James O'Brien

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

Blue Jackets maintain blistering pace, and the Metro is still ridiculous


The Columbus Blue Jackets are playing out of their minds right now, but maybe they’re just trying to fit in with their Metropolitan Division peers.

By beating the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 on Tuesday, Columbus improved its winning streak to seven consecutive games. Sergei Bobrovsky‘s masterful performance pushes him to 17 wins, the best mark in the NHL.

Simply put, Bobrovsky and the Blue Jackets are closing opponents out.

You can stack great Blue Jackets for hours, really.

This is a great story, yet it would be even bigger if … well, almost every other team in the Metro wasn’t also doing amazing things. John Tortorella’s really on another level, and he’s also still entertaining us with moments like these (justifiable anger or not):

Funny. And probably a lot funnier for Columbus fans as the wins keep coming in.

Let’s take a look at where the Blue Jackets stand in the maddening Metro:

1. Penguins – 41 points in 29 games played, six straight wins
2. Rangers – 41 points in 31 GP, 6-4-0 in last 10
3. Blue Jackets – 40 points in 27 GP, seven straight wins
4. Capitals – 39 points in 28 GP, five straight wins
5. Flyers – 39 points in 31 GP, nine straight wins

That’s pretty nuts. Especially when you considering the notion that you really can’t take a night off against the Devils or Hurricanes (30 points apiece) and that the Islanders can still be dangerous at times, even if they’ve been a mess overall.

You could argue that Columbus is in the best position, right now, of all the Metro’s elite. Those games in hand look promising when you consider how often this team is grabbing both points.

Still, you could also make an argument for the four other teams vying for the Metro crown, so the Blue Jackets don’t really have time to sit back and bask in their unexpected accomplishments.

Not that Torts would tolerate such an outlook, mind you.

More: All hail the Metro

Stars, Predators round out a night of surges

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If you want to nominate a theme for Tuesday, how about big “momentum swings,” or failing that, leads being remarkably unsafe?

The most obvious example was the Carolina Hurricanes’ bizarre comeback and eventual 8-6 win against the Vancouver Canucks. You can read more about that here. But it wasn’t the only example of significant surges, sometimes from teams trailing by significant margins.

Stars 6, Ducks 2

It’s pretty stunning to realize that Corey Perry gave the Ducks a 2-1 lead about a minute into the third period.

All of a sudden, these struggling Stars looked more like that super-explosive 2015-16 unit, rattling off five goals in the final frame. Jamie Benn was probably the biggest catalyst, scoring a goal and two assist in this big win for Dallas.

At 12-13-6, the Stars have a long way to go, but perhaps a game like this may help to rebuild that swagger.

Predators 6, Blues 3

For a while there, things were looking pretty glum for Nashville.

They lost to the Stars 5-2, the Coyotes 4-1 and then fell behind 3-0 to the Blues early on in the second period.

With two goals in the second and four in the third, the Predators went on a tear that reminded the hockey world of the, well, Stars-like hype they carried into 2016-17.

Now, do you credit the Predators’ star players for the turnaround or … other forces?

Sharks 3, Maple Leafs 2 (SO)

OK, this game wasn’t as dramatic, especially since Toronto earned a “charity point.” Still, it gives us an excuse to share Auston Matthews‘ drought-breaking goal.

Really, you can group quite a few of these games together, especially if you don’t make “blowing a big lead” a big requirement.

  • The Washington Capitals won their fifth in a row by beating the New York Islanders 4-2 even though the Isles scored the first goal.
  • The Sabres were down 2-0, only to win 6-3 against the Kings. More on that there.
  • Maybe the Wild’s 5-1 win against the Panthers sort of applies?
  • And, yeah, that Carolina – Vancouver game was bonkers.

So, yeah, seems like a semi-decent theme for Tuesday. It’s also a nice sign for people who want exciting hockey: look away and you might miss a wave of goals.

Loss to Wild emboldens Panthers’ (and fancy stats) critics


The Florida Panthers are more or less a .500 team with Tom Rowe behind the bench (2-3-3) as they were when Gerard Gallant got fired (11-10-1), but the difference, now, is that they’re a lightning rod for analytics debates.

For those who want to pile on the Panthers – either for the way they fired Gallant, their seemingly nerdy approach or both – Tuesday was pretty sweet.

The Minnesota Wild won 5-1, collecting their fifth consecutive win as Devan Dubnyk made 29 out of 30 saves. By continuing this mediocre-at-best work, Rowe and the Panthers took some serious heat.

Here’s a small sample of the reactions:

Some of that is merely stating the facts (with a smile, maybe?) while others are a little closer to proclaiming that the sky is falling. But there’s no doubt that things were a little tense tonight.

Consider how Rowe was losing it on the bench:

While Roberto Luongo was in no mood for funny tweets:

Does any of this prove anything one way or another? Well, that might hinge on who you ask …

After getting smoked by Sabres, Carter calls Kings ‘a fragile team’


The Los Angeles Kings have been an up-and-down team so far this season, falling to 14-12-2 after the Buffalo Sabres blew them out 6-3 on Tuesday.

Jeff Carter isn’t very happy with this “one step forward, two steps back”-type pattern.

“You don’t make playoffs winning at home and then going on the road and [expletive] the bed,” Carter said, according to Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times. ” … We’re fragile. We’re a fragile team.”

Wow, Jeff, could you get to the point? Always beating around the bush, that Jeff Carter.

Carter scored a goal in each of the second and third period, standing out as Buffalo rattled off four goals in the second and two in the final frame. It’s no shock that Anze Kopitar didn’t seem too focused on finally getting a goal after this one.

Anyway, it’s possible that the Kings could use this sort of jolt. This game begins what could be a withering nine-game road trip for the Kings:

Dec. 15: at Red Wings
Dec. 16: at Penguins
Dec. 18: at Bruins
Dec. 20: at Blue Jackets
Dec. 22: at Predators
Dec. 23: at Stars
Dec. 28: at Canucks
Dec. 29: at Oilers

That includes three back-to-back sets and some serious opponents, so the Kings can’t afford to … you know, blank the bed.

Hurricanes storm back against Canucks in a deeply weird game


With Jordan Staal and Elias Lindholm back in the fold, the Carolina Hurricanes’ offense is now sneaky-deep. There was nothing sneaky about their win against the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday, though.

Just consider the flow of this game:

First period: Carolina goes up 1-0, game gets tied, Hurricanes regain lead at 2-1. No big deal.

Second period: Sven Baertschi scores his second goal of the game, gets an assist and Vancouver rattles off four unanswered goals for a 5-2 lead. Vancouver scored three times in less than five minutes.

Third period: The Hurricanes scored four goals through the first six minutes, then Jordan Staal scored what would be the game-winner 12:38 into the third. Brandon Sutter made it closer at 7-6, but Lee Stempniak‘s empty-netter ended it at 8-6. There was only one penalty in this period, too, so this wasn’t just weird because of special teams.

The “deep” thing does carry over, too.

Yes, there were some multi-point nights, but seven different Hurricanes scored a goal. From Justin Faulk (goal, two assists) to Derek Ryan (three assists) and Jeff Skinner (two goals), plenty of promising young players reminded us of why this team is considered an interesting “dark horse” in the East.

As far as the Canucks are concerned? PHT’s own Cam Tucker wonders if this is one of those explosive games that could cost someone their job.

It’s certainly not the sort of night that sneaks under the radar. Not many 8-6 hockey games do, especially when you blow a big lead.