James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Canadiens sound a lot like Wild after playoff exit (without ‘better team’ talk)

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Much like the Minnesota Wild earlier on Saturday, the Montreal Canadiens are stunned to approach the golf courses so rapidly.

Many of the responses after the New York Rangers eliminated them in Game 6 sound a lot like what the Wild uttered, though there’s no potential bulletin board material like Bruce Boudreau’s line about the better team failing to win four games.

Max Pacioretty viewed this early exit as a “missed opportunity” and never really believed that an elimination was coming.

Claude Julien provided parallel comments to Bruce Boudreau, believing that Montreal generated chances but lacked “finish.”

Brendan Gallagher? He worries that this might have been the Canadiens’ best chance, something the Wild must also worry about with a difficult offseason ahead.

Now, it’s likely that most teams speak about being shocked and expecting better after being booted from the postseason.

Still, these reactions do shine a light on the staggering nature of some of these exits. Will the likes of the Blackhawks, Canadiens and Wild struggle to be in such prime positions in the future? With the Sharks needing a comeback against the Oilers, could the trend continue on Saturday?

The bottom line is that, instead of preparing for a Game 7 after winning the Atlantic Division, the Canadiens are packing up their stuff and worrying about re-signing Carey Price. That’s a pretty stunning turnaround, regardless of the soundbytes available.

Video: Draisaitl, Slepyshev score on breakaways, Talbot spurns Marleau

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Some playoff games or even series come down to something as stupidly simple as one team taking advantage of their opportunities while the other fails to capitalize on chances.

If Game 6 of the Oilers – Sharks series follows the story of the second period, then San Jose may join Saturday’s stream of eliminated teams.

It’s not fair to boil it down to three breakaways, but some might feel that way.

Leon Draisaitl looked like a gritty, strong veteran during his first career playoff goal, bulling his way to the net for 1-0 breakaway tally. About a minute later, Anton Slepyshev was even more alone against Martin Jones, and he scored his first postseason goal to make it 2-0.

That stings for the Sharks, and it doesn’t help that they had a similar chance not long after. This time around, Patrick Marleau couldn’t beat Cam Talbot, so it remained 2-0 for Edmonton.

That’s the same score as the game enters the third period, even with some dangerous late chances for the Sharks.

If the Sharks don’t score at least two goals in the third, their push to return to the Stanley Cup Final could end in the first round.

Report: Ilya Kovalchuk wants to return to NHL (with Devils or not)

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The Montreal Canadiens fell short against the New York Rangers, but the series put the spotlight on Alex Radulov‘s great return to the NHL. What if an even bigger name came back from the KHL next season?

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that Ilya Kovalchuk wants to come back to the NHL, whether it be with the New Jersey Devils or someone else.

It’s a tantalizing thought for the Devils: either add a big star or gain a nice set of assets for a team that might be a little more prepared to make the most of the 34-year-old’s skills right off the bat.

With big-name free agents rarely becoming UFAs these days, the market could always use some juice. Even at an advanced age, Kovalchuk provides that as one of the deadliest snipers of his era.

Kovalchuk had a fantastic year in the KHL, scoring 32 goals and 78 points in 60 games. He last played in the NHL with the Devils in 2012-13, collecting 11 goals and 31 points in 37 games.

Lundqvist bests Price as Rangers knock Canadiens out in Game 6

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It looks like Henrik Lundqvist is still “the king.”

Lundqvist and the New York Rangers bested the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 in Game 6, winning the series 4-2 to chants of “Hen-rik!” at Madison Square Garden.

Specifically in Game 6, the Canadiens went up 1-0 in the opening frame, only to see Mats Zuccarello score two goals in the pivotal second period to score what New York needed to win. Derek Stepan‘s empty-netter iced it in the end.

Much has been made of the way the Rangers play the game, with defensive liabilities (ideally) masked by transitional passing and transcendent goaltending. It worked out that way in this series.

Carey Price wasn’t bad by any stretch, even if he’d like a goal back here or there, such as Mats Zuccarello’s 1-1 tally from Game 6.

While the Habs enjoyed strong play from Alex Radulov, other big names sputtered, particularly with Max Pacioretty failing to score a goal during the series. Even with a new head coach in Claude Julien behind the bench, the Canadiens finish the season with heartache.

It’s yet another example of a top-ranked team getting bounced from the playoffs, as Montreal joins the Central Division-winning Blackhawks and that division’s second seed in Minnesota on the sidelines.

The Rangers haven’t always done it in the prettiest fashion, but they’re a dangerous team, something made that much clearer on Saturday. They await the winner of the Ottawa Senators – Boston Bruins series and rest up for what they hope is another deep run.

If his work against Montreal is any indication, Lundqvist is ready.

Zuccarello beats Price twice in second period (Video)

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The Montreal Canadiens began Game 6 clearly on a mission, but the second period went in the New York Rangers’ favor, and they’re now a period away from ending the series.

Montreal had a 1-0 lead, then Mats Zuccarello beat Carey Price short side to tie it up. You don’t get one over Price all that often, but he’ll want the goal you can see above back.

Also rare: a single player scoring two goals against Price in a single period. Kevin Hayes made a great play and Zuccarello put New York up 2-1:

Montreal needs to respond with at least a goal in the third … and maybe keep an eye on that “wizard’ in blue.