James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Patrick Kane’s sprawling goal is a sight to behold (Video)

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Patrick Kane scored the sort of goal that reminds you never to give up. And that might be a nice message for Al Montoya, the Montreal Canadiens goalie who gave up said goal.

Kane went sprawling yet somehow found a way to beat Montoya, who’s trying to shake off the dismay of being on the wrong end of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ shocking 10-0 win.

It’s the sixth goal of the season for Kane, and a solid candidate for goal of the week. It’s also one of those highlights that seem to get better every time you watch it:

Kane isn’t the only player who’s on fire in this game. Marian Hossa scored his ninth goal of 2016-17 and Shea Weber continues his tear with his seventh. Kane’s goal ended up being the game-winner as Chicago won 3-2.

(Oh, and Max Pacioretty shook off a puck to the face, too.)

Video: Max Pacioretty shakes off puck to face (because he’s Max Pacioretty)

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With a goal and an assist on Saturday, it seemed like the puck might finally be bouncing Max Pacioretty. On Sunday, that point was taken a bit too literally.

The Montreal Canadiens could at least utter a sigh of relief* that Pacioretty continues to live up to his “Wolverine” nickname after quickly recovering from a puck to the face during tonight’s contest against the Chicago Blackhawks.

You can see video of that bit of bad luck above this post’s headline. The Blackhawks ended up beating the Canadiens 3-2 on Sunday. (Click here for more on that game.)

* – Though it’s worth mentioning that sometimes players end up feeling ill effects after the fact.

No Kreider, Buchnevich for Rangers tonight; Raanta starts

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The New York Rangers have been scoring at a blistering pace in part because of their offensive depth. They’ll be a little thinner on Sunday night, however.

The team announced that Chris Kreider will miss tonight’s game against the Edmonton Oilers because of an upper-body injury.

(It could be related to back spasms, according to the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson.)

The Rangers didn’t give much of an indication regarding Kreider’s injury beyond tonight, saying that he’ll be “evaluated.”

Also noteworthy for the Rangers: Antti Raanta will start in net instead of Henrik Lundqvist. That’s not an outrageous move after Lundqvist had a busy Saturday in victory. (Also, Raanta is quietly putting together quite a resume as an effective backup.)

Update: The Rangers will also be without Pavel Buchnevich, who is for sure dealing with back spasms. Adam Clendening is taking his spot.

It isn’t pretty, but Stars are surviving

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There’s not much sense spinning an overtime loss to the Vancouver Canucks or the Dallas Stars’ 6-6-4 record.

For a team with Stanley Cup aspirations, that’s just not good enough.

Still, for all we know, stumbling like this – but not giving up – might just serve the Stars well in the future. Even if it’s tough to stomach moments like Sunday’s 5-4 overtime loss to the lowly Canucks.

(This is just the Canucks second win since Oct. 22, a 2-9-1 stretch.)

If nothing else, the Stars are carving out points here rather than imploding altogether. After going 0-2-1 in a previous three-game road trip, they showed some mettle this time around:

Nov. 6: 4-3 overtime loss to Blackhawks in a back-to-back set against Chicago
Nov. 8: 8-2 loss to Winnipeg
Nov. 10: 4-2 win at Calgary
Nov. 11: 3-2 win at Edmonton
Nov. 13: 5-4 OT loss to Vancouver

Look, that isn’t pretty. It doesn’t exactly scream “juggernaut team.” And, yes, their goaltending remains a jarring disaster.

Navigating an uneven road

Frankly, the Stars might just be headed down a path of uneven play, at least to finish 2016.

Beginning on Tuesday, they’ll play five of six at home, but that’s followed by a stretch of five of six games on the road. Things continue in those two extreme directions, home vs. road wise, through December.

Maybe they’ll transcend their schedule and go on a tear. Maybe the Stars will see more tough times in the near future.

Beyond hardcore fans, they’re unlikely to get much credit for keeping their head above water, but the playoffs present hard lessons and harsh challenges as well. For all we know, these rough times may just serve Dallas well.

You know, or they’re just mediocre.

Flyers’ net nightmare continues: Neuvirth out 4-6 weeks

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Between Michal Neuvirth and Steve Mason, the Philadelphia Flyers frequently benefited from great goaltending last season, but that just hasn’t been the case in 2016-17. Now they’ll be without Neuvirth for four-to-six weeks.

The team only deems it a lower-body injury while CSN Philly reports that the issue is knee-related.

Again, it’s a pretty glum situation right now.

On the other hand, maybe the Flyers will benefit indirectly? Take a look at the stats so far for Neuvirth and Mason:

Neuvirth: 4-2-0, .859 save percentage, 3.54 GAA
Mason: 3-5-2, .880 save percentage, 3.41 GAA

Yeah, that’s abysmal. Those are Reagan-era goalie numbers.

So, perhaps this could be a blessing in disguise? Consider a few possibilities, however remote they may be:

1. Maybe they needed this nudge to go to Mason more often.

Yes, his numbers have been bad too … but they are a BIT better.

2. If Anthony Stolarz is the backup, maybe he deserves a shot?

There’s some pedigree there (45th pick in 2012), and he’s posted a .927 save percentage in the AHL so far this season. If Mason keeps struggling, why not just see if you lucked into a decent solution?

3. Perhaps Neuvirth will benefit from something of a “mental health break.”

Sometimes things get away from you. He can take these weeks to study game tape or catch up on “The Crown.”

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Overall, this is a really bad situation. So far, Neuvirth and Mason look like they’re joining Brian Elliott in suffering terrible contract years.

Then again, with their goalies’ current struggles in mind, you never know when an injury might actually push you in a better direction or at least change your course. The Flyers merely only need to look at the Pittsburgh Penguins as an example of that.