James O'Brien

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

Outdoor games official: 2017 Winter Classic in St. Louis, Flyers-Pens in Pittsburgh


Earlier on Wednesday, PHT’s Jason Brough noted that it looked like there would be four outdoor games next season, even if only one was official. Now the NHL announced all of them.

The 2016 Heritage Classic in Winnipeg (Edmonton Oilers vs. Winnipeg Jets) early next season was already announced and discussed here.

Not that long ago, the NHL also confirmed the 2017 Centennial Classic, with the Maple Leafs hosting the Detroit Red Wings at BMO Field in Toronto.

Now we’re certain of the final two outdoor games for 2016-17, and they’re quite interesting.

First, there’s the 2017 Winter Classic, with the St. Louis Blues hosting the Chicago Blackhawks at Busch Stadium. Will David Backes be there, as the ad indicates?

As you can see, that game will be on Jan. 2, one day after the Centennial Classic.

Another rivalry match rounds out the outdoor slate, as the Philadelphia Flyers will take on the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 2017 Stadium Series game at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. That game takes place on Feb. 18, 2017.

Plenty of star power and plenty of rivalries will be addressed in the often-chilly climates.

The league’s full release can be seen here.

It’s official: Maple Leafs host Red Wings in 2017 Centennial Classic

via Maple Leafs

Another outdoor game is official for next season: the Detroit Red Wings will face the Toronto Maple Leafs at BMO Field in Toronto on New Year’s Day 2017 for the 2017 Centennial Classic.

Here’s part of the league’s official announcement; you can read the whole thing here.

In 2017, the NHL will conduct a year-long Centennial celebration that will feature a variety of ceremonies, recognitions, observances and special events that will highlight 100 years of NHL hockey and also will recognize a number of milestone anniversaries for member Clubs, including the Maple Leafs.

The game will be a rematch of the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic®. On New Year’s Day 2014, a record crowd of 105,491 watched the Red Wings and Maple Leafs rekindle their Original Six™ rivalry at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich. Snow fell throughout the day, providing the perfect backdrop for a thrilling game, which the Maple Leafs won, 3-2, in a shootout.

Other official game: The Winnipeg Jets host the Heritage Classic early in 2016-17.

Two more official, finalizing all four: Click here for the full post.

Earlier today on PHT: There could be four outdoor games, although only (one, now two) are official.

WATCH LIVE: Wednesday Night Rivalry – Blackhawks at Blues


As much as the race for the Central Division’s title appeared to come down to the Dallas Stars or Chicago Blackhawks, the St. Louis Blues have struggled through injuries and other challenges to stay in the mix.

At the moment, the Blues have 85 points in 67 games played, just two points behind Chicago. St. Louis is three behind Dallas, yet the Blues hold a game in hand.

With that, it’s pretty obvious that tonight’s game is important, especially for the Blues.

Beyond the playoff implications, there’s plenty of talent on both sides, including a matchup of two stellar scorers in Patrick Kane vs. Vladimir Tarasenko.

You can watch the game on NBCSN and stream it via the link below.


Ducks’ 11-game winning streak is over thanks to the Capitals


ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) If the Washington Capitals and the Anaheim Ducks meet in the Stanley Cup Final, they’re glad there won’t be a skills competition to decide the winner.

After 65 tense minutes in a virtually even meeting of regular-season heavyweights, the Capitals used the shootout to come out on top.

T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom scored in the shootout, and the Capitals stopped the Ducks’ franchise-best winning streak at 11 games with 2-1 victory Monday night.

Andre Burakovsky scored the tying goal early in the third period for the NHL-leading Capitals, who also ended Anaheim’s eight-game home winning streak with their sixth consecutive victory over the Ducks. The teams traded hard hits and quality scoring chances for 65 minutes of high-level hockey.

“It was two good teams battling it out,” Washington coach Barry Trotz said. “It was a good test for us, because I didn’t know what we would have (in the tank), fifth game in seven nights and getting across the country. We were in shock in the first 30 seconds of the game, but other than that it’s sort of been our team. We don’t get too rattled. Good on them.”

Braden Holtby made 27 saves and stopped two more in the shootout. Oshie atoned for an overtime penalty with the U.S. Olympic shootout star’s fourth goal in five attempts this season, and after Corey Perry scored to keep the Ducks alive, Backstrom ended it.

“Not quite playoff hockey, but it was right there,” Oshie said. “Maybe one of the closer ones we have had this season. They are a great team. They come at you in a couple different ways. Goaltending on both sides of the ice was great. That was a good battle and tight finish at the end there.”

Ryan Getzlaf scored on Anaheim’s first shot, and John Gibson stopped 30 shots to lower his goals-against average to an NHL-best 2.05.

One game after Anaheim punctuated its spectacular post-Christmas surge by taking away the Pacific Division lead from the Los Angeles Kings with a gritty victory at Staples Center, the Ducks finished with 64 scoreless minutes, but still earned a point in their 14th consecutive game since Feb. 8.

“I thought it was a great hockey game,” Getzlaf said. “We’re talking about two great teams that are playing well. We were able to go out and compete.”

The longest winning streak in franchise history ended, but Anaheim is 18-1-2 over its past 21 games and 25-4-3 since Christmas.

“It’s stressful winning every game, because you try so hard to keep that going,” Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It wears you out.”

Getzlaf put the Ducks ahead 60 seconds after the opening faceoff with his 10th goal of the season, slipping a rising shot through traffic during a delayed penalty to Alex Ovechkin.

The teams played high-level hockey for most of the ensuing 39 scoreless minutes. The Ducks tried to match center Ryan Kesler‘s line against the Capitals’ powerhouse top line, and Ovechkin didn’t manage a shot on goal in the first two periods.

“It was kind of frustrating, but hockey is going to be like that in the playoffs,” Ovechkin said. “Nobody wants to give us a chance to stay in the zone and do what we can do best. We just have to find a way to be ready for that kind of stuff.”

Burakovsky evened it 41 seconds into the third period.

“A streak is a streak, but it’s not do-or-die right now,” Ducks defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. “We’re trying to get points and move up in the standings, but more importantly, play the right way.”

NOTES: Boudreau, the Capitals’ former coach and the Ducks’ current boss, was honored during the game for his 400th career victory two days ago. Boudreau won four consecutive division titles in his first NHL coaching job in Washington, but won just two playoff series before getting fired. The Ducks hired him two days later, and he has won three straight Pacific Division titles along with three playoff series, falling one game short of the Stanley Cup Final last summer. … The Ducks visit Washington on April 10 for the regular-season finale. The game was postponed from Jan. 22 after a massive snowstorm hit the D.C. area. … Getzlaf’s goal was his 10th of the season, giving him double-digit goals in each of his 11 NHL seasons.

Varlamov responds to Roy’s challenge, Avs keep pace in wild card race


About the only positive things the Arizona Coyotes can probably say, at least from a big picture standpoint, is that they’re better off losing now.

Otherwise, Monday was a pretty brutal night for the Coyotes. They didn’t just lose the game to the Colorado Avalanche; Oliver Ekman-Larsson also suffered an upper-body injury and didn’t return.

The Avs, on the other hand, kept themselves in the thick of the race for the West’s final wild card spot with this 3-1 victory.

Technically, the Minnesota Wild hold that last wild card spot because they have a game in hand. Still, the Avalanche hold certain tiebreaker advantages if the Wild end their next game where both teams are right now: tied at 72 points.

Semyon Varlamov played brilliantly after being called out by head coach Patrick Roy, stopping 37 out of 38 shots.

Beyond that performance, it was a combination of quality finishing and good luck for Colorado, as seen on this goal when a would-be penalty against the Avalanche ended up instead being a goal in their favor: