James O'Brien

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

NHL on NBCSN: Huge playoff implications as Red Wings host Flyers


It’s been clear for some time, but Tuesday made it official: the Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers will battle it out for the East’s two remaining playoff spots.

With that in mind, plenty of eyeballs will be on NBCSN as the Red Wings host the Flyers, including those of the Bruins.

As of right now, the Flyers and Red Wings stand above the Bruins because of tiebreaker advantages, yet all three teams are obviously close at 91 standings points. More than anything else, you can safely wager that Boston wants this game to end in regulation.

Here’s a look at the East standings, or at least the portion relevant to these teams:

via NHL.com

If that isn’t thrilling enough, consider how much control the Red Wings hold over this race. Detroit isn’t only facing Philly tonight, they’re also taking on the Bruins on Thursday.

As the above graphic shows, the Flyers hold a significant edge in games in hand with four games remaining, but they’ll need to earn it. They finish the season with a daunting set of four games in five days, with two back-to-back sets.

Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol probably says it best: “We’re in work mode.”

Really, there’s not much separating the Bruins, Flyers or Red Wings. It really might come down to which team works the hardest (and/or works “the smartest”).

It all makes for fascinating viewing on NBCSN tonight.

PHT Morning Skate: Should the Capitals be worried?


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.

Are NHL head coaches waiting too long to pull their goalies? (TSN)

Sean “Down Goes Brown” McIndoe runs down 10 possible first-round playoff series, ranking them in order of excitement factor. (Sportsnet)

Remembering five great moments at Rexall Place with the Edmonton Oilers about to close the building down. Spoiler alert: Wayne Gretzky will probably be mentioned. (The Hockey News)

Mike Babcock: not a big fan of the salary cap. (Sportsnet)

Does this shine a light on his political leanings?

Want to identify a team going into the playoffs hot? Here’s one way (noting that these results came from before Tuesday’s action kicked in …)

Oddsmakers aren’t concerned about the Caps, though. (CSN Mid-Atlantic)

This is a nice gesture from the New Jersey Devils to beat writer Tom Gulitti.

Blackhawks blow out Coyotes, Vermette injures Anisimov


The Chicago Blackhawks absolutely dominated the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday in a 6-2 win, but there was a significant injury loss.

The good news is that the early word is that Artem Anisimov is only considered day-to-day with an upper-body injury. At least for now.

Former Blackhawks forward Antoine Vermette received a game misconduct for that check on Anisimov. For whatever it’s worth, Vermette apologized about the hit.

Jonathan Toews was mostly diplomatic:

The hit:

Predators do Wild’s dirty work: Minnesota clinches, Colorado’s out


Maybe Ryan Suter should send a “Thank you” note to his former teammates in Nashville.

The Minnesota Wild fell 3-0 to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday, but in a broader sense, it didn’t really matter. The Colorado Avalanche lost as well via a 4-3 defeat to the Predators, so the Wild are officially in the playoffs and the Avs are officially done.

This marks Minnesota’s fourth consecutive playoff berth while Colorado has been unable to make the postseason for two straight years.

(Perhaps Patrick Roy will either be on the hot seat or closer to it?)

Filip Forsberg‘s dazzling goal wasn’t the decisive tally, yet for some Avs fans, it may cause some torment:

Now that all eight Western Conference playoff teams are confirmed, we must now see how seeding pans out.

Stepan, Lundqvist push Rangers past scrappy, hurting Lightning


Injuries were a dominant consideration heading into tonight’s game between the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning, and despite some serious efforts, they loomed heavy in the ultimate narrative.

The Bolts managed a scrappy 2-0 lead despite all of their issues, yet maybe you can attribute some of the lost ground to fatigue as the Rangers fought their way to a 3-2 win.

Henrik Lundqvist deserves a ton of credit for keeping the Rangers in the game when the Lightning kept pouring it on, stopping 39 out of 41 shots.

Derek Stepan was a hero, too, scoring two straight goals to tie things up before setting up Chris Kreider‘s game-winning goal.

Injuries were a consideration for the Rangers, too, with bad news about Ryan McDonagh surfacing before this game. They lost another prominent defenseman during the game on Tuesday, as Dan Girardi suffered a scary fall from a hit by former Ranger Brian Boyle.

The good news for the Rangers and Lightning: they’re both in the playoffs. The bad news is that they’re showing some battle scars from these battles of attrition.