James O'Brien

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

Yikes: Tyler Johnson takes scary fall, won’t return for Lightning tonight


This might be one of those situations where people use the 20/20 vision of hindsight to question why a player was in the lineup during a “meaningless” game.

Some might complain louder thanks to what’s been a somewhat bumpy season for Tyler Johnson, sometimes for injury reasons.

Of course, the counterargument is that Johnson needs to get his confidence going heading into the playoffs, as the Tampa Bay Lightning would need a focused forward against the Detroit Red Wings.

(Not to mention the possible “You can’t sit everyone” retort …)

However you feel about the decision to suit him up, the Lightning need to cross their fingers after Johnson was shaken up by a frightful fall, which you can see in the video above.

He won’t be back tonight against the Montreal Canadiens:

But that only tells us so much. Perhaps the team will elaborate on his condition beyond tonight, but considering the circumstances, it may take quite a bit longer to get a better feel for what Johnson is dealing with.

Your move, Kings: Ducks beat Avs to keep Pacific title hopes alive


The Anaheim Ducks might spend a night as Winnipeg Jets fans.

They’ll do some scoreboard-watching on Saturday night after defeating the Colorado Avalanche by a score of 5-3.

With this win, the Ducks have 101 standings points on the season and Sunday’s contest against the Washington Capitals to go. It remains to be seen if that will mean anything, however.

That’s because the Los Angeles Kings still hold tiebreaker advantages over Anaheim that would make an additional Ducks victory meaningless … if they can beat the Jets tonight.

Here’s how the two teams currently stand:

Kings: 48-28-5, one game remaining (tonight vs. Jets), 101 points, 46 ROW

Ducks: 45-25-11, one game remaining (Sunday vs. Caps), 101 points, 42 ROW

Hey, for all of the disdain that shootouts and charity points gain, it’s kind of nice that the Kings at least have the potential to be rewarded for getting more “real” wins … right?

(Ducks fans are nodding hard enough to hurt their necks right now.)

Rematch: Tampa Bay Lightning face Detroit Red Wings in first round


The Detroit Red Wings fell in a first-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning last season as the Bolts made their way to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.

That’s not to say the Red Wings were a mere road bump during that journey, though.

The Lightning rode a Ben Bishop shutout in a Game 7 to squeak by the Red Wings last season, and this coming matchup might not be any easier.

In fact, it’s tough to forecast a favorite as of this very moment. On one hand, you have a Lightning team that’s been positively pulverized by injuries. On the other, you have a struggling Red Wings squad that wobbled a bit down the stretch.

Either way, there’s a good chance we’ll see some quality hockey, and maybe a shot of Steve Yzerman or twenty.

Related: We also know it will be Washington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Update: It’s reportedly going to begin on Wednesday. Will Tyler Johnson be healthy by then?

Playoff matchup set: Washington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers


If Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals are going to exorcise their playoff demons, why not get the ball rolling where it all started?

A very different Philadelphia Flyers team edged Ovechkin and the Capitals in a seven-game series back in 2008. Now we’ll get another matchup between two teams in very different situations.

On the Caps’ side, they’ve left some a little concerned about a slow finish … but then again, they had so much clinched, it’s kind of tough to beat them up too for meandering. Ultimately, Washington stands as the favorite with the Presidents’ Trophy, and thus home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs, in hand.

The Flyers, meanwhile, have been fighting tooth-and-nail for quite some time to earn an improbable playoff spot.

They just clinched their playoff spot, and now they loom as a fascinating, scrappy opponent for Washington.

It should be a lot of fun: Alex Ovechkin vs. Claude Giroux, Braden Holtby vs. Steve Mason and much more. It’s OK to get excited.

Also set: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Detroit Red Wings

Flyers clinch playoff berth, Bruins miss postseason again


All things considered, the table was set for the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday. Maybe they didn’t churn out a meal that was a work of art, but it got the job done.

By holding on for a 3-1 lead against their bitter rivals in the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Flyers clinched a playoff berth that seemed unthinkable months ago.

In many ways, it was fitting: things weren’t always pretty, but the Flyers kept fighting.

It’s also fitting how Philly made the playoffs, as they head in strong while the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings lost huge contests on Saturday. Ultimately, the Flyers and Red Wings won that three-team race for two spots.

Wayne Simmonds has been a huge part of this run, and he scored the two most important goals for the Flyers.

The Bruins, meanwhile, find themselves out of the playoff mix for two straight seasons.