James O'Brien

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

Crosby keeps scoring, Stars keep losing


It’s hard to fathom the Dallas Stars’ minus-22 goal differential, but if you need an explanation, look to nights like these.

The advantage should have been on Dallas’ side. The Penguins were closing off a back-to-back set and likely expended quite a bit of energy trying to come back against the Islanders last night.

Instead, the Penguins were the team that pulled away, dropping three third-period goals on the Stars for a lopsided 6-2 decision. As much as people look for the good in this for the Stars, it’s not the greatest sign when you see quotes like these:

“I haven’t had much fun the past few weeks, losing so much and giving up a lot of goals,” Marc-Andre Fleury said, according to Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “That was a fun game to play.”

Look, this is a “child’s game” these guys are playing … but yeah, it’s usually not a great sign when the opposing team is talking about how much they enjoyed facing you. Sidney Crosby‘s happy to face just about anyone these days, scoring his 16th goal in just 18 games:

That goal almost feels a little symbolic, doesn’t it?

The Stars are now under what you might call .500 (9-10-6), with three straight losses and just two wins in their last seven games. The scary part is that things have often been even uglier than that disappointing record.

Pittsburgh and Crosby are just the types to shine a light on those issues, too.

Jack Eichel is making up for lost time with the Sabres


Some snicker when Buffalo Sabres fans lamented the loss of Jack Eichel for a big chunk of this season, but so far, he’s stormed into the 2016-17 campaign.

In his first game back, he helped create two goals in the first 10 minutes of play. This time around, he made the difference for Buffalo with two goals in the third period.

With that, Eichel has three goals and one assist in his two games back, and the Sabres have two wins, with tonight’s coming in a 4-3 decision against the mighty New York Rangers.

His first of two goals came on the power play, making it 3-3:

Eichel’s offense came in a flurry once more, as he collected the game-winner less than two minutes later.

Yep, that’s what you call a difference-maker. The Sabres are starting to feel it with a 4-1-1 record in their last six games, and even their Twitter feed’s showing a little added swagger:

Rare gaffes, including Lundqvist allowing center-ice goal (Video)


Most of the time, players like Henrik Lundqvist and Aaron Ekblad seem almost superhuman. It’s part of what makes it so fun to watch them.

Still, if you’re slogging through a tough week, sometimes it’s also fun to watch them struggle. They’re like us, after all!

(Hey, whatever gets you through the week.)

Lundqvist and Ekblad both had moments they’d like to forget on Thursday.

For King Henrik, it was a dreaded center-ice goal by the Buffalo Sabres, which you can watch in glee/horror in the video above this post’s headline.

There were two big backhanders on the other goal of notice. Henrik Zetterberg did some great work with his, yet you wonder if the Red Wings were ribbing Ekblad a little for his own, erm, “backhand cheese.”

OK, maybe they were just tweeting about Zetterberg’s backhander. Right?

Just a brutal night for Justin Williams


Justin Williams earned the clutch nickname of “Mr. Game 7” by developing quite the timing when it comes to scoring goals. Every now and then, the bounces go the other way, even for him.

Thursday was an example of that, as he seemingly scored a 1-0 goal for the Washington Capitals, but actually did so just a frame too late.

Here’s the would-be goal in question:

The NHL did a great job capturing the moment. Yeah, that was close:

It was one of those nights for Williams and the Capitals. The Islanders won 3-0, and Williams suffered this hit by Cal Clutterbuck:

Help coming? Stralman returns for Lightning tonight


After their third loss in a row and fourth defeat in five games, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brian Boyle said, “I’d love to play against us right now. It’s easy.”

With some injuries still irking them, it’s naive to say that one return will turn everything around, yet the Lightning have to be thrilled to get underrated defenseman Anton Stralman back in the lineup against the St. Louis Blues tonight.

That’s the word from head coach Jon Cooper to Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times.

During this three-game skid, the Lightning allowed 38 shots on goal twice and 30 once; they’ve given up at least 30 in their last seven games.

Could Stralman help stop some of the bleeding? Maybe.

Joel Vermin and Michael Bournival are also in the mix, with Andrei Vasilevskiy getting the start, according to Smith.