James O'Brien

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

Minnesota Wild honor Prince with moment of silence

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Here’s something you don’t see every day: an NHL team holding a moment of silence for a late musician.

Then again, how often do artists like Prince come along?

The Minnesota Wild already paid tribute to the iconic entertainer before Game 6 against the Dallas Stars, but the moment of silence before puck drop really takes the cake.

Observe it in the video above and hit this post for more.

Stars go back to Kari Lehtonen in Game 6

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Lindy Ruff might not enjoy fielding questions about the Dallas Stars’ goalies, but can you blame people for asking?

The Stars are turning back to Kari Lehtonen as they hope to close out the Minnesota Wild in Game 6.

Lehtonen started for Dallas from Games 1-3. After that, it was Antti Niemi in Games 4 and 5. These are two hit-or-miss goalies who are carrying a combined $10.4 million cap hit.

It hasn’t always been pretty, yet the plan will look a little brighter if the Stars can end this series during a game where the Wild try to keep their season going while honoring Prince.

In other lineup notes, Travis Moen replaces Valeri Nichushkin:

Holtby wins goalie duel vs. Neuvirth; Capitals eliminate Flyers


When the Washington Capitals went up 3-0 in their first-round series, the Philadelphia Flyers were miserable and their fans were chucking wristbands on the ice. It looked like there would be an ignominious end to what was a feel-good story.

Instead, the Flyers made things a lot more interesting, falling in Game 6 while their fans gave them a heartfelt ovation. It all felt more fitting for Philly’s overachieving 2015-16 season.

Of course, Michal Neuvirth deserves an enormous share of the credit. He was absolutely fantastic in replacing Steve Mason, but likely Vezina winner Braden Holtby ultimately won that staring contest.

Nicklas Backstrom scored the only goal of the game as the Capitals won 1-0 to lock down this series 4-2.

Once Philly got back into the thick of things, this was a tight, hard-hitting series. The Capitals faced some tests in the first round that might just provide lessons as they hope to finally make a deep run with Alex Ovechkin & Co.

There might be some feeling of regret for the Flyers, particularly from this game. Philly received an extended 5-on-3 power play in which they likely were lucky to get both calls, yet they didn’t muster many high-level chances against a spry Holtby.

Still, the Flyers redeemed themselves in what you might even call a … classy manner.

Question: do you think they wished the Capitals good luck against Sidney Crosby and the hated Pittsburgh Penguins?

Blues’ Stastny: ‘History has to change eventually’


There are plenty of ways that the St. Louis Blues can approach what should be a fascinating Game 7 against the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday.

Some might find it difficult to shrug off the Blues’ past playoff disappointments and the Blackhawks’ loaded resume of big-game success.

Paul Stastny seems to be taking a healthier approach that almost boils down to “Why not us?”

One can only speculate how the Blues really feel. Maybe they truly will “grip their sticks too tight” against the battle-tested Blackhawks.

It’s been a while since St. Louis hosted a game of this magnitude (and that didn’t go too well).

On the other hand, they’re saying all the right things

… And they’ve shown the ability to shrug off some brutal haymakers before, both during the regular season and in this series.

Oh yeah, most importantly some news: the Blues are sticking with Brian Elliott rather than turning to Jake Allen in Game 7.

Dirty or not? Brayden Schenn’s hit on T.J. Oshie


The Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals have been very physical in Game 6, and it’s possible that T.J. Oshie was injured among the hard hits.

The question is: should it mean a suspension for Brayden Schenn?

Some people believe that Schenn went over the line with a check that prompted Oshie to leave the ice during the second period. There was no penalty on the play.

The two engaged in a fight during the opening moments of Game 5, so there’s some clear history between the two.

Again, more than a few people are calling for supplemental discipline.

Update: One thing that is likely to help Schenn’s cause: Oshie might be OK.