James O'Brien

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

Flyers ‘win’ big with tough losses for Red Wings, Bruins


When it comes to the East playoff races, the biggest winners were generally the teams that didn’t even play. Otherwise, Tuesday stands as an evening of spoilers.

(Heck, the Pittsburgh Penguins almost fell to this pattern as well, but they managed to gut out a shootout win against the Buffalo Sabres.)

Wildly frustrating

The Philadelphia Flyers have to be smiling tonight.

For one thing, the Boston Bruins dropped their sixth of seven games as the New Jersey Devils defeated them 2-1 in regulation. The Bruins had to be gritting their teeth during an unlikely standout game by Keith Kinkaid, as Boston lost despite a 40-15 shot advantage.

The Montreal Canadiens did the Flyers a solid, too, narrowly edging the Detroit Red Wings 4-3 (also in regulation).

Detroit nearly rallied after Petr Mrazek was given an early hook when Montreal went up 2-0, but it wasn’t to be.

At least it appears as though Dylan Larkin avoided injury:

The New York Islanders won to strengthen their hold over the top wild card spot, so here’s a glance at how the races for the East’s final wild card spot and the Atlantic’s third seed look right now.

Third in Atlantic: Bruins – 88 points, 36 ROW, five games remaining

Second Wild Card: Flyers – 87 points, 35 ROW, 7 GR

Behind in Wild Card and Atlantic: Red Wings – 87 points, 36 ROW, 5 GR

As you can see, things are suddenly looking extremely promising for the Flyers while the Red Wings and Bruins remain very close.

Another idle team smiles

Nazem Kadri‘s hot streak scorched the Florida Panthers on Tuesday as the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Cats 5-2.

With that, the Tampa Bay Lightning benefit, as they’re technically the top team in the Atlantic as of tonight.

1. Atlantic: Tampa Bay – 93 points, 41 ROW, 6 GR
2. Atlantic: Florida – 93 points, 35 ROW, 6 GR

The Lightning have to hope that they break the spoiler cycle, as their next opponent is the Montreal Canadiens.

Long story short … it was a good night to watch the games, and not just for fans.

Sloppy but effective: Penguins rally for shootout win vs. Sabres


Is it a matter of selective memories, or have three-goal leads been especially perilous lately?

Whatever the case may be, the Pittsburgh Penguins are the latest team to rally from a considerable deficit. The Buffalo Sabres stormed off to a 3-0 lead, yet the Penguins battled back for an eventual 5-4 shootout win.

The Sabres have been pretty spry at times, but even so, the Penguins took advantage of some mistakes by the young, struggling team.

Like this gaffe, for example:

Then again, sometimes it’s all about brilliant players like Sidney Crosby making the difference.

Just like that, the Penguins are a mere standings point behind the New York Rangers for the second seed in the Metropolitan Division.

Tuesday presents the latest bit of evidence that this Pittsburgh team, for all its flaws, is a tough squad to fight off.

Grigorenko ends Blues’ sensational shutout streak at 258 minutes

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It had to end some time.

The St. Louis Blues reeled off four straight shutouts, with three going to Brian Elliott and one via Jake Allen. Their franchise-record run ended tonight, however, as Mikhail Grigorenko scored on a nice series of passes by Tyson Barrie and Mikkel Boedker.

The NHL tweeted that the Blues’ franchise-record streak lasted 258:29. It’s also the first time they’ve allowed an even-strength goal in what feels like ages.

Don’t be too sad …

… Because the Blues aim to begin a new one.

(Hey, technically Jake Allen still has one going, right?)

Duncan Keith ejected, suspended indefinitely for ‘intent to injure’


Times have been tough lately for the Chicago Blackhawks, and it looks like the ride might be even bumpier for the next few blocks.

On a night where they were already playing without Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith was given a match penalty for a high-stick on Minnesota Wild forward Charlie Coyle, with an “intent to injure” label.

It drew blood on the play, and depending upon how the NHL’s Department of Player Safety interprets things, could mean that Keith will have to sit out the Blackhawks’ next game as well.

Here’s video of the incident:

Also, Stephane “My Regular Face” comes through with the GIF:

And here’s the blood:

Keith has some history with supplemental discipline (though technically not a repeat offender), so it could be interesting to see how this shakes out (as the league has a tendency to rescind penalties that might bring about additional suspensions … yet not always).

Marian Hossa scored the 499th goal of his career shorthanded shortly after that happened, as if to argue that the Blackhawks might meet this challenge head-on.

Actually, some believe he might get more than a single game tacked on:

Update: Just a note that Keith is considered “suspended indefinitely,” even if that might just be a matter of semantics.

More Red Wings headaches: Mrazek gets the quick hook


Just moments ago, Jimmy Howard made such a great glove save that the partisan Montreal Canadiens crowd let out an audible gasp.

Sarcastic Detroit Red Wings fans might say that people are just surprised to see a stop.

In the latest wrinkle for Detroit’s recent woes, Petr Mrazek allowed two quick goals and was pulled by Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill tonight.

Mrazek’s been the guy for much of this season in Detroit, yet he’s been stumbling for more than a month, and now it might be advantage: Howard.

Now, goalie changes can often be a symptom of problems that go beyond the net, and the Red Wings have plenty to worry about. At this point, it’s all about putting together enough wins to make the playoffs, so it could very much be a night-to-night thing.