James O'Brien

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

Video: Duncan Keith’s only goal is to win another Stanley Cup

It doesn’t happen often, but the Chicago Blackhawks fell in the first round in the 2016 postseason, a bitter defeat for Duncan Keith and the highly successful core of this team.

Tonight’s rivalry night matchup against the Minnesota Wild seems like a good time to revisit those losses, some of Chicago’s best successes and what it might take to get back there, as the Wild stand as a significant hurdle in the Blackhawks’ path.

At least, the Wild certainly seem that way right now, even if they’re deferential to the established Blackhawks.

Check out Keith’s thoughts in the video above this post’s headline.

WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks at Wild – Wednesday Night Rivalry


The Minnesota Wild haven’t been able to match – let alone pass – the Chicago Blackhawks since they became bigger spenders and hopeful contenders in the Central Division and Western Conference.

Is that all changing this season?

The Wild certainly seem as legitimate as they’ve ever been with Bruce Boudreau steering the ship. Young players seem like they’re reaching potential like never before, and even some old faces are suddenly looking fresher, including Jason Pominville and Eric Staal.

Can they shake the Blackhawks this season, though? Nights like these will help build arguments one way or another as the top two teams in the Central square off on Wednesday Rivalry Night on NBCSN.

Watch online or via the NBC Sports App. Click here for the livestream.

Video: Evander Kane’s overtime goal celebration goes thud


After seeing Evander Kane play some of his first shifts for the Buffalo Sabres, Dan Bylsma compared to a “bull” for how he can charge through the zone. Sometimes that element of recklessness can be as painful for Kane as it often is for opponents.

Kane capped the Sabres’ 5-4 overtime comeback win against the San Jose Sharks with a thrilling goal that included a chilling conclusion. He went sprawling into the boards after that tally, as you can see in the video above.

The good news is that Kane said he was OK after Tuesday’s tumble.

Kane also played a role in Buffalo’s merely getting to overtime.

Joe Pavelski‘s 4-1 goal seemingly sealed things up about six minutes into the third period, but from the 9:03 mark to 12:31 into the final frame, the Sabres scored three stunning goals. Ryan O'Reilly, Kane and Kyle Okposo supplied those tallies before Kane ended it in OT.

The lose kept the Sharks from adding more to their Pacific Division lead and reminded opponents that the Sabres must be taken seriously, even with a significant lead. The way Buffalo’s had San Jose’s number lately, one would think at least the Sharks are aware of Buffalo’s threat.

Check out full highlights below:

Let’s review a busy Tuesday in the West playoff races


Well, Tuesday sure was a busy night in the NHL. There were interesting developments for the East, but when it comes to the playoff races, the West saw the most interesting shuffling.

The Minnesota Wild fattened their Central Division lead over Chicago and others, the San Jose Sharks coughed up an overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres and the Anaheim Ducks failed to gain ground on the Oilers.

That’s interesting stuff, but let’s focus on the teams fighting for their playoff survival, where the most dramatic movement happened.

First, the wild card races:

1. Blues – 59 points in 54 games, St. Louis shut out the Senators (read more here)
2. Flames – 59 points in 56 games, Calgary edged Pittsburgh via shootout

Kings – 58 points in 54 games, Los Angeles dropped a humbling loss to Tampa Bay (click for more)
Jets – 54 in 56 games after 4-2 loss to the Wild
Canucks – 52 in 53 games after regulation loss to Predators
Stars – 52 in 54 games after losing to Maple Leafs

As you can see, there seems to be a distance building between the teams in playoff position, one squad on the outside looking in (the Kings) and teams that are falling behind.

Battle for third place in Central

3. Predators – 60 points in 53 games

Blues – 59 in 54 games
Jets – 54 in 56 games
Stars – 52 in 54 games

Nashville and St. Louis are in a tight battle for that third spot (which would place them against the Blackhawks right now). Some might count the Stars and Jets out of the running for the third spot.

Update: The Oilers and Ducks are battling it out for second and third positioning in the Pacific at the moment, so this post was tweaked.


OK, as you can see, there’s room for the Blues, Predators, Flames and Kings to jockey for positioning, whether it means in the wild card races or divisional positioning battles.

While tonight was very tough on Los Angeles, the Blues, Predators and Flames have all looked at the playoff picture with reasons for pessimism as well. The races for the last four spots in the West could be very dramatic, especially if teams like the Stars, Jets or Canucks manage surges of their own.

Liking Mike: Beleaguered Blues goalies combine for back-to-back shutouts


It would be tough to totally blame Ken Hitchcock if he watched the last two St. Louis Blues games* and grumbled, “So NOW you’re stopping pucks?”

After Carter Hutton pitched a 26-save shutout against the Flyers on Monday, Jake Allen made 30 saves for a shutout of his own as the Blues clobbered the Ottawa Senators 6-0 on Tuesday. Not bad for two goalies with backup-type numbers who … let’s be honest, probably cost Hitchcock his job.

(There were other issues, but goaltending was the most glaring problem.)

The Blues have now won three of their last four games, and one way or another, they’ll find themselves somewhere in the West playoff picture by the end of the night.

These two shutout wins begin a five-game road trip in style, and with a road-heavy run ahead of them through March 21, they need to gather momentum like this.

It’s far too early to say for certain if turning to Mike Yeo was the right move, but the honeymoon phase seems pretty sunny so far.

* – Hopefully he’s going the Don Nelson route and already has suntan notion on his nose at some tropical resort.