James O'Brien

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

WATCH LIVE: Stanley Cup Final Game 5 – Sharks at Penguins


Will we see a champion crowned tonight, or will the 2016 Stanley Cup Final get that much more interesting?

The San Jose Sharks really haven’t been that far behind the Pittsburgh Penguins, at least on the scoreboard. While Pittsburgh’s been holding the leads, it’s usually been close, despite the Pens’ 3-1 series advantage.

Close doesn’t mean all that much, especially for a team with painful playoff memories like the Sharks.

We’ll find out if this series will go deep or if the Penguins will raise a Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh for the first time tonight in Game 5.

Follow the respective links below for the online streams, while you can also watch the action on NBCSN and then NBC.

Pre-game coverage on NBCSN

Game 5 on NBC

Could it be a special moment for the McVay family?

Watch Jimmy Fallon mock Sharks, Penguins, 2016 Stanley Cup Final


It’s tough to top Hockey Twitter when it comes to mocking the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, but every now and then, it’s entertaining to get a taste of the fun from the outside.

Every now and then, “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” presents some lighthearted jabs at major hockey events.

In the latest edition of “Tonight Show Superlatives,” Fallon & Co. tackled the San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins, with the likes of Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture and Ben Lovejoy being mocked. Enjoy the fun in the video above.

Stars sign Mattias Backman to one-year, two-way deal


When it comes to improving the Dallas Stars’ defense from within, they at least have a decent array of young options.

Whether those young options actually pan out remains to be seen, yet they’re giving themselves an array of choices, especially after retaining Mattias Backman via a one-year, two-way deal on Thursday.

Here’s a blurb about the decent-sized blueliner, via the Stars:

Backman has earned 36 points (8-28=36) in 90 career AHL contests with the Texas Stars and Grand Rapids Griffins. The defenseman has appeared in 16 career games in the Calder Cup Playoffs, registering nine points (1-8=9) and 18 shots on goal. Backman also won a gold medal at the 2012 IIHF U20 World Junior Championship with Team Sweden, skating alongside current Dallas Stars John Klingberg and Patrik Nemeth.

That last bit can’t hurt, as familiarity could at least improve his chances of gaining a depth position or call-up opportunities.

His Hockey’s Future analysis gives you the impression that he presents “more of the same” for the Stars:

Talent Analysis

Despite his size, Backman doesn’t play a particularly physical or powerful game. He is a simple, economical defenseman who makes the smart play and knows to play within himself. He’s an excellent skater for his size, makes a good first pass and makes good decisions with and without the puck. He won’t wow you, but he won’t often be beat or get caught cheating either.

The Stars likely hope that he can develop into another decent option, especially if they decide against splashy moves this summer.


Stars love their young defensemen

Guy Lafleur hates the bodacious beards of Thornton, Burns


For many Montreal Canadiens fans of a certain age, some of their best memories came when Guy Lafleur was bounding down the ice with his iconic hair flapping in the wind.

Apparently the legendary forward thinks that someone’s facial hair shouldn’t quite get to that point, however.

While Lafleur is fine with playoff beards, there’s a point of no return, and he believes that San Jose Sharks forwards Joe Thornton and Brent Burns are long past that. Here’s what he told the Montreal Gazette.

“To me to see the Sharks with the long beards, I think it’s a disgrace for hockey,” Lafleur said. “I hate it. It’s not a good image for the NHL. I don’t mind a guy wearing a beard, but to his belly … enough is enough. The team’s managers should put their foot down. They can’t see the puck (laughs). That’s why they’re struggling.”

Shockingly, he had harsher comments for the Sharks as a whole, wondering if they “really want the Stanley Cup.” It just so happens that beard-bashing is a lot more fun to discuss than … well, just about anything, really.

Let’s enjoy a montage of Lafleur moments, hearkening back to simpler, less-bearded times:

(H/T to The Hockey News.)

More bearded fun

Burns beard vs. Thornton’s crop

Just for Men: Joe Thornton

Just for Men: Brent Burns

Sounds like Bishop, Lightning could go into training camp healthier


This is just a small part of a report from the Tampa Bay Times, yet if it holds true, it stands as a big relief for Tampa Bay Lightning fans:

notes: G Ben Bishop continues to work out at Amalie Arena, saying the left ankle/shin injury he sustained in the Cup final is getting better and won’t affect his offseason work. … Yzerman confirmed no players will need offseason procedures that will impact their camp availability.

In other words, the Lightning might not limp into the 2016-17 season after this past motley year of injuries and bad luck.

Of course, the off-season is a time of almost boundless optimism, where seemingly everyone is in “the best shape of their lives.”

A lot can change between June and training camp in September and the start of the regular season in October. Bishop and any number of other injured Bolts could suffer setbacks or summer sports/leisure mishaps.

Still, it sure beats hearing about summer surgeries, as inevitably “successful” as they seem to be.