James O'Brien

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

Sharks’ Marleau: ‘These opportunities don’t come along every year’


SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) One of the playoff-success challenged franchises in St. Louis and San Jose will play for the Stanley Cup this season.

The two teams that have enjoyed loads of regular season success followed by annual playoff disappointment will meet in the Western Conference final starting Sunday with the winner advancing to the Stanley Cup final.

The Blues are looking to make the final for the first time since 1970 and win it all for the first time ever. The Sharks have never even played for the title since joining the NHL in 1991-92.

Each of the 56 previous playoff appearance for the two teams have ended with a loss – often times a crushing one.

“I don’t try and live in the past for this franchise or for the San Jose franchise,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong. “I don’t think any of the young players on San Jose care about what happened five, six years ago for them and I know Troy Brouwer and (Kyle) Brodziak and these guys don’t care what happened here two years ago or in `01-02. This is our team, this is their team, they’re going to chart their own destiny and they’re doing a great job.”

The Blues have made the playoffs 40 times in their 48-year history – more than any team outside the Original Six – but they have yet to win it all while much younger franchises like Tampa Bay, Carolina and Anaheim have won the Cup.

The Sharks are in the postseason for the 18th time and despite having the second most regular seasons wins in the NHL since the start of the 2003-04 season, they have never made it past the conference final. In three trips to this round, San Jose has three wins and 12 losses.

“These opportunities don’t come along every year,” forward Patrick Marleau said. “We want to win a Cup. We haven’t done that yet. There’s a lot of work left.”

Here’s a look at some of the biggest postseason disappointments for both franchises:

REVERSE SWEEP: A year after losing a seven-game series in the second round to rival Los Angeles, the Sharks broke out to a 3-0 series lead over the Kings in the first round in 2014. San Jose then lost four straight games to become the fourth NHL team ever to blow a 3-0 series lead. The pain from that defeat lasted and the Sharks didn’t completely recover until this season, missing the playoffs entirely last year.

MIRACLE ABORTED: After powerhouse Edmonton got knocked out by Calgary in 1986, the door was open in the conference finals for the Blues. St. Louis staged a memorable comeback in Game 6, rallying from a three-goal deficit in the third period before winning in overtime in what is known as the “Monday Night Miracle” to force a seventh game. But the Flames bounced back and won 2-1 at home to deny St. Louis a trip to the final.

PRESIDENT’S TROPHY: The Sharks were the top team in the league in 2008-09 in the first year under coach Todd McLellan and looked poised to make a long playoff run after three straight second-round exits since acquiring Joe Thornton. But they ran into an Anaheim team that was two years removed from a Stanley Cup title and had a hot goalie in Jonas Hiller. Despite outshooting the Ducks by more than 12 shots a game, San Jose lost the first two games at home and fell in six games.

2-0 AND OUT: In both 2013 and 2014, the Blues jumped out to 2-0 series leads in the first round over powerhouses Los Angeles and Chicago, respectively. Just when it looked St. Louis was ready for a long run, the Blues followed with four straight losses each series, raising questions about their playoff toughness. Six of the eight losses were one-goal games, with three of the defeats coming in overtime.

BLOWN CHANCE: The early season 2005-06 trade for Thornton helped the Sharks shake off a poor start and grab the fifth seed in the Western Conference. When the top four teams all lost in the opening round, the Sharks suddenly turned into the favorite. They seized that role and won the first two games of their second-round series against eighth-seeded Edmonton before losing Game 3 in triple overtime. San Jose never won again, getting outscored 14-6 in the final three losses.

THREE SWEEPS: The Blues made the Stanley Cup final in each of their first three seasons as the top team in the NHL’s expansion division. That success quickly ended when St. Louis matched up in the final against one of the league’s established powerhouses. The Blues were swept by Montreal in 1968 and `69 and then Boston in 1970 in a series best remembered for Bobby Orr flying through the air after his Cup-clinching overtime goal in Game 4.

AP Sports Writer R.B. Fallstrom in St. Louis contributed to this report

Just for Men: Jaromir Jagr

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After years of seeing the guy take an inordinate amount of blame when his teams didn’t succeed, it’s a delight that Jaromir Jagr is in that Teemu Selanne stage where virtually everyone loves him.

It’s even gotten to the point where he’s acknowledging all the jokes about his mulleted prime.

(Almost to the degree that it’s less fun to make those jokes, honestly.)

Anyway, as great as Jagr’s mullet can be, that business in the front and party in the back often distracts from the legendary winger’s questionable facial hair choices.

As you can see in this post’s main image, Jagr took some time to ease into life as a possible “Wolverine” casting option.

Remember that weird strip on his chin from his New York Rangers days?

Yes, there have been some questionable beard-related decisions, yet it’s easy to forget that these are the pitfalls that come with a player being in the public eye for so long. And really, it’s all been a treat. Thanks Yags.

Full schedule for third round of 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs


The St. Louis Blues don’t know if they’ll face the San Jose Sharks or Nashville Predators in the third round, but they know that their next series will start in St. Louis on Sunday.

Meanwhile, an intriguing Eastern Conference Final pits the Tampa Bay Lightning vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins, with that series kicking off on Friday.

Want to plan your schedule? Here’s how it will all shape up (via the league):

All times ET, subject to change


Pittsburgh Penguins (M2) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (A2)

Fri 5/13, 8pm: TBL @ PIT | NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports

Mon 5/16, 8pm: TBL @ PIT | NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports

Wed 5/18, 8pm: PIT @ TBL | NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports

Fri 5/20, 8pm: PIT @ TBL | NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports

*Sun 5/22, 8pm:  TBL @ PIT | NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports

*Tue 5/24, 8pm:  PIT @ TBL | NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports

*Thu 5/26, 8pm:  TBL @ PIT | NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports


St. Louis Blues (C2) vs. San Jose Sharks (P3)/Nashville Predators (WC1)

Sun 5/15, 8pm: SJS/NSH @ STL | NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports

Tue 5/17, 8pm: SJS/NSH @ STL | NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports

Thu 5/19, TBD: STL @ SJS/NSH | NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports

Sat 5/21, 7:15pm: STL @ SJS/NSH | NBC, CBC, TVA Sports

*Mon 5/23, 8pm:  SJS/NSH @ STL | NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports

*Wed 5/25, TBD:  STL @ SJS/NSH | NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports

*Fri 5/27, 8pm:  SJS/NSH @ STL | NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports

*if necessary
TBD – To be determined

Stars coach admits he should have replaced Lehtonen sooner


The Dallas Stars got embarrassed by the St. Louis Blues in a 6-1 Game 7 loss, but they’re not throwing Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi under the bus.

If anything, Stars head coach Lindy Ruff took some responsibility for not pulling the trigger on a goalie change sooner.

(Ruff waited until the second period when some believed he should have replaced Lehtonen with Niemi when it was 2-0.)

Granted, Ruff didn’t totally deny that Lehtonen allowed a couple tough goals here –

via the Dallas Morning News:

On the Blues’ second and third goals:

“He [Kari Lehtonen] would want them back. I think maybe it’s on me. We had the review and maybe it looked like he got a little bit rattled. I should have taken him out sooner. Maybe after the second one. It’s probably on me.”

Ken Hitchcock provided the Stars with effusive praise, deeming them “the future of the NHL” and “where the NHL is going.”

Maybe that’s true, but this time around, it was all about what the Blues did and how the Stars need to improve.

More from Hitchcock here:

Disaster in Dallas: Blues blow out Stars in Game 7


People love Game 7’s because of the heart-stopping tension that comes when both teams are facing elimination. Sometimes a blowout can make such a situation a little anticlimactic.

The Dallas Stars and especially Kari Lehtonen laid an egg in the first period of Game 7, falling behind 3-0. While Dallas generated some impressive chances, the St. Louis Blues never really looked back in a 6-1 win.

The two final ugly goals of the first period really seemed to spell Dallas’ doom:

Some familiar faces came through for the Blues, with Brian Elliott making some big saves and enjoying the occasional break …

… While the likes of Troy Brouwer kept hot streaks going:

No doubt about it, the Stars’ goaltending will be remembered as one of the main stories of this series.

With that, the Blues move on to the Western Conference Final where they’ll face the winner of tomorrow’s Game 7 between the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks.

Meanwhile, the Stars see their often-promising 2015-16 season end with an enormous thud; they’ll face plenty of soul-searching questions about defending their own end of the ice (from the net on out).

Hey, at least the Stars avoided being on this specific list regarding Game 7 futility:

The Blues will enjoy home-ice advantage in the third round regardless of their opponent.