James O'Brien

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

Johansen’s uncanny goal helps Predators stay hot

After going 2-5-1 and dealing with food poisoning in October, the Nashville Predators rattled off a remarkable 9-3-2 November.

They won their fourth of five games thank to a 5-3 victory against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, with Ryan Johansen‘s one-legged goal being a true sight to see (video above).

Question: was that the goal of the night? There’s plenty of competition on this jam-packed evening.

Either way, the Predators are starting to look like the dangerous squad we expected heading into the season; they’re now 11-8-3, good enough for a wild card spot at the moment.

The Predators are also in a solid position to make December a strong month. They play three straight at home and six of eight at Bridgestone Arena. Overall, they play nine games at home vs. five on the road to finish 2016. With an 8-1-1 home record so far, that bodes well.

With three straight losses, the Avalanche finish November like the Predators ended October: looking for answers. It remains to be seen if they can figure things out like Nashville seemingly has.

Matthews, Leafs too much for McDavid and the Oilers

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For a while, it seemed like Nazem Kadri shutting down Connor McDavid might be the story of the Maple Leafs’ eventual season sweep of the Edmonton Oilers.

McDavid eventually broke through – and broke some ankles, in the case of his blistering tally – with a goal and an assist on Tuesday, but Toronto ultimately won 4-2.

Here’s a video of the goals by Matthews and McDavid, all in one convenient clip:

Team effort

Matthews started the scoring less than six minutes into the contest, while other Maple Leafs usual suspects Kadri and James van Riemsdyk joined him in hitting the 10-goal plateau.

JVR, Kadri and Zach Hyman all scored in a 3-1 second period for Toronto, a stretch that ultimately provided the advantage for the Buds.

Beyond the star forwards (also brilliant: Mitch Marner and William Nylander), the game was about very different nights for the two franchise goalies.

Frederik Andersen continues to turn things around lately, stopping 28 out of 30 shots on goal. Cam Talbot couldn’t even make it through the entire game as Jonas Gustavsson took over in the third period.

The road ahead

The Maple Leafs began their three-game swing through Western Canada with this victory. They don’t get much time to celebrate with a game against the Flames in Calgary on Wednesday. This is just the second road win of 2016-17 for Toronto, who improved to 10-8-4 on the season.

On the other hand, the Oilers have now dropped three games in a row, dropping their record to 12-10-2.

Ultimately, both teams have work to do to back up the hype they continue to build. Still, young stars like Matthews and McDavid are making it easy to see why people are so excited.

Video: Yes, Connor McDavid scored another ridiculous goal


BREAKING: Connor McDavid is ridiculously fast. And he can do high-skill things without perceptibly slowing down.

Sometimes it feels like it’s on a scale of a created video game character who’s been made unrealistically skilled.

Both Auston Matthews and McDavid have a goal so far in a Maple Leafs – Oilers game currently led by Toronto (on NBCSN right now). It didn’t take long for Matthews to find the net for Edmonton:

It might not be enough for the Oilers, but holy smokes did McDavid ever display his often-mentioned speed on this goal:

Will we ever yawn off goals like these? Probably not. Will defenses find a way to adjust to McDavid’s speed? Perhaps not.

Video: Laine’s goal was the game-winner (and mind-blower)


Patrik Laine will probably score a lot of goals like these. Expect many “Never gets old no matter how many times you see them” goals.

Let’s not get jaded, though.

Laine’s eventual 3-2 game-winner for the Winnipeg Jets against the New Jersey Devils was, to an extent, pretty simple. It was also simply awe-inspiring, one of those goals that force a double or triple-take:

Even with the slumps mentioned in that video, Laine already has 13 goals this season. He’s going to score a LOT during his career.

As a bonus, Patrick Marleau seemingly scored similar goal, yet from his backhand … but it didn’t actually count. Let’s save you a click by plopping it in here, because it’s still worth watching:

Mason plays like last season, carries Flyers past Bruins


After riding great goaltending to a playoff spot last season, most of the Philadelphia Flyers’ best 2016-17 moments have come despite Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth.

Mason turned back the clock about a year against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday. It’s one of those performances that might prompt optimistic Flyers fans to wonder if Mason will turn things around going forward.

In a way, his enthusiastic celebration after a 3-2 shootout win seemed a little over-the-top, yet can you really blame him?

For one thing, it’s been a rough ride for Mason, who came into Tuesday with an ugly .892 save percentage and 5-8-3 record. He deserves an enormous share of the credit for this win as the Bruins rattled off a gaudy 47-21 shots on goal advantage.

Mason and Tuukka Rask (19 of 21 saves) were tested often in an exciting shootout after the Bruins stormed back from a 2-0 deficit to send this game beyond regulation.

With two straight wins and home games in four of their next six, this is an opportunity for Mason and the Flyers to build up confidence and standings points. They probably can’t count on Mason to do this every night, yet it was a nice thing to see nonetheless.