James O'Brien

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

Red Wings dominate in Joe Louis Arena’s final opener


Oh a night where The Joe was on many minds in Detroit, Mike was the one who took over.

OK, so guys named Thomas and Darren had strong nights too, but the point is that the Red Wings dominated in the final season-opener at Joe Louis Arena, beating the Ottawa Senators by a score of 5-1.

Mike Green has authored many high-scoring nights in his career, particularly back to his Washington Capitals days, yet he generated his first NHL hat trick on Monday.

MORE: Nostalgia abounds at The Joe

It was an evening of turning back the clock, so maybe it’s fitting that it was a special night for Green and Thomas Vanek, two players whose best days might be behind them. Vanek collected three assists to continue his red-hot start with the Red Wings while Darren Helm scored two goals of his own.

Things went exceptionally well for Detroit overall. Petr Mrazek made some strong saves while there were shades of Henrik Zetterberg, who made some nifty plays even if he only ended up with a single assist.

Plenty of people wonder if the Red Wings’ record playoff streak will end during their last season playing in Joe Louis Arena.

If this group plays like this more often than not, we might be talking about one final playoff run at The Joe.

Avs give Penguins their first loss thanks to Landeskog


The Colorado Avalanche haven’t solved all of their problems, but they’re doing enough good things to win games, including Monday’s clash against the defending champs.

Gabriel Landeskog scored the tying and game-winning goals, helping Colorado edge the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 in overtime.

First, take a look at the Avalanche captain’s authoritative 3-3 goal in the third period:

Next, the clinching goal, which was a little on the strange side:

Yes, it’s not ideal that the Avalanche have allowed eight goals through the first two games of 2016-17. That said, plenty of NHL teams would give up that many against the Penguins and Dallas Stars, but how many would win both games?

Video: Jimmy Vesey nets first NHL goal (and game-winner)


You have to wonder if Jimmy Vesey was feeling a little overshadowed by other prominent young players.

Auston Matthews made enough waves to prompt NBCSN to add a Toronto Maple Leafs game to the TV schedule, and he’s not the only budding Buds star. Connor McDavid isn’t a rookie, but he’s another young star who seems beyond his years. And those are just the headliners.

It’s the kind of thing that could make Vesey – someone who owned a lot of attention in the deader times of the hockey summer – feel a little lost in the shuffle.

Of course, the best way to get back in the headlines is to score, and he did just that on Monday. It was the first goal of his NHL career, which you can watch in the video above.

As you can see, it gave the Rangers a 5-2 lead at that time.

It wasn’t an irrelevant tally, however, as the two teams traded blows with the final score being 7-4. Just like that, Vesey now has his first game-winning goal at the NHL level, too.

That will turn a few heads.

So much nostalgia during Red Wings’ last opener at Joe Louis Arena

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With three early goals against the Ottawa Senators, including one set up by Henrik Zetterberg, it’s tough to blame some Detroit Red Wings fans for feeling a twinge of nostalgia.

Really, how could they not on a night like this?

Monday marks the Red Wings’ final regular season-opener at Joe Louis Arena, kicking off “Farewell to the Joe.”

The team’s churning out some great video for tonight, including a moving tribute to Gordie Howe during the first commercial break (which should be added later).

It’s tough to top “Newsroom” actor Jeff Daniels doing the narration on this video:

That said, old faces remembering the old barn is pretty great, too:

Update: Here is that great tribute to “Mr. Hockey.”

Trotz gave Caps’ top line a pep talk, Ovechkin included


It’s too early to panic, but it’s never too early to have a chat with a top player when he isn’t scoring.

That seemed to be the message Barry Trotz sent to the Washington Capitals’ top line of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie, as CSN Mid-Atlantic reports.

“I talked to all three members today,” Trotz said after Monday’s practice. “The biggest thing is finding their game within our game …That’s the decision making. That’s the work ethic. The execution, all that. It was fine when I put [the line] together many times last year, and it will be fine again.”

“Finding their game within our game” is indeed the ideal scenario in Trotz’s mind. Their peak state is to meld the team’s considerable offensive firepower with that defensive system to create an unstoppable combination.

Through two games, the Capitals have allowed and given up four goals, with zero points coming from Ovechkin, Oshie and Kuznetsov.

Looking at various metrics, it’s silly to be too concerned indeed; the trio combined for 14 shots on goal through two contests. Ovechkin, as usual, led the way with eight SOG (second-only on the time to volume-shooting defenseman John Carlson).

If they keep firing away, the results should follow.

As that CSN Mid-Atlantic piece notes, it’s not as if Trotz doesn’t have other options if the trio really can’t get it together.

It’s no secret that Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom were once a fearsome combo. Honestly, there was time when it was unthinkable to break up one of hockey’s Joe Montana to Jerry Rice-type bonds.

The Capitals are well-served in keeping Backstrom with Andre Burakovsky and Marcus Johansson, but even then, Trotz enjoys a wealth of options.

If that top line just can’t find that chemistry, they could always put talented veteran winger Justin Williams in Oshie’s spot, too.

So … yeah, nothing to see here really. Not yet.

Check out the full story here, even if it’s just to bask in the glory of Trotz talking about dancing. Imagine Trotz dancing. Do it.