James O'Brien

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

Special teams boost Blues by Blackhawks


Along with Brian Elliott‘s brilliant play, the St. Louis Blues took advantage of a hot stretch of power play pay to push by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2016 postseason.*

Elliott is with Calgary now, but at least some of those themes carried over as the Blues beat the Blackhawks 5-2 to open the 2016-17 season.

On one hand, that lead is a little, well, misleading.

The Blackhawks were within a goal late in the game, hoping to tie things up by emptying their own net.

Instead, Vladimir Tarasenko made it 4-2 on an empty-netter and then an odd Duncan Keith own-empty-net-goal made it 5-2, exaggerating the gap.

On the other hand, the Blues did outplay the Blackhawks at times.


(via Natural Stat Trick)

Concerns about the Blackhawks’ offense may seem like a novelty of sorts, but through one game, they felt justified. The Blues smothered Chicago at times on Wednesday, and it showed most clearly in the shot counts.

Yeah, that’s not ideal.

To be fair, the Blackhawks did turn the heat up on Jake Allen more in the third period after St. Louis took an early lead.

Again, special teams was crucial. One of two Blackhawks goals came on the man advantage while the Blues’ three tallies against an actual goalie came on the power play. St. Louis exploited a lengthy 5-on-3 situation in the end of the second period and beginning of the third, managing the tying and then decisive goals on the PP.

That ended up being all they needed to get a win against their hated Central Division rivals.

It’s dangerous to read too much into Game 1 of an 82-game marathon, but the Blackhawks might want to look at a few things during film sessions.

* – At least in the middle of the series, when the Blues managed five PPG during a three-game span.

WATCH LIVE: Los Angeles Kings at San Jose Sharks


Hockey fans have already been treated to Auston Matthews‘ brilliance and Blackhawks vs. Blues, but there’s still more fun to be had on opening night.

NBCSN’s first doubleheader of 2016-17 continues with the Los Angeles Kings at the San Jose Sharks. Should be a totally pleasant and courteous affair between two teams that love each other, right?

Watch online or on the NBC Sports App tonight.

The stream link for that game can be found here.

It doesn’t seem like there will be too much of a concern between the end of Blues – Blackhawks and the beginning of this game clashing, by the way.

Auston Matthews becomes first NHL player to score four goals in debut


Consider this post a running list of the history that Auston Matthews is making on opening night.

The big headline is this: Matthews scored his fourth goal in the closing seconds of the second period, giving the Toronto Maple Leafs a 4-3 lead against the Ottawa Senators.

In doing so, Matthews became the first player in NHL history to score four goals in his first game. It wasn’t enough for the Maple Leafs to win (Ottawa won 5-4 in OT), but still … impressive.

All four goals can be viewed in the video above.

His mom was pleased:

Maple Leafs management tried to contain their giddy excitement:

Matthews admits he hasn’t had a four-goal night in quite some time.

OK, let’s circle back and look at how Matthews’ night shakes out … while acknowledging that he can add even more to his totals in the third period.

Video: Auston Matthews makes immediate impact in NHL debut


Note: Auston Matthews ended up making history, even if he has a quiet finish. Check this post for even more on his special first night with the Toronto Maple Leafs.


Sometimes things work out too perfectly.

In his first NHL game, Auston Matthews scored his first NHL goal. The first pick of the 2016 NHL Draft also happened to score the first goal of the 2016-17 season, giving the Toronto Maple Leafs a 1-0 lead against the Ottawa Senators.

About the only first he failed to achieve was pulling a Mario Lemieux by scoring on his very first shift, something that inspired a joke or two on Twitter (before Matthews scored).

Not long before that, Mitch Marner nearly scored the first goal of the season instead, but Craig Anderson was game to the task.

Matthews went on to score two goals in both the first and second periods of this game, putting together a history-making debut.

Unfortunately for Matthews and the Maple Leafs, his history-making night only earned them a “charity point, as the Ottawa Senators won 5-4 in OT.

WATCH LIVE: Blues at Blackhawks to open 2016-17

Yes, hockey is back.

While the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators get the first start of 2016-17, NBCSN kicks off its schedule with a doubleheader that begins with the St. Louis Blues at the Chicago Blackhawks.

Watch online or on the NBC Sports App tonight.

Here’s the stream link for Blues – Blackhawks.

NBCSN is leading into Blues – Blackhawks, so head over to that stream at 7 p.m. ET.

Later tonight, the Los Angeles Kings visit the San Jose Sharks to close out what should be a great first night for the NHL and NBCSN.

The stream link for that game can be found here.