James O'Brien

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

Raising Arizona: Auston Matthews scores vs. Coyotes (Video)

This is pretty cool stuff even for those normally jaded by “narratives.” Auston Matthews scored the 1-0 goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight against the team he grew up cheering for in the Arizona Coyotes.

(You may have heard about his upbringing and how it trumpets “non-traditional hockey” about a million times during the height of Matthews as No. 1 pick talk.)

Bonus points to Matthews for scoring a very nice goal, to boot. He now has 14 goals during his impressive rookie season.

Peter Holland ultimately stole the show by helping the Coyotes win via a shootout goal, though. More on that here.

Mike Hoffman will have hearing for cross-checking Logan Couture


The NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced that Ottawa Senators winger Mike Hoffman will face a hearing for his cross-check on San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture from Wednesday night.

While the league didn’t specify in its official announcement, it will be a telephone hearing for Hoffman, according to TVA’s Renaud Lavoie. (An in-person hearing would imply that a heavier punishment might be likely.)

It likely helps Hoffman’s cause that he’s never been suspended by the NHL.

Plenty of fans, especially those of the Senators, are unhappy that Hoffman might face supplemental discipline while Marc-Edouard Vlasic may not for his spear on Erik Karlsson (which Karlsson called a “pitchfork to the face”).

There’s some hate brewing between these teams, but they won’t meet again in the regular season.

Messier hopes to be there when Jagr passes him for No. 2 in all-time scoring


After Thursday’s game, Jaromir Jagr needs three points to tie Mark Messier for second all-time on the NHL scoring list, and four to stand alone behind Wayne Gretzky.

It almost seems customary for a record-holder or high-ranking player to handle such situations with humility, at least in hockey. And Messier is no different.

“No question I’d like to be there in person if possible,” Messier said, according to NHL.com. “I don’t know if it’s going to be possible or not, but I certainly will be reaching out to Jaromir and congratulating him when he does move into second place overall.”

He notes that he never saw himself as a top scorer along the lines of Gretzky or Mario Lemieux, and also points to one of hockey’s better “What if” scenarios: where would Jagr rank if he didn’t spend all that time overseas?

Regardless, Messier is impressed by how strong Jagr is on the puck even to this day.

As far as Jagr’s teammates go, they’re taking the “don’t make eye contact with the guy who could pitch a perfect game” approach.

“We don’t really talk about that here, but I think everybody knows that he’s pretty close,” Aleksander Barkov said. ” … It’s amazing”

Yep, that might be the way to go.

Update: Jagr got an assist in Florida’s shootout loss to the Jets.

Chris Tanev could return for Canucks as soon as Friday


The Vancouver Canucks are probably aching for good news at this point, especially after that 8-6 meltdown against the Carolina Hurricanes. If that good news isn’t already here, it seems to be on its way.

Defenseman Chris Tanev could be back in the Canucks’ lineup as soon as Friday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, according to the team.

Tanev isn’t a big name along the same lines as the Sedin twins, but Jonathan Willis argued that he’s the Canucks most important player in this Sportsnet piece.

Whether he’s the top guy or one of the top guys, there’s no denying that he’s up there and that he’s been missed. Tanev hasn’t played since Nov. 2.

While many people – reasonably – believe that the Canucks are probably better off going into full-fledged tank mode, this is actually a pretty good opportunity for them to save face. Take a look at their upcoming schedule:

Friday: vs. Lightning
Sunday: vs. Blue Jackets
Dec. 20 and 22: vs. Jets
Dec. 23: at Flames
Dec. 28: vs. Kings
Dec. 30: vs. Ducks
Dec. 31: at Oilers
Jan. 2: vs. Avalanche
Jan. 4: vs. Coyotes
Jan. 6: vs. Flames

Now, it’s foolish to suggest that the Canucks will go on a tear. On paper, just about all of those teams are better than Vancouver.

Still, that IS four home games in a row and just two away contests during a 11-game span. Tanev could help them save face (but maybe hurt their lottery odds) during a run like this.

Confidence booster? Lightning surprise, end Flames’ streak at six


CALGARY, Alberta (AP) Brian Boyle scored two first-period goals and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat Calgary 6-3 on Wednesday night to snap the Flames’ six-game winning streak.

Alex Killorn also scored twice, the second into an empty net, and Braydon Coburn and Andrej Sustr added goals. Victor Hedman and Valtteri Filppula each had three assists, and Ben Bishop made 19 saves.

Troy Brouwer, TJ Brodie and Micheal Ferland scored for Calgary.

After falling behind 3:06 into the game on Brouwer’s power-play goal, the Lightning tied it at 10:04, converting their first man advantage. With Dougie Hamilton serving a double-minor for high-sticking, Boyle neatly re-directed Hedman’s point shot past goalie Chad Johnson.

Tampa Bay took the lead for good less than 4 minutes later when Boyle got behind Brodie with a nifty give-and-go with Filppula and beat Johnson with a deke to his backhand.

Trailing 2-1, the Flames had a couple good chances to tie it early in the second but Johnny Gaudreau hit a goal post and good defending from Anton Stralman prevented Ferland from getting away a shot on a breakaway.

Shortly after, Coburn put the Lightning up 3-1 when his slap shot from the blue line beat Johnson. It was Coburn’s first goal in 102 games.

NOTES: Flames coach Glen Gulutzan replaced Johnson with Brian Elliott to open the third period. Killorn scored a short-handed goal 37 seconds into the period. … Hedman played in his 500th NHL game. … Calgary’s Sean Monahan had an assist to extend his career-best scoring streak to eight games, He has four goals and six assists during the run.


Lightning: Complete four-day, three-game Canadian trip at Vancouver on Friday night and Edmonton on Saturday night.

Flames: Host Columbus on Friday night.