James O'Brien

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

Penguins’ Sullivan considers Schultz Game 5 return ‘a possibility’

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It might not be wise to get your hopes up on this, but Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said that a Justin Schultz return is “a possibility” for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Ottawa Senators.

Now, Sullivan didn’t give an indication about how strong that possibility is, so take that with a grain of salt.

During Saturday’s presser, he deemed Schultz, Patric Hornqvist and Bryan Rust all “day-to-day.”

As you’re likely aware, “day-to-day” is a confusing designation even during the regular season. In the playoffs, it’s even more difficult to really gauge what such a reading means.

That said, with Sullivan confirming a concussion for Chad Ruhwedel last night, and the awful injury news for Ryan Johansen in the other series, vague optimism sure beats a direct and cold readout.

The Senators also have some injury situations to watch:

Game 5 airs on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream link.

NHL fines Getzlaf $10K for ‘inappropriate remark’ from Game 4

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The NHL fined Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf $10K for “directing an inappropriate remark toward another on-ice participant” during Thursday’s 3-2 overtime Game 4 win against the Nashville Predators.

As far as who that on-ice participant was … the league didn’t specify.

“Getzlaf’s comment in Thursday’s game, particularly as directed to another individual on the ice, was inappropriately demeaning and disrespectful, and crossed the line into behavior that we deem unacceptable,” Colin Campbell said. “The type of language chosen and utilized in this instance will not be tolerated in the National Hockey League.”

Andrew Shaw was suspended one game for a homophobic remark during the 2016 postseason, also incurring a $5K fine. Many wonder why Getzlaf received double the fine but no suspension.

This is likely the exchange that drew the league’s attention:

This decision comes shortly after Toronto Blue Jays suspended outfielder Kevin Pillar two games for a homophobic slur.

Game 4 of the Western Conference Final was a heated contest between the Predators and Ducks, with plenty of hits and a stream of penalties late for Anaheim. The Ducks may have been frustrated with officials late in the contest, especially since Ryan Johansen likely got away with a penalty moments before Nashville scored the game-tying goal.

Johansen’s done for the series, but not before contributing to the war of words in the series.

Game 5 takes place at 7:15 p.m. ET tonight on NBC (Stream online here).

WATCH LIVE: Sweden vs. Finland, World Hockey Championship semifinal

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Canada rallied from down 2-0 to advance to the gold-medal game of the World Hockey Championship earlier on Saturday.

Will they face Sweden or Finland in that final round? You can find out by watching the other semifinal game via the link below.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

For more on Canada’s win against Russia (who fill face the loser of this game for the bronze medal), check out this recap.

Let’s appreciate the unpredictable Stanley Cup Playoffs

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Hockey fans greet Saturday with a beautiful thing: uncertainty.

Remarkably, both the Eastern and Western Conference Final series are tied at 2-2. There’s a solid chance that the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs will set a new record for overtime games. The Chicago Blackhawks were swept in the first round; the Los Angeles Kings didn’t even make the playoffs.

Yes, there are some common threads. The Washington Capitals, somehow, ended their season with heartbreak once again. The Pittsburgh Penguins, meanwhile, find ways to compete even as their defensemen barely enjoy better luck than Spinal Tap drummers.

In the grand scheme of things, the postseason is very, very difficult to forecast. And it’s been that way for quite some time.

Now, contrast that to the NBA.

Basketball’s postseason sometimes feels like a long coronation for the status quo, but the 2017 playoffs have taken that to an extreme.

The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are both two wins away from a third consecutive championship bout and neither team has even lost a game yet. Last night, the Cavaliers absolutely demolished the Boston Celtics by a double-take score of 130-86. If this was NBA2K17, you would need to raise the difficulty level to avoid total boredom.

Don’t take this as a #PleaseLikeMySport screed. The uncertainty of the Stanley Cup Playoffs isn’t inherently “better” than the consistency on the hardwood. Sports fans love seeing a clash of the titans, after all, and it doesn’t get much better than Lebron vs. Seth and Durant.

Still, it’s reasonable to take a step back and note just how different these two postseasons have been.

The tantalizing part is that there might be more surprises ahead in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, too.

Canada continues to torment Russia with stunning comeback at Worlds

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It almost feels … mean.

Russia seemed like it would finally beat Canada in a significant international competition involving a decent number of top-level players on Saturday. Then the third period happened.

Canada stormed back from a 2-0 deficit in that final frame, ultimately taking the semifinal match with a 4-2 win. Thanks to that dizzying comeback, they’ll face either Sweden or Finland for the gold. Russia, meanwhile, is relegated to the bronze match.

The rally began with a Mark Scheifele power-play goal early in the third, yet Russia had a 2-1 lead deep into the contest. Nathan MacKinnon‘s 2-2 tally came with less than five minutes remaining in regulation.

Not long after, Ryan O'Reilly scored the decisive tally, while Sean Couturier‘s empty-netter ended any drama. Canada generated a 19-5 shot differential in that third-period push.

Check out full highlights above this post’s headline.