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

Pay Backes: Bruins beat Blues in possibly costly win


David Backes will likely look back at Tuesday as a special night, as he was welcomed warmly back to St. Louis as a member of the Bruins. His new team might have more mixed feelings.

The bright side is obvious: Boston’s offense looked potent in a 5-3 win against the Blues. The Bruins managed to hold onto a win after a hot start that saw Jake Allen scuttled from the St. Louis net.

Backes made an impact of sorts, getting in a fight on the same night that he received that ovation and video tribute.

The real stars were the usual suspects for the Bruins. Brad Marchand scored two goals and nabbed an assist, David Pastrnak collected three helpers and Patrice Bergeron had two assists himself. It was a strong night for Frank Vatrano, too, with a goal and an assist.

Time will tell if the bumps and bruises the Bruins received will put a damper on this win, however. Adam McQuaid couldn’t return thanks to an upper-body injury, Colin Miller was shaken up bit did return during the third period of the game and David Krejci was a little dinged up in this one.

Losing McQuaid would sting; if two or even three of those players are hurt, that could be quite the blow to the Bruins.

Still, at the moment, Boston has to be pretty happy about this win. They’re currently 2-0-1 during a challenging four-game road trip that ends in Nashville on Thursday and have largely survived a road-heavy stretch that started late in December.

For the Blues, it was a disappointment, although at least they showed a little fight after a lousy start.

How worried should the Philadelphia Flyers be after loss to Sabres?


Things haven’t been going well for the Philadelphia Flyers since their 10-game winning streak came to an end.

Tuesday represented the latest setback, as Philly fell to the up-and-down Buffalo Sabres by a score of 4-1. While the Flyers have gotten some “charity points” for their trouble here and there, the bottom line is that they’ve only won two games since Dec. 17. They’re now 2-6-3 during that span.

Much like with the slightly stumbling Columbus Blue Jackets, it’s silly to panic, though the Flyers have bigger issues than Columbus right now.

The best news is that, regardless of how the rest of Tuesday goes, they’re still comfortably in the East’s final wild card spot. The not-so-good-news is that their margin for error is getting slimmer.

The rest of January could also be challenging. Beginning with Thursday’s home game against the upward-trending Vancouver Canucks, the Flyers will play four of six on the road and five of eight away from Philly to end the first month of January. That isn’t a murderous schedule, but it’s not a cakewalk either.

Ultimately, the Flyers are still in a good spot. They still have some work to do.

Cause for concern? Canes hand Blue Jackets their third loss in four games


When you experience unexpected success at the level the Columbus Blue Jackets’ 2016-17 season, people look for the other shoe to drop. Those types might be alerted to a relative slump for Columbus.

The Carolina Hurricanes scored twice in the third period to pull away from the Blue Jackets on Tuesday, handing Columbus a 5-3 loss. With that, the Blue Jackets have lost three out of their last four games after winning 16 games in a row (not to mention going undefeated in December).

Most will write that off as a blip on the radar. Especially with Sergei Bobrovsky needing to miss tonight’s game thanks to an illness.

The Blue Jackets showed some fight, too, tying the game back up twice (once when Carolina went up 2-1, the second time when the Hurricanes briefly build a 3-2 lead). The team notes that the possession stats came up mostly Columbus:

Jordan Staal and Victor Rask made the difference with goals in that final frame as Anton Forsberg gave up four tallies on just 27 shots (the 5-3 goal was an empty-netter).

The Blue Jackets began a three-game road trip in Carolina, with a back-to-back set in Florida (at Tampa Bay Friday, at the Panthers on Saturday). Overall, they’ll play seven of their next 10 games on the road. So, perhaps it’s a bumpy road ahead, but isn’t that also a great way to see just how “legit” these Blue Jackets really are?

Of course, David Backes gets in fight in return vs. Blues (Video)


There was a time when a sputtering St. Louis Blues might have expected David Backes to fight. They’re sputtering, and Backes fought, but it was in a Boston Bruins uniform on Tuesday.

Backes also received an instigator penalty and misconduct for dropping the gloves with Joel Edmundson, which you can watch in the video above.

As great as this game has been so far for the Bruins (with them currently leading 4-1), there have been some rough moments for the B’s. Adam McQuaid left the game and won’t return because of an injury, and David Krejci got banged up here:

(Krejci might be OK, but he certainly has had better nights.)

Two very different hustle plays from Oilers’ McDavid, Russell


With a mere standings point separating the San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers – at least if you ignore San Jose’s games in hand – this is a fairly significant game between the two Pacific teams.

The Oilers are showing that, if it comes down to effort, they’re likely to stand a better chance than, oh, the last decade-or-so of Edmonton squads.

Two plays really make that stand out.

First, we have a reminder that Connor McDavid‘s blazing speed doesn’t just translate to points. It can also help the Oilers clean up messes in their own zone … and then turn ice upside down as he burns by everyone in transition:

On the other end of the spectrum, you have oft-criticized Kris Russell. However you feel about his overall presence (whether he’s a net-positive or something of an anchor), there’s little denying that he’s adept at blocking shots. That becomes clearer when a blueliner blurs the line between “blocked shot” and “save.”

Does any of this mean that the Oilers will beat the Sharks tonight? Nope, but they’re two fun examples of this team going all-out.