James O'Brien

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

Just for Men: Islanders innovators


Just this past weekend, the New York Islanders did something they hadn’t accomplished in 23 years; they won a playoff series.

You’d think that the franchise’s mark hasn’t been made on the postseason for some time because of that. Instead, the influence of their ’80s dynasty era can be felt if you rub against the hairy faces of most players deep in this race for the Stanley Cup.

We’re talking, of course, about the playoff beard.

Yes, the team that won four consecutive Stanley Cups also began the tradition that inspires many to put down their razors and possibly upset their spouses for all these years.

And, really, the old story about the Wayne Gretzky-era Edmonton Oilers stumbling upon the beat-up Islanders after the Isles’ championship victory fits the playoff beard mentality perfectly (via NHL.com):

Years later, several Oilers stars saw the defeat as a necessary learning experience. In fact, Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier both admitted they were impacted by walking past the Islanders dressing room after Game 4 to see the four-time defending champs sitting with ice bags, rather than engaging in a wild championship celebration. In their minds, they were made aware that more sacrifice would be needed to climb the final rungs to a title.

Just a bunch of tired, bearded champions who gave their all to keep what was theirs … teaching those youngsters how it’s done.

If that’s not the essence of all that is Playoff Beard, then what is?

Boudreau says this was the Ducks’ toughest loss yet


The Anaheim Ducks fought their way to a division title during the same season in which people were calling for Bruce Boudreau’s head.

The Nashville Predators won the first two games of this series in Anaheim, yet the Ducks didn’t dissolve. Instead, they won three straight games to take a 3-2 series lead.

Anaheim could have gone into the fetal position when the Ducks went down 2-0 in the first period in Game 7; instead, they forced a frantic push in an attempt to tie things up.

One viewpoint is to say that the Ducks went down fighting … but none of it really matters to plenty of other people after they fell 2-1 in Game 7.

To many, the Ducks “choked” again. They blew another Game 7 at home and fell short after fostering Stanley Cup expectations.

And the Ducks admit that this might have been the deepest cut of them all.

It likely doesn’t make it any better that they got oh-so-close to winning.

However the Ducks handle the questions about Bruce Boudreau’s future, this is a letdown that will sting for a long time.

Ultimately, the Ducks failed to close out the Predators with two chances, bringing back bad memories of their 2015 series loss to the Chicago Blackhawks … and far too many other bitter pills they’ve had to swallow.

Is this the end of an era? Maybe, maybe not … but this rendition of the Ducks likely never felt lower to end a season.

Full schedule for second round of 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs


The second round began with the New York Islanders’ 5-3 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but now we know the full picture.

The Nashville Predators beat the Anaheim Ducks 2-1 in a skin-tight Game 7, so they’ll take on the San Jose Sharks in round two. Check out the schedule for the four series, including TV listings that have been determined:

All times ET, subject to change


Tampa Bay Lightning (A2) vs. New York Islanders (WC1)

Wed 4/27, 7pm: NYI @ TBL | NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports

Sat 4/30, 3pm: NYI @ TBL | NBC, TVA Sports

Tue 5/3, 7pm: TBL @ NYI | NBCSN, TVA Sports

Fri 5/6, 7pm: TBL @ NYI | NBCSN, TVA Sports

*Sun 5/8, TBD:  NYI @ TBL | TBD

*Tue 5/10, TBD:  TBL @ NYI | TBD

*Thu 5/12, TBD:  NYI @ TBL | TBD

Washington Capitals (M1) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (M2)

Thu 4/28, 8pm: PIT @ WSH | NBCSN, TVA Sports

Sat 4/30, 8pm: PIT @ WSH | NBC, TVA Sports

Mon 5/2, 8pm: WSH @ PIT | NBCSN, TVA Sports

Wed 5/4, 8pm: WSH @ PIT | NBCSN, TVA Sports

*Sat 5/7, TBD:  PIT @ WSH | TBD

*Tue 5/10, TBD:  WSH @ PIT | TBD

*Thu 5/12, TBD:  PIT @ WSH | TBD


Dallas Stars (C1) vs. St. Louis Blues (C2)

Fri 4/29, 8pm: STL @ DAL | NBCSN, TVA Sports

Sun 5/1, 3pm: STL @ DAL | NBC, TVA Sports

Tue 5/3, 8pm: DAL @ STL | USA, TVA Sports

Thu 5/5, 8pm: DAL @ STL | NBCSN, TVA Sports

*Sat 5/7, TBD:  STL @ DAL | TBD

*Mon 5/9, TBD:  DAL @ STL | TBD

*Wed 5/11, TBD:  STL @ DAL | TBD

San Jose Sharks (P3) vs. Nashville Predators (WC1)

Fri 4/29, 10:30pm: NSH @ SJS | NBCSN, TVA Sports

Sun 5/1, 8pm: NSH @ SJS | NBCSN, TVA Sports

Tue 5/3, 9pm: SJS @ NSH | USA, TVA Sports

Thu 5/5, 9pm: SJS @ NSH | CNBC, TVA Sports

*Sat 5/7, TBD:  NSH @ SJS | TBD

*Mon 5/9, TBD:  SJS @ NSH | TBD

*Thu 5/12, TBD:  NSH @ SJS | TBD

*if necessary

Talk about some fresh faces, huh?

Ducks’ comeback bid falls short, Predators take Game 7


Few would accuse the Anaheim Ducks of rolling over and giving up after falling behind 2-0 in Game 7. It just turned out that such a cushion was all the Nashville Predators needed to win 2-1.

Anaheim absolutely dominated the final 40 minutes of Game 7, whether you chalk it up to the Ducks turning up the heat or the Predators “sitting on a lead.”

One thing you cannot debate: Pekka Rinne played fantastic hockey, maybe the best playoff work of his career (in his first-ever Game 7).

The Ducks were insanely close to tying this one, pressing more and more in the third period, yet they couldn’t do enough. Time will tell if this costs Bruce Boudreau his job, especially since Anaheim made some gaffes they might regret over the summer.

Ryan Getzlaf made an enormous blunder in taking a late penalty, and the Predators drained some of the clock before the whistle blew. It was, in a way, symbolic of the tiny difference between the two teams. Nashville may have just been a slight bit smarter.

Again, though, it cannot be overstated just how close the Ducks came at times.

Close won’t get the Ducks to the second round, and it might not take the heat off of Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Boudreau.

One cannot help but wonder if this is it for Boudreau, whether it’s fair or not.

(Well, if this is it for Boudreau in Anaheim … many believe that he’d barely spend a moment unemployed just like the last time he was fired following postseason disappointments.)

Ultimately, the Predators move on to an intriguing matchup vs. the San Jose Sharks while the Ducks end another season with an empty feeling in their stomachs.

History repeating? Ducks waddle out of the gate vs. Preds in Game 7


A noticeable amount of Anaheim Ducks fans took time to get to Game 7. Maybe they’re just aware of their team’s history of slow starts* to crucial games.

To Bruce Boudreau’s chagrin, the Ducks are once again digging themselves a big hole as the Nashville Predators entered the first intermission with a 2-0 lead.

Don’t get this wrong; the Predators deserve credit, too. As you can see from that Colin Wilson goal above, they’re making plays. Pekka Rinne‘s also made some big stops.

Still, this continues a deeply disturbing trend for the Ducks:

Uh oh.

The good news for the Ducks is that they were down 2-0 to start this series and bounced back. They also have two periods to rally.

Still … not a good start.

* – Nah, most people blame it on traffic.