James O'Brien

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

This time, Kadri received the throat-slashing gesture (from Manson)


Perhaps Nazem Kadri is just a magnet for “the cutthroat motion.”

Back in mid-February, the Toronto Maple Leafs forward received a $5K fine for making that throat-slashing gesture toward Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames.

This time around, Kadri was the recipient of that gesture after a boarding hit, with Josh Manson delivering that “message.” The Anaheim Ducks tough guy received a game misconduct in what ultimately was a 6-5 overtime win for the Maple Leafs.

Guess who scored the winner? Why, that would be Manson’s buddy Nazem.

Here’s a tweet version of that moment, with both versions provided by “DucksNPucks.”

Holding serve: Flyers rally to maintain wild card spot over Red Wings


By grinding out a win, the Detroit Red Wings briefly stepped back into playoff position in the East.

As it turns out, that amounted to keeping someone else’s seat warm, as the Philadelphia Flyers gutted out a tough win of their own to maintain their control over the East’s final wild card spot.

Let’s look at the wild card race now:

Wild card 1: Islanders – 87 points, 35 ROW, 72 games played
Wild card 2: Flyers – 85 points, 34 ROW, 73 GP

Red Wings – 85 points, 35 ROW, 74 GP

(The Devils are at 79 points and the Hurricanes are at 78, in case they have a shot.)

Philly showed some moxie in winning this game despite being behind late, and Steve Mason‘s shaking off talk of getting a little breather.

Looking forward, the Flyers might just root for the Penguins against the Red Wings on Saturday, while both teams must circle and underline this date:

Wed. April 6: Flyers at Red Wings

At the moment, each team is putting itself in a position to keep its “destiny in its own hands.”

Predators are really starting to knock on Blackhawks’ door


The Nashville Predators might not be content with beingΒ the team that seems too good to be in a wild card spot.

They’re about as hot as the Chicago Blackhawks are cold right now, and with Thursday’s comeback win against the Vancouver Canucks (3-2 via a shootout), there isn’t much separating these two teams.

OK, to be more precise, the Blackhawks are only ahead of the Predators by two standings points, although Chicago also holds tiebreaker edges.

Chicago: 42-25-7 for 91 points in 74 games played (41 ROW)
Nashville: 38-23-13 for 89 points in 74 GP (34 ROW)

The Blackhawks would scare the West’s second seed more than the Predators based on their robust run of titles, but Nashville’s hot enough that they’re not exactly a pleasant matchup, either:

If Nashville aims to eclipse Chicago, this might be the time to do it. The Blackhawks are about to enter a four-game road trip that could be a challenge for a struggling group.

The two teams don’t have any head-to-head matchups remaining, and Predators fans might say that Chicago should be glad.

Ducks clinch playoff spot in fitting way: By coming back from the dead


Of course it couldn’t be pretty.

The Anaheim Ducks tweeted the following when crossing into overtime clinched their playoff spot: “Not a goal, but an expectation.”

Even the Ducks would probably admit that they wouldn’t be so bold with such a proclamation back in, say, November.

In a way, Thursday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs runs parallel to the Ducks’ odd little 2015-16 season. They waddled badly out of the gate in falling behind by a score of 4-1 in the waning moments of the second period, yet Anaheim once again reminded us that they shouldn’t be dismissed, even under trying circumstances.

Remarkably, the Ducks ended up roaring back to a 5-4 lead.

Heck, even most of their offense came from reinforcements, hammering home this theme in another way.

Again, that’s a strangely fitting microcosm of their season, although the ultimate result (a 6-5Β overtime loss to the lowly Leafs) means that the Ducks don’t want the analogy to beΒ too accurate.

Deep down, more than a few Ducks fans probably let out a sigh of relief tonight.

Tonight was a bummer for the Bruins


For Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien, Thursday went from humbling to grumbling.

The Florida Panthers beat his Bruins 4-1 tonight, moving to first place in the Atlantic Division, at least for the time being.

It wasn’t just a loss for the Bruins; it was also a fifth defeat in a row. Add in an injury and a frustrating call or two, and Julien’s franchise wins record is probably not on the tip of many tongues.

The injury

John Michael-Liles suffered a lower-body injury and was unable to return. It’s unclear how bad it might be beyond that.

The insult

A goal review almost left Julien’s face blue:

One other result: some unease among the locals.

Hey, if Julien showed anything in setting a new benchmark for Bruins coaches, it’s that he can roll with the punches. That’s good, because the Panthers landed a few on his kisser this time around.