James O'Brien

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

HBK Line makes sweet music, Penguins carry 1-0 lead into third


The HBK Line isn’t losing its smile.

The Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks were locked in a stalemate for a good chunk of Game 2, but the home team finally broke the ice with a 1-0 goal during the second period.

Roman Polak‘s mistake and the deadly combination of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel made that first tally happen for Pittsburgh.

Bonino deserves a big chunk of the credit while Kessel tapped the puck in for his 10th goal of this postseason.

This 1-0 score might make you think that it’s been a slog, but that’s hardly been the case. Instead, the score’s currently low because of a combination of close calls and nice saves.

Just ask Tomas Hertl.

While the Penguins haven’t dominated to the same degree in Game 2 as they did to start Game 1, they’re still giving the Sharks fits with their speed and really dominating the shots on goal category.

So far, the Pens are carrying chunks of play, but there’s still plenty of time in this contest for twists and turns.

Update: Pittsburgh drove play in a big way to finish the middle frame.

Still, the Sharks are very much in the game since the third period will begin with just a 1-0 margin.

WATCH LIVE: Stanley Cup Final Game 2 – Sharks at Penguins


After a thrilling Game 1 in which the Pittsburgh Penguins won 3-2, the San Jose Sharks hope to even the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

It won’t be easy for the Sharks to neutralize Sidney Crosby or the Penguins’ speedy style of play, yet that’s the goal as Game 2 kicks off on Wednesday.

You can enjoy pre-game coverage and all the fun on NBCSN while an online stream is available via the link below.


If Teddy Roosevelt gave a locker room speech for Game 2 …

So, a Bull Moose, Penguin and Shark walked into a bar …

The video above features something you won’t see everyday/any other day: what feels like an inspiring speech for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final for the San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins.

It combines great imagery with a voice-over inspired by Theodore Roosevelt’s “Citizenship In A Republic” where he invoked “The Man in the Arena.”

As an aside, it also sort of feels like “Friday Night Lights” for hockey.

If that doesn’t get you to watch that above video, then it’s probably not meant to be.

Video: Bryan Rust is having a run to remember for Penguins

The great thing about the Stanley Cup Playoffs is that, as much as it’s all about big names, we often see under-the-radar guys play the role of stars.

It almost feels like it happens every year, and sometimes with more than one team.

In the case of this postseason, you won’t find a much better example of an out-of-nowhere star than Pittsburgh Penguins forward Bryan Rust. That’s been especially true during the last handful of games, as Rust is scoring big goal after big goal.

You can be forgiven for not seeing it coming. Rust likely didn’t even envision catching fire like this.

It’s possible that Rust might be a little less than 100 percent after that controversial hit by Patrick Marleau, yet he’s really starting to develop a legacy for beating the odds. Betting against him might not be a good move, at least with the postseason he’s enjoying.

Click here for more videos in this series.

No, Stars aren’t buying out Kari Lehtonen

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The Dallas Stars can spin their goaltending however they’d like – and they definitely do so – but the bottom line was that Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi didn’t prove to be $10.4 million well-spent.

Things were bad enough at times during 2015-16 (highlighted by a Game 7 meltdown against the St. Louis Blues) that some wonder if the Stars might just cut their losses and buy out Lehtonen.

GM Jim Nill shot down that idea, as Elliotte Friedman reports in the latest edition of his indispensable “30 Thoughts.”

“No, we’re not buying him out,” Nill said. “That last game is not a full reflection of the season. Nobody remembers the game before where he stood on his head. He’s disappointed, and the team is disappointed. We finished second overall, and everybody is focused on the playoffs. Something went right too, you’ve got to be careful.”

In case you’re wondering, Cap Friendly breaks down what a Lehtonen buyout would look like:

The total buyout will cost $7.33 million, spread out over four years with an annual cost of $1.83 million. This is versus Lehtonen’s $5.9 million cap hit, which is slated to last through 2017-18.

This chart from Cap Friendly might make it a little easier:


On one side, you consider the perks of those big savings in 2016-17 and 2017-18. Jamie Benn is headed for a big raise after 2016-17, so that extra money could come in handy. Beyond that, moving on from Lehtonen means the Stars would look elsewhere to get a different goalie.

Of course, the alternative is that the Stars would incur more costs with no guarantee of improved netminding. Who knows … that $1.83 million cap hit could hurt in 2018-19 and 2019-20, too.

It’s not an easy situation either way, but it sounds like the Stars are ultimately settling for the status quo. For better or worse.


Lindy Ruff thought things worked out well

He got tired of explaining the whole thing, too