James O'Brien

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

Panthers clinch Atlantic Division; John Scott says goodbye to the Habs


This is feeling like a pretty special season for the Florida Panthers, and it shows in the standings.

Most importantly, Tuesday ended with the Panthers officially taking the Atlantic Division title thanks to their 4-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning’s tough loss to the New York Rangers.

The Cats are looking frisky heading into the playoffs, too, with four straight wins and victories in six of seven games. They generated some serious milestones in the process:

That 2011-12 season was pretty funky, so it’s probably reasonable to argue that this is the Panthers’ best season since John Vanbiesbrouck was standing on his head.

(Aside: the Lightning can take heart in at least seeing their playoff spot clinched, even if they’re cemented behind Florida.)

Plenty of eyes were on the Panthers as they attempted to lock up the Atlantic, but others couldn’t help but survey John Scott’s return to the NHL.

He didn’t really make a big difference in the box score, yet Scott did enjoy a moment or two:

Apparently this is it for Scott and the Canadiens:

Again, though, Tuesday was more about the Panthers and some guy with insane skills and funny tweets.

Bruins lose in shootout, so Lightning are officially in the playoffs


The Tampa Bay Lightning might lose to the New York Rangers despite starting with a 2-0 lead, yet the scoreboard might still provide some relief … assuming they can see some out-of-town results.

(OK, so maybe only Lightning fans will get to utter a sigh of relief, at least for now.)

With the Boston Bruins’ 2-1 shootout loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on the docket, the Lightning are guaranteed a spot in the 2016 playoffs. The NHL provided the ‘ol ticket punched graphic and everything:

The Bruins aren’t hopeless yet, but they remain outside of the East’s top eight thanks to tiebreaker advantages held by the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings.

via NHL.com

As you can see, this loss hurts, although the Bruins at least managed to grind out a standings point.

With style: Islanders clinch playoff spot via comeback win vs. Capitals


All of a sudden, the New York Islanders are looking dangerous again, and that’s bad news for the rest of the East considering the fact that they clinched a playoff spot on Tuesday.

It didn’t look like the Islanders would do so, at least by their own power, for some time. The Washington Capitals rode a great start by the line of Alex Ovechkin, Marcus Johansson and T.J. Oshie to a 3-1 lead.

The Isles just wouldn’t stay down, however, with Thomas Hickey‘s overtime goal capping a 4-3 comeback win.

As great as Ovechkin was, John Tavares came through in a big way as well, generating three points in this victory. Now the Islanders have won five of their last six games, often in dramatic fashion.

Braden Holtby was close to tying Martin Brodeur’s NHL record of 48 wins in a single season, but he’s stuck at 47 thanks to this loss beyond regulation.

Video: Forsberg’s highlight reel goal is sweet for Preds, bitter for Avs

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Filip Forsberg might not be a household name even for hockey fans, but he’s having the sort of season that should at least force opponents to take notice.

Failing that, anyone putting together highlights from Tuesday will likely know his name.

Forsberg scored his 32nd goal of 2015-16 to give the Nashville Predators a 2-0 lead against the Colorado Avalanche. If you want an idea of how impressive that was (and for some reason don’t want to just check the video), notice his own delight at the replay:

This is a great shot, too:

The Avs have some work to do, including maybe keeping an eye on Forsberg.

Video: Erik Karlsson becomes one of the few defensemen to hit 80 points


The debate surrounding Erik Karlsson and the Norris Trophy can get kind of obnoxious at times, especially since it’s all ultimately subjective.

There’s no denying that Karlsson is a special defenseman when it comes to scoring, however. Tuesday really put that notion under the spotlight, as the Ottawa Senators’ captain hit the 80-point plateau for the first time in his already-impressive career.

It came on his 16th goal of 2015-16 and the 100th tally of his NHL career.

In case you haven’t gathered it already, it’s really, really rare for a blueliner to accomplish such feats.

Impressive stuff, however you feel about certain trophy debates.

Update: The Penguins ended up winning with an impressive comeback, taking a 5-3 decision.