James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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More bad news for Montreal: Season-ending surgery for Tom Gilbert

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Monday could have been a bad night for Craig Smith. It’s definitely a bad one for the Montreal Canadiens.

The losing kept going, for one thing (you can read about their shootout loss to the Nashville Predators here).

There was some frustration, too, including a missed penalty on Nathan Beaulieu. The trade deadline may be a time of selling for Montreal.

If that all wasn’t enough, the Habs will lose Tom Gilbert for the rest of the season thanks to a left knee injury that requires surgery.

The Habs recalled Victor Bartley in Gilbert’s absence:

Gilbert isn’t the presence he once was, but it’s another slap in the face for a Habs team dealing with what’s often been a painful season.

Sharks bash Blues as plot thickens in Pacific Division

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On a day when the San Jose Sharks made a statement trade, they spoke even louder on the ice.

With this win, the Sharks continue to argue that the Anaheim Ducks aren’t the only reason why the Pacific Division seeding races are heating up.

Months ago, it seemed like the Los Angeles Kings would run away with the top spot, yet their hated California rivals continue to heat things up.

The Ducks are closer in trailing the Kings by just two points for first place, but the Sharks remaining only three behind Los Angeles and two behind Anaheim after an impressive 6-3 win against the St. Louis Blues.

Brent Burns was upstaged by burly-bearded-brethren Joe Thornton, who came through with a jumbo night: two goals and two assists. Even Thornton’s empty-net goal was especially impressive.

Tomas Hertl was almost as big a part of the win, scoring the opening game’s two goals, helping San Jose make the Blues pay for Ryan Reaves‘ boarding hit on Matt Tennyson (which produced these scary results).

While the Sharks ferociously fight for Pacific positioning, the Blues have suffered a brutal few days.

Alexander Steen‘s out for possibly the remainder of the regular season, and that wasn’t the end of their health woes, as Brian Elliott didn’t return to the game after suffering a lower-body injury.

Craig Smith stops his own shot (then helps Preds edge Habs)

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You’d have to experience a pretty odd Monday to top what Nashville Predators forward Craig Smith experienced during a short span.

In the video above, you’ll see the moment that many will find tough to forget. Smith had a chance at an overtime game-winner … and accidentally stopped his own shot.

That’s bad luck, and could have been even more painful if the Predators lost.

Instead, Nashville edged Montreal 3-2 via a shootout, and Smith made the difference.

Smith stated the obvious after the game:

In a way, it shadows the Predators’ season so far. There have been downright ugly moments, yet Nashville perseveres. The Predators are in a nice position to make the playoffs, and grabbing points in eight straight road games (6-0-2) has been a big help.

Remember this up-and-down stretch if Nashville barely makes it.

As for Montreal? It was a night of pretty rough clips:

(On the bright side, Nathan Beaulieu somehow returned from that …)

Ovechkin stays hot, Capitals make a little history

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No, it’s not just you; the Washington Capitals really are accomplishing special things.

In some ways, Washington’s 3-2 win against the Arizona Coyotes was run-of-the-mill.

Braden Holtby padded his Vezina Trophy resume (yawn). The Capitals won their fourth game in a row (yawn). Alex Ovechkin continued to do awesome things (tries to force a yawn).

All joking aside, this consistent excellence is exciting, though, of course.

While every other division is in play, the Capitals’ Metropolitan Division peers are fading from their rear-view mirrors. Even the Chicago Blackhawks lag behind Washington at second place, as the Capitals’ 92 standings points leave them 11 points ahead of the defending champions.

In fact, this 44-10-4 start is the stuff of (admittedly rather specific) NHL history:

Ovechkin now has 18 goals in his past 18 games, so the Capitals’ captain and his team are ahead of the pack in a way that almost seems unthinkable in this age of parity.

And, hey, Mike Richards shows that there are some fresh stories beyond “Get this, Washington keeps winning.”

Video: Mike Richards’ first Caps goal enrages Louis Domingue

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It took Mike Richards 15 games to score his first goal with the Washington Capitals, but hey … at least it was memorable.

Granted, it wasn’t really notable because Richards did something amazing. Instead, it’s worth watching because of how angry Arizona Coyotes goalie Louis Domingue ended up being.

You can see why in the video above.

As an aside: should Richards be a playoff fixture for the Capitals, or would Washington eventually be better off moving in another direction when the games matter that much more?

Richards received a standing ovation for his efforts.

Update: To make it sting a little more, Richards’ goal ended up being the game-winner as the Capitals beat the Coyotes 3-2.

Also, Domingue still wasn’t happy after the game: