James O'Brien

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

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:

It wasn’t pretty, but Julien sets Bruins coaching wins record at 388


If most of Claude Julien’s wins were like these … well, he probably wouldn’t have more wins than any other Boston Bruins coach.

Still, Monday’s bumpy 5-4 overtime victory against the Florida Panthers does count, giving Julien a Bruins-record 388 victories.

You know you’ve done something special when you pass a person who had a trophy named after him, as the Bruins noted with Julien:

1. Claude Julien, 388
2. Art Ross, 387
3. Milt Schmidt, 245
4. Don Cherry, 231
5. Gerry Cheevers, 204

The game itself was one that might have left Julien screaming a little paint off of locker room walls.

The Bruins built 3-0 and 4-1 leads in the first period, yet the Panthers came screaming back – maybe with motivation from Shawn Thornton‘s fight, maybe not – and forced the game into overtime.

That was the part that probably left Julien frowning. The smiling part: Lee Stempniak made an impact for his new team, scoring the Bruins’ overtime-winner.

The Panthers remain ahead of the Bruins for second place in the Atlantic, but this could be quite the race to watch.

Maybe Julien will make a little more history in the process?

Related: Speaking of history, Jaromir Jagr passed Gordie Howe for third all-time in points during this game.

Flyers nail crucial homestand, end Bolts’ record winning streak at nine


Before the Philadelphia Flyers began this six-game homestand, Jakub Voracek said they needed to grab at least 10 out of a 12 possible points. They did just that after Monday’s impressive win against the red-hot Tampa Bay Lightning.

That’s not to say that it was easy, however.

Andrei Vasilevskiy played a brilliant game in keeping the Lightning competitive even though the Flyers amassed a lopsided shot advantage. Ultimately, the Flyers overwhelmed Tampa Bay, stopping the Lightning’s franchise-best nine-game winning streak by a score of 4-2.

The big hero for the Flyers was a familiar one: Shayne Gostisbehere scored Philly’s first two goals when it seemed like Vasi might just shut them down entirely.

(OK, if you want to quibble, you could call Claude Giroux the hero with his two assists.)

The Flyers won five of six during this homestand, bumping the thought of a playoff push from “too optimistic” to “perfectly reasonable.”

Philly gets a little breather before they face the Lightning in Tampa Bay to start what looks like a scary streak: seven of the Flyers’ next nine games are on the road.

Don’t blame the Flyers for putting those thoughts on the backburner right now, especially with a nice break. They needed these wins, and they got (most of) them.

Fight video: Adam McQuaid vs. former Bruins teammate Shawn Thornton


Proponents of fighting – and also quite a few people who aren’t moved either way – believe that, every once and a while, a rousing bout can turn the momentum of a game.

There’s also the possibility that those moments can be coincidental, but what fun is that?

Whatever importance you attach to this fight, it has added meaning as Shawn Thornton dropped the gloves with former Boston Bruins teammate Adam McQuaid.

You can watch the video above.

And, again, some feel as though the Florida Panthers received energy in particular from that tilt.

And now for some comic relief:

WATCH LIVE: Arizona Coyotes at Colorado Avalanche

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Patrick Roy might put the onus on Semyon Varlamov, but ultimately, these are the types of nights in which playoff-caliber teams need someone to step up.

Both the Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes are currently on the outside of the West playoff picture, but Colorado has a decent shot at fighting its way back into the mix. Beating Arizona is tougher than its record may indicate, however.

Beyond the postseason implications, these teams were trade partners, so it should be interesting to see how Alex Tanguay and Mikkel Boedker fare against their former teams.

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