the Calgary Flames paid a price for their 1-0 win against the Minnesota Wild. As of this writing, it feels about as crucial as a mid-November victory can in the NHL.

The key caveat is the health of Johnny Gaudreau; if he’s OK, then he’s one of the biggest reasons why this was a feel-good win.

First, the good:

Gaudreau showed some of the magic Flames fans haven’t seen enough of so far this season on the game’s only goal.

That might feel rare, but strong goaltending has been even less common for Calgary. Chad Johnson made an argument for more reps on this day, stopping all 27 shots for a shutout.

Most obviously, the Flames ended a four-game losing streak and nabbed just their second victory in eight games.

They also showed the sort of hustle and grit that makes coaches and old-school types happy.

The bad news is that some of that rough stuff might have come at the cost of Gaudreau’s health. Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan admitted that he doesn’t yet know if Gaudreau suffered an injury late in the game, only that the talented player was shaken up by some slashes.

With two home games and then a six-game road trip up ahead, this would be a bad time for Gaudreau to miss games, even if the Flames would likely feel the sting without their creative winger under just about all circumstances.

Much like the Lightning with Steven Stamkos, the Flames just need to keep their fingers crossed while trying to enjoy a hard-earned win.

Broken stick, broken streak: Perfect run ends for Carey Price


Hey, it had to end some time, right?

So far in 2016-17, the Montreal Canadiens were undefeated at home (10-0-0) and Carey Price (also 10-0-0) couldn’t be beat anytime he was in Montreal’s net. Those runs came to an end on Tuesday.

Granted, it’s not all bad; they still generated a standings point for their troubles as they lost to the Florida Panthers by a score of 4-3 in overtime.

Aaron Ekblad‘s clinching goal made the difference during a game of fairly memorable tallies:

A broken stick to break a streak. That’s too perfect, isn’t it?

With a 13-2-2 record overall for Montreal this season and a 10-0-1 mark for Price, it’s unlikely that the Canadiens are complaining all that much. Still, it’s remarkable just how close they were to maybe making even more history, both on Tuesday and maybe beyond.

Then again, the Canadiens are more interested in doing something they haven’t accomplished since 1993 rather than filling the record books on more obscure terms.

Late goal means it wasn’t all bad luck for Lightning vs. Red Wings


It was a turbulent trip, but the Tampa Bay Lightning ultimately beat the Detroit Red Wings 4-3 on Tuesday.

The question is: will Steven Stamkos‘ injury be serious enough that the night will be deemed a net loss?

MORE: Video of Stamkos injury

That’s an unsettling question for the Bolts to consider, but in the mean time, they got a “gutsy win,” as Keith Jones said after the game. There’s some narrative symmetry to Stamkos scoring a goal to push himself closer to the league’s scoring leaders, only to get hurt … and then Nikita Kucherov rose himself with a huge, late goal.

After starting the scoring on Tuesday, Kucherov generated his second goal of the night (and eighth of 2016-17) to win the game with a little more than a minute remaining in the third period.

You can forgive the Red Wings for being a little thunderstruck by that 4-3 tally.

The Red Wings fought back hard from a 3-1 deficit to tie things up and also seemed to come a post or two away from getting a lead against Ben Bishop. The Lighning survived, however, and ultimately rode that late Kucherov goal to a regulation win.

Tampa Bay now has wins in the first two games of a five-game road trip, a great start for a span that also rounds out to eight road games in 10 appearances stretching back to Monday.

To shake off injuries and manage wins on back-to-back nights? Yeah, that’s some gutsy stuff. Especially considering how nasty this game got, including the Steve Ott hit on Cedric Paquette and Brayden Coburn shaking off an injury scare of his own.

Now they just need to cross their fingers to avoid the gut-punch that would come from a bad update regarding Stamkos.

Leafs cool Predators on strength of JVR’s hat trick

Both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Nashville Predators came into 2016-17 looking to jump a level or more in the NHL pecking order. Each team’s seen its share of stumbles.

On Tuesday, there was no mistaking who was having the better night, though. That designation goes to the Maple Leafs and James van Riemsdyk‘s line in particular during a 6-2 smashing of the Predators.

JVR generated the second hat trick of his NHL career – and the first he’s ever generated with the Maple Leafs – and also grabbed an assist in a masterful performance. Those four points also constitute a career-high for van Riemsdyk. (You can see his hat trick in the video above this post’s headline.)

Honestly, the most impressive moment may have come from his linemate, as Mitch Marner scored one of his three points (1G, 2A) via this tally:

The Predators came into Tuesday’s game having won three in a row by a combined score of 11-2. They had also generated at least one standings point (4-0-2) in every November game until running into a brick wall against the Maple Leafs.

Even with Pekka Rinne out with a lower-body injury, there must be a “one step forward, two steps back” feeling for the Predators.

Then again, the Maple Leafs have likely felt that way as well early in 2016-17, so perhaps the silver lining of this lopsided loss is that Nashville should keep at it just like Toronto is doing.

Ott’s huge hit prompted a fight; should it earn a suspension?


It’s no secret that the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning often get nasty … surprisingly so for two franchises that aren’t exactly the quickest to drop their gloves.

Tuesday presented the latest moments of violence in the increasingly bitter rivalry, and it’s probably not TOO surprising that Steve Ott was in the thick of things.

As you can see in the video above, Ott delivered a huge hit on fellow pest Cedric Paquette. Brian Boyle took exception to that check, challenging Ott to a boisterous fight.

The question both in-game and perhaps to the Department of Player Safety, is whether it’s a dirty hit or not. Specifically, does Ott leave his feet and is there direct contact to the head?

One thing that benefits both teams – the Red Wings for avoiding a suspension, the Lightning with Steven Stamkos and others getting bruised tonight – is that Paquette did return to the game.


That’s a lot to digest. Ultimately, the Lightning remain up 2-1 despite all the fireworks.