James O'Brien

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

Matthew Tkachuk pumps up his draft stock: ‘People want winners’

No doubt about, the line of Matthew Tkachuk, Mitch Marner and Christian Dvorak drove the London Knights to a 2016 Memorial Cup victory … and Tkachuk knows many in the hockey world were watching.

While plenty of people asked about his experiences growing up as Keith Tkachuk’s son as draft prospects met with the media in San Jose, the elite 2016 NHL Draft prospect seemed to know that his own successes are a big selling point.

“People want winners and I was fortunate enough to be on a winning team,” Tkachuk said. “I think a lot of people like that.”

As much as impressive point totals matter, responding to “clutch situations” means a lot as well. Tkachuk checked off both boxes, and that can really help to boost his credentials in many eyes.

It’s something Elliotte Friedman noted in a recent edition of “30 Thoughts.”

Matthew Tkachuk is “gaining momentum,” as one executive put it, days after the London Knight bulled his way through the Memorial Cup. You know the NHL’s preoccupation with skilled power forwards, and he certainly qualifies.

Conventional wisdom is Auston Matthews goes first to Toronto, with Patrik Laine following to Winnipeg. I think we all expected Jesse Puljujarvi to go third, but it sure sounds like Tkachuk is pushing his way into the picture.

Here are some highlights from that 2016 Memorial Cup win:

As interesting as his upbringing may be – including getting to know the likes of David Backes while growing up in NHL locker rooms – teams really care about what he can do on the ice. And he’s acquitted himself quite nicely.

While Tkachuk isn’t providing draft bulletin board material like Patrik Laine, he doesn’t seem shy about emphasizing his selling points as a prospect: hockey IQ, a willingness to go to dirty areas to score goals and of course … winning.

Now, let’s all take a step back and admire that photo of Tkachuk with Lanny McDonald’s big, winning mouth seemingly preparing to eat him.

Better late than never: Joel Ward sends Game 3 to OT


Despite generating a plethora of chances, the San Jose Sharks looked like they were about to blow a huge double-minor power-play opportunity when they needed a goal so badly.

The Pittsburgh Penguins were mere seconds away from a huge four-minute penalty kill. Plenty of people are slamming Kris Letang for not sitting back on the play above, as Joel Ward eventually rifled home the 2-2 goal in the waning seconds of that PP opportunity.

It stands as the Sharks’ first power-play goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

Ward has a knack for scoring big goals, really.

Again, Letang drew a lot of critiques, including from a former teammate:

Update: That 2-2 goal ended up sending Game 3 to overtime, marking the second straight contest to go beyond regulation.

Penguins grab another lead heading into third period


The San Jose Sharks are finally finding a way to slow down the Pittsburgh Penguins attack and carry possession, but it remains to be seen if those answers are coming too late.

Again, San Jose really gave Pittsburgh some transitional fits in the second period in particular, limiting the Penguins to a mere six shots on goal (after Pittsburgh managed 14 in the opening frame).

Unfortunately for the Sharks, one of those shots came from the point, a dangerous place lately in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

After scoring the 1-0 goal in Game 3, Ben Lovejoy sent another shot after a nice keep-in; Patric Hornqvist did the rest by deflecting the 2-1 tally in.

(You can see the goal in the video above.)

We’ll see if that goal deflates a Sharks team staring down the barrel of a possible 3-0 series deficit. Again, San Jose hogged the puck as people grimaced at missed calls, yet the Penguins “won” the second period when you look solely at the score.

On the bright side, the Sharks only need one goal to tie things up, and it could very well come thanks to a seemingly harmless shot … at least if Game 3’s three goals are any indication.


See the first two goals from the first period here.

Video: Marshawn Lynch brings ‘Beast Mode’ to 2016 Stanley Cup Final


If you were to translate Marshawn Lynch’s running style to hockey, he’d probably be a power forward.

Both positions feature physically imposing, sometimes almost violent players, who somehow create offense while they also create havoc.

As you can see from the video above, the retired Seattle Seahawks RB was on hand to bring “Beast Mode” to the Shark Tank for Game 3 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. He even got a special “Beast Mode” name plate for his jersey.

This isn’t the only example of an NFL star hyping things up for his team during this series. While Lynch pledged his allegiance to the San Jose Sharks, superstar Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown reveled in the Penguins’ run.

Naturally, there was also a Golden State Warriors connection:

Video: Lovejoy opens scoring, Braun scores another big Sharks goal

San Jose Sharks fans made a ton of noise for the first-ever Stanley Cup Final contest at the Shark Tank (or SAP Center).

That noise didn’t last particularly long, however, as the Pittsburgh Penguins continue to impose their will in this series.

First, the Penguins’ depth players helped to stem some early Sharks pressure, eventually helping Conor Sheary draw a penalty. Pittsburgh didn’t score on that PP, yet Ben Lovejoy‘s fluttering shot bounced off of Roman Polak and beyond Martin Jones‘ reach for the 1-0 marker.

The struggles continue for Polak.

The Pens have managed the first goal in all three games in this series so far.

Meanwhile, the Sharks just managed their first shot on goal about eight minutes into the contest.

Update: Justin Braun forced overtime with a goal in Game 2 and found the net once again for the Sharks to make it 1-1, a big confidence-booster for San Jose.

Matt Murray didn’t even really see the puck, inspiring this excellent reference to an old MTV cartoon.

Joe Thornton grabbed an assist, his first point of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

Moments later, Jones made a huge save on Phil Kessel, who was all alone.

File that if this ends up being another tight game.