James O'Brien

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

Ruff: Stars were ‘flat as flat could be’ vs. Blue Jackets


On paper, you’d think even a wounded Dallas Stars team would handle its business against a tired Columbus Blue Jackets squad at home.

Instead, the Stars didn’t have much to show for their efforts on Saturday night beyond Jamie Benn fighting Brandon Dubinsky. They lost 3-0 and left their head coach shaking his head.

“That was as flat as flat could be,” Lindy Ruff said, according to the Dallas Morning News. “There’s no disguising it. For me there’s some concern because that’s really two games in a row where we were outskated …”

Ruff added that “there was no emotion inside that game.”


After falling to 2-2-1 on this young season, Ruff admits that he has concerns about the Stars’ “whole defense right now.”

While it’s true that the Stars fired 32 (unsuccessful) shots on Sergei Bobrovsky, this Natural Stat Trick graph illustrates Ruff’s case that his team didn’t play well.


Yeah, that makes a pretty compelling argument that Ruff saw the truth out there. John Tortorella concurred, opining that the Blue Jackets were in a total control.

While the Stars are picking up the pieces, the Blue Jackets beat the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday and Dallas on Saturday. Those teams are off to tough starts, but that’s still an impressive haul for an embattled Blue Jackets group.

Considering the sour feeling for Dallas and the renewed spirits for Columbus, it’s remarkable what a difference two losses or wins can make.

But, hey Stars fans, a Benn fight at least gives us an excuse to recall this great photo of his bout with Joe Thornton:

via Getty

Laine got one over on Matthews this time (and dramatically)


Moments like these almost feel too brilliant. If you drew it up, people would roll their eyes at you for being a dreamer.

This past draft’s top overall pick Auston Matthews went on a breakaway, but was stymied by Michael Hutchinson. Dustin Byfuglien made an outlet pass to Patrik Laine, and the second overall pick of 2016 made no mistake about burying the game-winner.

With that, Laine generated his first career hat trick, helping the Winnipeg Jets erase a 4-0 deficit in defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs by a score of 5-4 in OT.

Yeah, that’s the sort of thing you’d write in a Hollywood script.

For a night, Jets fans can feel good about chanting “Laine’s better.”

During their debut nights, Laine helped the Jets begin a trend of comeback victories, yet Matthews stole the evening with a record-breaking, four-goal debut.

Whether you view it as 1-1 or 1-0 in Laine’s favor, the bottom line is that the sensational second pick won this round.

Honestly, it’s kind of a shame that these two aren’t in the same conference, because this is glorious stuff.

Do note that some might view this unlikely script as a familiar one nonetheless, as Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel enjoyed a similarly thrilling exchange in their first regular season game against each other.

So, let’s make this a tradition then, shall we?

Howard helps Red Wings steal one from Rangers


A goalie stole Wednesday’s Detroit Red Wings – New York Rangers game, but Henrik Lundqvist wasn’t the guy to do it.

Nope, Jimmy Howard was the man of the hour instead, turning aside breakaways and other opportunities after giving up an early 1-0 goal on Wednesday.

This stretch is the most extreme case of Howard making the difference in Detroit’s 2-1 win against the Rangers:

The Rangers generated most of the opportunities, but the Red Wings were the ones who made the most of their chances, including on Drew Miller‘s, well, opportunistic game-winner.

After dropping their first two games of the season, the Red Wings are now on a two-game winning streak. They play their next three games at Joe Louis Arena (along with five of six and seven of nine at home), so things are looking up for Detroit right now.

The Rangers, meanwhile, must mutter to themselves about squandering a chance to remain undefeated at Madison Square Garden early in this young season.

Video: Jimmy Howard, breaker of breakaways


So far, Jimmy Howard is playing like he wants his starting job back.

Shaking off a very early New York Rangers goal by Mika Zibanejad, Howard is looking sharp as of this writing, but no span tops the series of breakaway saves he made, which you can see in the video above.

Not long after that, the Detroit Red Wings tied the game 1-1 as Thomas Vanek is playing as if those waning days with the Minnesota Wild never even happened.

Even after that breakaway save run, Howard finished the second period with great stops. The two teams going into the final frame tied 1-1.

Video: Bob McKenzie’s updates on contract holdouts

It sounds like Hampus Lindholm and the Anaheim Ducks really aren’t that far apart money-wise on a new deal. Unfortunately, for a budget team like Anaheim, every dollar counts.

Part of the slow-down might come down to trading Cam Fowler, for all we know.

Also … what’s going on with Jacob Trouba and the Winnipeg Jets?

There are some intriguing contract holdout situations occurring in the NHL right now, and Bob McKenzie appeared on NBCSN to share the latest on Trouba, Fowler, Lindholm and other key considerations.

Watch the great insider spill details in the video above.