James O'Brien

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

Daniel Sedin: Canucks will ‘get through this’


From the quotes coming out of the Vancouver Canucks locker room, you’d think no one lost their head during Saturday’s 6-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

If nothing else, the group seems together, and – at least publicly – behind coach Willie Desjardins.

“It’s great to see us sticking together,” Daniel Sedin. “The game got out of hand, but we stayed together. We’ll get through this.”

Granted, Ryan Miller did admit that the Canucks are approaching “rock bottom” and that their blood was boiling here:

And, uh, people were calling for Matt Martin‘s head:

Well that’s not nice.

But, hey, at least they’re turning on their opponents rather than each other.

“I like the fact our group stuck up for each other,” Willie Desjardins said. “The room cares.”

Sure, they show it in a way that reminds Mike Babcock of “rodeo stuff” from junior, but maybe that spirit will be enough to turn things around and/or save Willie D’s job?

Vancouver gets a chance to break its eight-game losing streak with a road game against the New York Islanders on Monday.

Back to normal? Habs prevail one night after 10-0 loss


Look, it wasn’t always pretty on Saturday night, but the Montreal Canadiens will take their 10th win over losing 10-0.

Credit the Habs by bouncing back from Friday’s historic 10-0 defeat to the Columbus Blue Jackets by scrapping their way to a 5-4 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers. That improves their record to a resounding 10-1-1, even if that second one was a big one.

Hey, it only counts as one game though, right?

Some might argue that the difference, ultimately, was Carey Price vs. Al Montoya. Those folks will cite this save, in particular:

Price stopped 34 out of 38 shots on goal, while Montreal made the most of its chances; five goals scored on just 17 shots for Philly.

Are there problems to clean up? That seems like a safe assumption, but most teams would envy Montreal’s results (10-1-1) and the problem-solver they throw out most nights in net.

Add Spezza to Stars’ already-ridiculous injury list

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Are we actually going to get to the point where Dallas Stars games really are Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn vs. the world?

The team’s injury luck has been ridiculously bad, and that pattern held true on Saturday, as Jason Spezza left with a lower-body injury and will not return.

That’s as much as we know about the issue; the team only said that he’ll miss the “remainder” of a game the Chicago Blackhawks ultimately won 3-2.

To refresh your memory, here’s a list of the most prominent injured Stars:

Spezza, Jiri Hudler, Cody Eakin, Ales Hemsky, Patrick Sharp and Mattias Janmark.

While we don’t know how bad things might be for Spezza, Eakin, Hemsky and Janmark are all dealing with what look like serious issues.

The Stars turn around and play another game against the Blackhawks on Sunday. At the moment, they could put a real skeleton crew on the ice tomorrow.

New low? Canucks lose eighth in a row, and it was brutal



What else can you say after a loss like this for the Vancouver Canucks?

The sting must be a bit more severe, too, as it came against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Vancouver have been fumbling with a “reload, don’t rebuild” mentality while they got shellacked by Toronto’s rebuilt youth 6-3 on Saturday.

With that, the Maple Leafs have won three in a row while Vancouver is on a disturbing eight-game losing streak (0-7-1).

Chances are, few people will be all that excited about the Canucks scoring after being shut out for two straight games.

There was already talk about Willie Desjardins being on the hot seat and getting “the vote of confidence” before this game, but now?

The penalty-filled finish might stand as just as much of a problem for “Whiteboard Willie” as this putrid streak.

Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston notes that 171 penalty minutes were doled out on this night. How much is that – and this awful streak – on Desjardins?

Update: Naturally, the Maple Leafs were also involved in the fray, and the league will look at a Nazem Kadri hit on Daniel Sedin (according to Sportsnet’s John Shannon). What that and another hit that had some up in arms in the video below:

An ugly night by many standards.

Rangers’ diverse offense keeps rolling along


The New York Rangers can’t keep scoring like this, can they?

They won their fourth game in a row by beating the Boston Bruins 5-2 on Saturday, and as strong as Henrik Lundqvist and Antti Raanta have been in net, their offense is what stands out.

The Rangers have outscored opponents 21-6 during this four-game run. They’ve now scored at least five goals on seven different occasions so far in 2016-17.

And, again, it’s not just one forward doing the damage.

Saturday ranks among the clearer signs of that multi-faceted attack, as five different Rangers supplied those goals. While Kevin Hayes remains red-hot, Derek Stepan was probably the man of the hour with a goal and two assists.

If the Rangers keep this up much longer, they’ll need to be acknowledged as one of the most dangerous attacks in the NHL. With Lundqvist in net – and Raanta available to provide great backup work like he did on Saturday – that could make for a frightening combination.

MORE: PHT didn’t see this coming during the summer, exactly, but was impressed by their bevvy of options.