James O'Brien

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

PHT Morning Skate: Kessel and ‘Conn Smythe’ in the same sentence


PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

What a difference a few games make. Now people are talking about Phil Kessel being a popular Conn Smythe winner. (Sportsnet)

Sounds like the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens will face off in a pre-season game in Quebec City. Cool. (CSNNE.com)

How will Guy Boucher be received by the Senators? (TSN)

Will Dylan Larkin become the Red Wings’ next go-to guy? (NHL Numbers)

Looking at how overtime affects scoring chances. (Sportsnet)

This shot seems like it deserves another look, doesn’t it?

Capitals hope fans will ‘stick with us’ after another playoff letdown


Whether you blame it all on Alex Ovechkin or not, the bottom line is that the Pittsburgh Penguins eliminated the Washington Capitals in a 4-3 overtime Game 6 thriller.

The Capitals reflected on their special 2015-16 season and disappointing finish after that heart-stopping loss.

Most directly, Ovechkin said it best and bluntly:

(You can see more from Ovechkin in the video above this post.)

Beyond that, the Capitals seemed resolute in defeat.

The Capitals aren’t oblivious to the criticisms about falling short of deeper playoff runs.

Some look at this as a cruelly missed opportunity, but even so, there might be some light at the end of the tunnel.

… It’s probably difficult to see that now.

Ovechkin-blaming is especially silly this time around


Let’s be honest … there’s only so much one can do to stop the same old stories from gathering momentum.

For plenty, Alex Ovechkin will always be a “choker” unless he wins a Stanley Cup, something that was certainly mentioned after Pittsburgh’s 4-3 OT win against Washington.

Just about anyone who watched this Capitals – Penguins series likely realizes that Ovechkin wasn’t the problem for Washington, though.

Even if you ignore massive shot attempt and hits numbers, Ovechkin produced at an impressive level.

He generated two assists in Game 6 and collected seven points during this six-game series. He also managed 12 points in as many 2016 playoff games.

(His career is impressive overall: 82 points in 84 playoff games.)

Still, some just won’t be able to resist the urge to needle Ovechkin and his supporters.

If you’re just aching to blame someone, there are other places to look …

Perhaps Evgeny Kuznetsov deserves some scorn for a quiet stream of playoff games, although one can only wonder if an injury might explain his precipitous drop.

Brooks Orpik could conceivably be fitted for goat horns after getting suspended for three games and then being guilty of the high-sticking double-minor that opened the door for two Penguins power play goals.

And, hey, Barry Trotz has been around forever but has never advanced beyond the second round …

Is any of this fair? Not really, but that’s the point.

Instead of focusing on the negatives, you could also pivot to the winning team. That Matt Murray kid turned out to be quite the story, right? The Penguins produced 16 goals in this series thanks to the work of Nick Bonino and Ovechkin’s scapegoated cousin Phil Kessel.

Unfortunately for Ovechkin, moments like these will stick with plenty of people, even though he enjoyed a great run:

Nick of time: Bonino scores OT-winner as Penguins bounce Capitals


The Pittsburgh Penguins couldn’t have envisioned it happening this way. Who could?

Pittsburgh coughed up a 3-0 lead in Game 6 as the Washington Capitals just wouldn’t go down easy. The Penguins continued to hammer and hammer, however, and Nick Bonino scored the 4-3 overtime game-winner.

With that, the Penguins advanced to the third round to face the Tampa Bay Lightning while the Capitals face another summer of soul-searching.

Bonino really was a fitting scorer. The Penguins didn’t get a ton of production from Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, yet guys like Phil Kessel and Bonino helped Pittsburgh patch up four wins against their rivals.

Again, the Capitals did not go down without a fight. Braden Holtby made some enormous saves, although Jay Beagle stole the show in that regard:

Seriously, that Capitals comeback was something many hockey fans will remember for years, even if it ultimately fell short.

Capitals send Game 6 to OT after Penguins’ penalty parade


If you counted out the Washington Capitals after they went down 3-0, well, you’re in for a shock.

The Capitals chipped away at the Pittsburgh Penguins’ lead and managed to tie it up 3-3 late in Game 6, but not without some controversy.

Granted, the NHL’s delay of game penalty for sending a puck over the glass is pretty cut-and-dried.

It’s also one of the most reviled rules in the league.

The Capitals received plenty of 5-on-3 opportunities, with John Carlson finally connecting for the tying tally.

Kris Letang was also whistled for a penalty after a hard hit on T.J. Oshie, which inspired some discussion mainly because people believe that there was some interference on Carl Hagelin during that same sequence.

Overtime should be very, very interesting.