James O'Brien

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

Sharks beat Kings moments after playoff berth was clinched


Another playoff ticket has been punched.

Technically, the San Jose Sharks didn’t need to beat the Los Angeles Kings to lock down their playoff spot on Monday, but they did anyway via a 5-2 victory.

Much like their in-state rivals from Los Angeles, the Sharks are back in the postseason mix after an unusual break from the action in 2014-15.

The 5-2 score was a touch deceptive.

Joe Thornton made it 3-2 early in the third period, and then Melker Karlsson‘s insurance goal required a review to see if it was kicked in. The Sharks tacked on an empty-net goal, so one could argue this game was closer than 5-2.

That doesn’t really matter though, really, as the Sharks beat the Kings to give themselves a shot at climbing in some form in the Pacific.

Speaking of which, the Ducks were winners beyond edging the Edmonton Oilers tonight. Anaheim trails Los Angeles by one standings point, yet the Ducks hold a game in hand, so the Pacific title race is far from over.

Any worries of the Sharks missing the playoffs again can be put to rest, however, so don’t blame the Sharks for celebrating a bit.

Video: Jonathan Quick authors another save of the year candidate


Jonathan Quick is regarded as one of the league’s more athletic goalies, especially at a time when many netminders seem to play a “cookie cutter” style.

That agility and aggressiveness helps him make some tough saves, and Quick authored one of his best stops of 2015-16 in negating the San Jose Sharks’ efforts late in the second period.

Try to keep your jaw from dropping on the stop in the video above.

Meanwhile, Quick hopes to finish strong, as the Sharks are currently leading the Kings 3-2 in the third period.

Avalanche creep within three points of Wild after taming Predators


The Colorado Avalanche stumbled into Monday knowing that they wouldn’t have Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene in their lineup. Worse yet, they had a tough team on the docket in the Nashville Predators.

Rather than rolling over and dying, the Avalanche showed fight.

Most importantly, they won the game, holding on for a 4-3 win even after the Predators nearly fought back (Colorado was once up 3-0).

They showed fight in a more literal way, too, as Jarome Iginla showed that he isn’t too old to drop the gloves:

The Avalanche now trail the Wild by three points for the West’s second wild card spot. Meanwhile, the Predators need to wait to clinch a playoff spot and also lose a chance to gain ground on the Chicago Blackhawks for the Central Division’s third spot.

In other words, the Predators had plenty of reason to fight, but the Avalanche landed the knockout blow this time around.

They can’t lick their wounds yet, however, as they face the also-very-hot Blues on Tuesday.

Capitals gain home-ice advantage in playoffs by clinching Presidents’ Trophy


The NHL playoffs will go through D.C., so to speak.

With a 4-1 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Washington Capitals clinched the Presidents’ Trophy for the best record in the league during the 2015-16 season. More important than the trophy: Washington receives home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.

Of course, naysayers will blurt out “For how long they last.”

Just ask New York Islanders winger Cal Clutterbuck, who told the New York Post that he’d rather not deal with the burden of being a heavy favorite.

“I don’t think it’s a positive thing when you turn on the TV every single time and you have everybody in the world telling you you’re supposed to win the Stanley Cup,” Clutterbuck said. “I’d hate to be the Washington Capitals right now. A lot of pressure.”

This marks the second time the Capitals won the Presidents’ Trophy, something that core players Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom likely recall.

Of course, this time around, they have a potentially record-breaking goalie in net in Braden Holtby, who is now at 46 wins (two short of Martin Brodeur’s single-season wins record of 48).

Will this new regime be enough to change things around? That remains to be seen, yet it’s tough to deny how special this season has been for the Capitals.

This regular season, at least.

Red Wings survive Sabres’ surge, keep pace with Flyers


The Detroit Red Wings looked like they were set to cruise when they scored an empty-netter to inflate their lead against the Buffalo Sabres to 3-0.

Instead, that merely began a span that surely made Red Wings fans very nervous.

Ten seconds after Luke Glendening‘s empty-netter, Zemgus Girgensons scored the 3-1 goal. The drama truly heightened when Sam Reinhart cut the lead down to 3-2 with less than two minutes left in the third.

There were plenty of icings, some timely timeouts and plenty of tired Red Wings fighting through some scary sequences. Ultimately, the Red Wings had enough to grind out that win by a final score of 3-2. A big win against an opponent they simply had to beat.

With that, Detroit finishes the night with 87 standings points, the same as the Philadelphia Flyers (who won in overtime on Monday). Philly holds the tiebreaker with a game in hand, yet the Red Wings can breathe a sigh of relief in not losing ground.

They can’t relax, however, especially since they turn around and face the Canadiens in Montreal on Tuesday.

Still, they have to feel at least a little satisfying in managing to hold on this time around.