James O'Brien

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

Tkachuk scores first goal as Flames finally win


That’s what both Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames may have been thinking late on Tuesday night after a 4-3 overtime win against the Buffalo Sabres.

Tkachuk gets to breathe a sigh of relief after scoring his first career NHL goal. Keith’s son had his fair share of solid chances before finally beating Robin Lehner there, but his elation was clear.

He also barreled around the ice, continuing to make an impression around the league with his abrasive play.

It wasn’t just a great night for Tkachuk, mind you.

While there were still some signs of growing pains, The Flames got their first win of the season to improve to 1-2-1. It doesn’t hurt that franchise cornerstones Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau combined for the pretty overtime-winner, either.

Buffalo falls short of the victory, yet they might feel heartened to see some potential in a trio that figures to be a big part of their future, as Ryan O'Reilly, Kyle Okposo and Sam Reinhart looked dangerous at times tonight.

Just not enough to keep Calgary’s frustrating losing streak going.

Blackhawks beat Flyers after blowing big lead


When Marian Hossa made history with his 500th goal, it seemed like the Chicago Blackhawks would stroll through a win against the Philadelphia Flyers.

That … was absolutely not the case.

That Hossa goal made it 4-0, yet the Flyers stormed back with four goals in 5:26 to stun Chicago to a 4-4 tie. To the Blackhawks’ credit, they shook off that shock pretty quickly, ultimately managing a frantic 7-4 win on Tuesday.

Hossa himself experienced some highs and lows. That milestone goal was thrilling, yet it seems like he might be hurt, as he left during the third period and did not return.

Losing the veteran winger would really wound a top-heavy club, but at least their top players came up big tonight.

The trio of Patrick Kane (one goal, three assists), Artem Anisimov (two goals, two assists) and Artemi Panarin (two goals, one assist) reminded the hockey world why it feels absurd to call them a second line.

It won’t make Joel Quenneville happy, although Coach Q likely realizes that every win can’t be as pretty as the pass Kane made to Panarin for the sophomore’s second goal of the night.

Video: Steven Stamkos shouldn’t be able to do this


There are impossible angles, and then there are angles that are impossible for mere mortals.

Steven Stamkos scored an unbelievable goal on Tuesday that falls into the latter category. Not only was it a mind-blowing goal, but it was also very important; that tally tied Tuesday’s contest at 3-3 in the dying seconds of the third period.

The Tampa Bay Lightning went from a close loss to a 4-3 shootout win against the Florida Panthers thanks to Stamkos’ heroics:

Alex Killorn captured many of our thoughts in saying “I was shocked he was trying to shoot it. Just a really unbelievably skilled play by a skilled player.”

If Stamkos was the cocky type, he’d respond “I tried to shoot it because I can.

Carey on: Montoya blanks Pens in Habs’ home opener


Last season, the Montreal Canadiens disintegrated without Carey Price in net. Good thing they signed Al Montoya.

While Price’s flu situation generates conspiracy theories, you don’t need a tin foil hat to realize that Montoya has been a rock for Montreal so far. That continued on Tuesday night, as Montoya and the Habs beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-0 in their home opener.

It’s not as though Montoya’s being coddled by a system that suffocates opposing offenses, either.

Instead, he’s faced 30+ shots in each game, including tonight’s 36-save shutout.

It was a strong night for multiple Montreal players, from Max Pacioretty to David Desharnais. Alex Radulov gets to breathe a sigh of relief after scoring his first NHL goal in ages:

Over the long term, Montreal wants Price back. They probably want to see him in net.

Still, right now, Montoya makes an argument that they don’t need him back just yet.

Taylor Hall breaks through; Ducks? Not so much

Tuesday’s New Jersey Devils – Anaheim Ducks match had the feeling of one of those “something has to give” moments. It all came up New Jersey.

After a frustrating start coming off the heels of a frustrating trade, Taylor Hall broke through in an impressive way, scoring both of the Devils’ goals in a 2-1 win.

Here’s video of the game-winner, while his first with New Jersey appears above:

While the Devils got their first win, the Ducks remain without a victory in the second Randy Carlyle era.

And, make no mistake about it, some of the blame falls on their oft-criticized head coach. Big picture wise, his system might be a little … behind the times.

This, along with the sustained impasse between the Ducks and rising star defenseman Hampus Lindholm, provides some real doom and gloom in that sunny hockey market.

On the other hand, slow starts aren’t just an issue that plagues Carlyle’s teams. NHL.com’s Curtis Zupke reminds us that the Ducks began the 2015-16 season with an 0-3-1 record, too.

So, the good news is that the Ducks fought through this sort of malaise before. The natural, uncomfortable question, is how many times can you defy conventional wisdom?