James O'Brien

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

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.

WATCH LIVE: Los Angeles Kings at San Jose Sharks


It’s rarely a bad time when you get to soak in the sun, fun and shared disdain that’s a part of “The Battle of California.”

In Monday’s case, Pacific Division-leader the Los Angeles Kings take on the division’s third-ranked squad in the San Jose Sharks.

If the Sharks want to make an unlikely surge to the title, winning this game in regulation would be the first domino in a series of events that would require some luck. Either way, this game is important for them when it comes to jockeying for at least one round of home-ice advantage.

Both the Kings and Sharks want to get the best of the Anaheim Ducks in different ways, which means they want to grab two standings points in this one.

Check out the latest chapter of this rivalry on NBCSN and stream it via the link below.


Feeling great, indeed: Giroux scores OT winner for Flyers


Well, good thing Claude Giroux played tonight.

There was plenty of speculation regarding whether the Philadelphia Flyers captain was healthy enough to play on Monday after taking a hit that might have briefly knocked him out on Saturday.

Giroux insisted that he was feeling great heading into Monday’s match against the Winnipeg Jets. Whether he actually does feel healthy, he certainly looked great, scoring the overtime game-winning goal for a big 3-2 OT win for the Flyers.

Naturally, overtime phenom Shayne Gostisbehere was involved, setting up the Giroux goal. Giroux also assisted on Wayne Simmonds‘ 2-0 tally, so there’s no denying No. 28’s impact in this contest.

With this win, the Flyers will finish tonight as the second wild card, even if the Detroit Red Wings hold on for a win against the Buffalo Sabres. (Philly holds a game in hand.)