The Pulse: NHL Playoffs and NFL Draft!

Welcome to The Pulse, the place to find out what the sports world is thinking. Every day on ESPN.com, SportsNation registers its opinion on a wide range of topics by casting votes and offering opinions. We'll collect the daily highlights and create a running file throughout the week to measure The Pulse of SportsNation on a wide variety of issues. Check this page every day for an update of what the 'Nation is saying.

Friday's Big Questions
1. Are you ready for the NHL playoffs?
2. Is Bobby Carpenter the right LB for Bill Belichick?

After skipping things entirely for more than a year, the NHL is ready to follow an exciting regular season with the "second season" that has always made the sport special. The Tampa Bay Lightning are still the defending champs and squeaked into this year's field at the last minute, but there is a new crop of favorites as the playoffs begin.

SportsNation is giving plenty of respect to the Detroit Red Wings, a team that totaled one of the highest point totals in league history on its way to earning the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. But things are different out East, where the bottom five seeds, including the highly-touted Sabres, are getting more Stanley Cup support than any of the top three seeds.

  • Which team will win the Eastern Conference?
    36% Other
    24% Ottawa Senators
    24% New Jersey Devils
    15% Carolina Hurricanes

  • Which team will win the Western Conference?
    55% Detroit Red Wings
    19% Dallas Stars
    15% Other
    11% Calgary Flames

    Check out what chatters had to say about the second season in Dan Shanoff's Morning Quickie chat.

    Brodeur has 12 more playoff wins than all other seven starting goalies combined in the Eastern Conference.
    Jim (New Jersey)

    The Sharks are one of the hottest teams right now. Cheechoo and Thornton will guide them to the promised land.
    Wes (California)

    Who cares about the playoffs? I'll check back in June for the Stanley Cup.
    Hende (Ohio)

    It just won't be the same with no playoffs on ESPN. No Thorne. No Melrose. I feel like throwing up.
    John (Wisconsin)

    Wayne Gretzky's wife has the Rangers as a 75-to-1 long shot.
    Jarron (Cleveland)

    I actually enjoy the NHL playoffs. I don't watch one minute of regular season games, but there isn't a more exciting time than when a playoff game goes into overtime ... or five overtimes.
    Reggie (Orlando)

    All of you NHL haters, the product is a lot better right now. Watch the playoffs and you will remember why you watched in the first place. In the East, the big question is can Ottawa win with Ray Emery as their goalie? He has been shaky at times, but they have the best offensive talent.
    John (Buffalo)

    It would be interesting to see the Rangers win. Jaromir Jagr has been one of the best players on the ice all year, and they have the gold-medal winning goalie between the pipes.
    Jon (Malvern)

    Buffalo has speed, rolling four lines with 11 guys who scored 20 goals. Maxim Afinogenov is a revelation.
    Dan (Clayton, N.Y.)

    I think you have to go with the Detroit Red Wings. I'm calling it the Julio Franco factor. When you are led by 44-year-old Chris Chelios and 40-year-old Steve Yzerman, you are bound to hoist the Cup. (Of course, you'll probably throw your back out when you do).
    DC (Altoona, Pa.)

    Three more teams went on the clock Friday in SportsNation's NFL mock draft, and linebackers were in big demand early. Voters preferred Bobby Carpenter to Chad Greenway with the Patriots on the clock at No. 21, but the former Iowa star didn't have to wait long to find a home, with voters sending him to the 49ers at pick No. 22.

  • Who should the New England Patriots select with the No. 21 pick?
    29% Bobby Carpenter
    26% Chad Greenway
    16% Donte Whitner
    16% Kamerion Wimbley
    13% Johnathan Joseph

  • Who should the San Francisco 49ers select with the No. 22 pick?
    36% Chad Greenway
    17% Kamerion Wimbley
    16% Donte Whitner
    16% Jason Allen
    16% Manny Lawson

  • Who should the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select with the No. 23 pick?
    32% Marcus McNeill
    22% Jason Allen
    21% Kamerion Wimbley
    13% Johnathan Joseph
    12% Manny Lawson

    With the infusion of the 3-4 defense happening all over the league, Wimbley will not drop like this in the actual draft.
    Scott (Denver)

    I think Mel Kiper is a lot higher on Wimbley than is the rest of SportsNation (myself included.) He's been up for a vote since about pick No. 7 and has finished last almost every time. I don't know much about him, but I know there are a lot of guys I like ahead of him.
    Logan (Indy)

    Do you think the Pats fans are picking Bobby Carpenter because he has the same name as the hockey player who once played for the Bruins (among many teams)?
    Rick (London)

    How in the world does Bunkley fall to 20? He's easily top-15 talent. How does Young go fourth? Mario Williams is a much better fit there.
    Jason (Canton)

    Thursday's Big Questions
    1. Who should grace the cover of this year's Madden?
    2. Who will the Cowboys, Chargers and Chiefs draft?

    Video games have come a long way. Sure, Pac-Man (the yellow chomping version, not the Tennessee Titans cornerback) used to have a cartoon show, but that's nothing compared to the hype surrounding the cover of each year's new edition of the Madden series of football games from EA Sports.

    The game is central element of pop culture these days, with everyone from real NFL players to movie stars grabbing a controller and showing off their best Madden skills. So being picked as the player to grace the cover is a pretty big deal ... unless you believe in curses. Whether it's bad luck or something more nefarious, numerous past cover players have suffered injuries soon after getting the nod.

    So does all of this mean SportsNation likes Shaun Alexander or wishes ill to the Seattle running back? Either way, he's the clear choice of voters for this year's game.

  • 62% Believe in the Madden cover jinx

    Who should be on the cover of Madden NFL 2007?
    32% Shaun Alexander
    26% LaDainian Tomlinson
    25% Ben Roethlisberger
    10% Hines Ward
    7% Other

    Check out what chatters had to say about the candidates for the cover.

    As a Patriots fan, I don't want it to be Tom Brady, because that means he will suffer some horrible injury this season!
    John (Portland, Maine)

    Why would you want your favorite player on the cover? Every guy the past seven years (except Ray Lewis) has gotten hurt in the season they were on the cover.
    Kev (Richmond, Va.)

    Let's put Brett Favre on there; he won't have to worry about the curse of the Madden cover if he doesn't play.
    David (Maryville, Tenn.)

    T.O. in his Dallas uniform, just because that would tick off everyone in Philly.
    Scott (Dayton)

    Troy Polamalu. He has great hair, plus he's a Super Bowl champ.
    Reggie (Orlando)

    I'll nominate Ben Roethlisberger. If he wouldn't have made that tackle on Nick Harper in the AFC playoffs, the Steelers wouldn't have the title "defending Super Bowl champions."
    Dan (Milwaukee)

    I'll nominate Chad Johnson. He's entertaining. He's funny. And when he suffers the Madden curse, it opens up the division for the Steelers.
    Charles (Pittsburgh)

    I don't think LaDainian Tomlinson has gotten a cover yet, and he's one of the 'unfair' players in the game. He's overdue. The cover guy should be the one whose abilities induce controller-throwing by an opponent (see Vick, Michael). I've scored on 88-yard runs on the first play of the game with LT more than once, even when the other guy knows it's coming.
    JT (Cleveland)

    Three more teams went on the clock Thursday in SportsNation's NFL mock draft, and while it hasn't reach Thurman Thomas levels, Brodrick Bunkley and Kamerion Wimbley are clearly the guys slipping in the eyes of SportsNation. Viewed as top-flight prospects by both Mel Kiper and Scouts, Inc.'s Todd McShay, Bunkley and Wimbley aren't attracting many votes in the mock draft.

  • Who should the Dallas Cowboys select with the No. 18 pick?
    29% Eric Winston
    23% Donte Whitner
    18% Marcus McNeill
    16% Brodrick Bunkley
    14% Kamerion Wimbley

  • Who should the San Diego Chargers select with the No. 19 pick?
    29% Antonio Cromartie
    21% Brodrick Bunkley
    20% Donte Whitner
    18% Johnathan Joseph
    13% Kamerion Wimbley

  • Who should the Kansas City Chiefs select with the No. 20 pick?
    26% Brodrick Bunkley
    22% Jason Allen
    21% Chad Greenway
    17% Johnathan Joseph
    14% Kamerion Wimbley

    Bunkley is a NFL-ready starter as a rookie. How is a guy like that still on the board?
    Mike (Pittsburgh)

    This whole mock draft is a joke. The game is won on the offensive and defensive lines. Teams like Baltimore and the Eagles will not pick a wide receiver, because they have other, more important needs. There's no way Bunkley makes it past the Bills, Browns, Ravens, and Eagles. Absolutely no way.
    Adam (Philly)

    No way. No chance Dallas takes Eric Winston at No. 18; they would be nuts. Don't get me wrong, I am a Miami alum and I love Winston, but not for Dallas at that spot. Dallas either needs to trade up to pick Huff, of stay and take the safety from Tenn. Jason Allen. With the offseason moves we can wait until the second round for the OL.
    Kingpin (Daytona Beach)

    Who is Eric Winston? I think Cowboys fans are confusing him with Winston Justice from USC. And I think the desire here in Cowboy land is Bobby Carpenter from OSU, a big, strong-side linebacker. I don't think Parcells goes with safety in first round or OL, unless one of the top 2-3 fall to them. Carpenter is a guy who will start from day one. I see him as complete Parcells guy.

    I agree with Kevin. What are the Cowboys fans thinking! Eric Winston is a second-round pick with bad wheels. You take the best player on the board, which is Brodrick Bunkley, Manny Lawson or Kamerion Wimbley. Bunkley is a nose guard they need, and Lawson or Wimbley can play opposite DeMarcus Ware.

    Wednesday's Big Questions
    1. Who should be NBA MVP?
    2. When will Brodrick Bunkley be drafted?

    Is the NBA MVP debate much ado about nothing?

    More like much ado about a lot of little somethings, according to SportsNation. The field for this year's award is wide open, with a minimum of five or six candidates -- Chauncey Billups, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade -- drawing legitimate support.

    But in the eyes of voters, it's really a two-man race between Bryant and James, with defending MVP Nash caught somewhere between the leaders and the rest of the pack.

    The good news for Bryant is voters think the Lakers star should take home the award after leading his team to the playoffs. The bad news is they may not remember he won it in a few years. While voters think the NBA version of MVP is more important than hockey's Hart Trophy, it's a distant third to the NFL and MLB awards in overall value.

  • 67% Ether LeBron James or Kobe Bryant should be NBA MVP

  • 29% NBA award is the most meaningful MVP of the four major pro sports

    Check out what chatters had to say about what appears to be a big field of MVP candidates.

    I don't think Kobe could be considered most valuable. If you have some platinum surrounded by rusty iron, it still isn't worth anything.
    Mike (Baltimore, MD)

    Chauncey Billups should win the MVP. Without him Detroit's offense doesn't run right. Unfortunately, Kobe will win it because of the flashiness of things like scoring 81 points in a game!
    Chris (Michigan)

    Why no love for Dirk? He's the heart and soul of that Mavs team. Without Dirk, that team is fighting for playoff spot right now instead of fight for first in the West.
    Jordan (Corning, CA)

    Dwyane Wade should be the MVP hands down this year. His team is good, and look at his leadership and how he plays the game. He never wants to sit out. His stats are just as good as anyone else.
    Taylor (Kansas)

    LeBron James is the most deserving choice for MVP. The term is Most Valuable Player, and that is what he has been to his team. Take him out of the lineup and Cleveland is an average team at best.
    Bryan (Marion, OH)

    Steve Nash should win MVP. He kept the Suns among the elite, even without Quentin Richardson, Joe Johnson and Amare Stoudemire.
    JC (Arizona)

    I do not want to admit it, but it's Kobe's year for MVP. I always want a player on a great team to win this award, but Kobe deserves it. But he is still a ball hog.
    David (San Francisco)

    Three more teams went on the clock Wednesday in SportsNation's NFL mock draft, and while it hasn't reach Thurman Thomas levels, Brodrick Bunkley and Kamerion Wimbley are clearly the guys slipping in the eyes of SportsNation. Viewed as top-flight prospects by both Mel Kiper and Scouts, Inc.'s Todd McShay, Bunkley and Wimbley aren't attracting many votes in the mock draft.

  • Who should the Denver Broncos select with the No. 15 pick?
    38% DeAngelo Williams
    24% Sinorice Moss
    11% Brodrick Bunkley
    9% Chad Greenway
    8% Kamerion Wimbley

  • Who should the Miami Dolphins select with the No. 16 pick?
    28% Tye Hill
    25% Ernie Sims
    18% Brodrick Bunkley
    17% Donte Whitner
    12% Kamerion Wimbley

  • Who should the Minnesota Vikings select with the No. 17 pick?
    33% Ernie Sims
    28% Chad Greenway
    16% Brodrick Bunkley
    12% Kamerion Wimbley
    11% Johnathan Joseph

    There is absoulutly no way the Denver Broncos will select DeAngelo Williams, because they always have a running back that comes up big for them.
    Anon. (Chicago)

    The Broncos won't draft a RB at No. 15, especially if there are two quality D-linemen like Bunkley and Wimbley available. Don't get me wrong, the Broncos will pick a RB in the draft, but they're comfortable with the rotation of Bell and Dayne for the time being. It won't be a big step down from Bell and Anderson.
    Ben (Denver)

    Jeez, everyone is a critic. During this mock draft on SN, everyone is going crazy about the picks. "This pick sucks," or "That guy would never be drafted there." And come draft day, they will still complain and the cries will be heard, "Fire the GM!" and "I could make better picks." There really is no pleasing people. Want to know how wrong people can be? I remember when the Eagles picked Donovan McNabb instead of Ricky Williams. The crowd booed and went crazy. Gee, how did that one work out?
    Jimmy (Chicago, IL)

    I can understand picking Tye Hill or Ernie Sims. I would be happy for the Dolphins with either pick, but in this mock draft, with Bunkley still on the board? Miami has aging Kith Traylor and Jeff Zgonia; Bunkley would be the best choice. Great athlete, makes plays, will open up holes for Zach and the young OLB's they have.
    Alan (Denver)

    Tuesday's Big Questions
    1. Who's hot and not heading into NHL playoffs?
    2. When will Haloti Ngata be drafted?

    The NHL playoff field is set and Tuesday night's results will finalize the first-round matchups. The 16 best teams in the NHL are at the beginning of a long postseason grind and SportsNation has some thoughts on who's hot and who's not heading into the Stanley Cup playoffs.

    Among tops sees the 'Nation thinks Eastern Conference No. 2 seed Ottawa -- currently matched up with Montreal -- is most vulnerable in the first round, and both Carolina and Dallas got at least one-fourth of the vote as well.

    On the other side of the spectrum Eastern No. 5 New Jersey -- winners of 10 straight -- get the nod as the most dangerous lower-seeded team. Of course, the Devils still have a shot at the Atlantic Division title and a higher seed.

  • Which team is most vulnerable in the first round?
    36% Ottawa Senators
    28% Carolina Hurricanes
    25% Dallas Stars
    11% Detroit Red Wings

  • Which lower-seeded team will be most dangerous in the first round of the playoffs?
    38% New Jersey Devils
    32% San Jose Sharks
    13% Philadelphia Flyers
    10% Colorado Avalanche
    7% Anaheim Mighty Ducks

    Check out what chatters had to say about other big stories in Dan Shanoff's Morning Quickie chat:

    Criminal investigations such as this one in Durham are the only acceptable times to take the "wait-and-see" approach.
    Greg (Baton Rouge)

    Have faith in the legal system to rule correctly. There's nothing else you can do.

    Hende (OH)

    Congratulations to young Sidney Crosby for becoming the youngest player to reach 100 points. How good will this kid be when he reaches his prime?
    Ted (Pittsburgh)

    Cubs Ace: Not Prior. Not Wood. Not Zambrano. That's right, Maddux is 3-0 and leading the NL in ERA!

    Derek (Marietta)

    Stud: Pedro, Pedro, Pedro. When was the last time a 200-game winner was considered a lock for the Hall of Fame? Somewhere, Orel Hershiser is wincing ...
    Christian (High Point, NC)

    Three more teams went on the clock Tuesday in SportsNation's NFL mock draft and wideouts ruled the day. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata of Oregon was pegged to Cleveland at No. 12 to open the day but wideouts snatched the next two picks.

    Voters have the Ravens taking Chad Jackson of Florida and the Eagles selecting Ohio State's Santonio Holmes.
    When will fellow DLs Kamerion Wimbley and Brodrick Bunkley come off the board? Check back every weekday leading up to the actual draft for updates?

  • Who should the Cleveland Browns select with the No. 12 pick?
    31% Haloti Ngata
    21% Chad Greenway
    19% Ernie Sims
    15% Kamerion Wimbley
    14% Brodrick Bunkley

  • Who should the Baltimore Ravens select with the No. 13 pick?
    41% Chad Jackson
    29% Brodrick Bunkley
    12% Chad Greenway
    10% Kamerion Wimbley
    8% Donte Whitner

  • Who should the Philadelphia Eagles select with the No. 14 pick?
    60% Santonio Holmes
    14% Brodrick Bunkley
    11% Ernie Sims
    10% Chad Greenway
    5% Kamerion Wimbley

    Does the SN mock draft seem like a popularity contest to anyone else? The picks, they make NO SENSE!

    Kevin (VA)

    SportsNation, you got to be crazy! How can you pick Ngata for a Browns team that plays a 3-4 defense? I am aware that he slid a little to this pick but you still have to look at team needs, and there are other great players available such as Wimbley or Sims.

    Jason (Detroit)

    Haloti Ngata is going to be a star in the league with his great size and good speed. He will probably be drafted by the Ravens and make Ray Lewis shine by plugging up offensive lines. The Ravens will have the best defense in the league once again
    George (Akron)

    There is no way that Baltimore takes Jackson and no way Philly takes a WR. Not gonna happen. If the top 2 DTs and OTs are gone by 14, it's a lock that Philly trades out of that spot.

    Dave (Philly)

    People, why would a WR be leading the vote getting for Philly? We need a DT. Vote for Bunkley. I know he won't be there when it's actually draft day and the Birds are on the clock, but make a fan happy for a week or so until we have to deal with the OL they actually take.
    Mike (Philly Suburbs)

    Monday's Big Questions
    1. Who's more clutch: Pujols or Ortiz?
    2. Which NBA underdog is most dangerous?
    3. Which NBA stars might be on the move?

    Albert Pujols and David Ortiz just keep doing amazing things.

    On Sunday, Pujols hit three home runs for the Cardinals, the last of which was a two-run, game-winning shot in the bottom of the ninth inning. That makes it six walk-off home runs for Pujols since 2001, the most in the majors. Ortiz mashed a pair of homers Monday, both of which tied the score, in Monday's Patriot's Day win.

    So who's more clutch, Pujols or Ortiz? Which would you rather have at the plate with your team trailing in its last at-bat? Big Papi gets plenty of support from SportsNation but voters give Phat Albert the nod. Among first basemen not named Pujols, Derrek Lee is SN's choice to build a team around.

    In the NBA the playoff field is set and matchups are still taking shape, but based on the standings as of Monday the 'Nation thinks the Lakers will be the most dangerous lower-seeded team in the first round, well ahead of the Kings. What big-name players who will be playing golf instead of basketball in the coming weeks? SN says Stephon Marbury of the Knicks is most likely to switch teams in the offseason but Minnesota's Kevin Garnett trails by only two percent.

    And don't forget, the SportsNation NFL Mock Draft is still rolling along.

  • 60% Would rather have Pujols hitting with their favorite team trailing in the ninth.

  • 57% Would build their baseball team around Derrek Lee.

  • 48% Lakers are the most dangerous lower-seeded team in the NBA playoffs.

  • 36% Stephon Marbury is most likely to switch teams in the offseason.

    Check out what chatters had to say in Dan Shanoff's Morning Quickie chat:

    Note to Cincinnati pitchers: That Pujols guy is pretty good.

    Clinton (Indianapolis):

    I'd rather have Pujols hitting at the end of a regular season game and Papi at the end of a playoff game.
    John (Portland, ME)

    Pujols all the way. Most feared batter in baseball, hits the ball all over the field with power. Papi hasn't hit a ball to right field since Little League
    Matt (Londonderry, NH)

    I'd rather have Chris Shelton hitting for me. Not only does he have the homers but he's batting around .480 thus far.

    Sean (Indy)

    I'll take Papi. He he has the ring, Pujols has had "Bonds Syndrome" in the playoffs.
    John (Buffalo)

    SportsNation's NFL mock draft continued rolling with three more picks on Friday. Three teams will be on the clock each weekday between now and the Thursday before the real draft in New York.

    First up on Friday were the 49ers, whose fans want help on defense. N.C. State DE Mario Williams got the nod in San Francisco, while Raiders fans gave Vanderbilt QB Jay Cutler their blessing by a wide margin and Bills fans gave Maryland TE Vernon Davis a slight edge over Texas DB Michael Huff. Check out the results and some comments.

  • Who should the Detroit Lions select with the No. 9 pick?
    44% Michael Huff
    27% Winston Justice
    11% Chad Greenway
    11% Jimmy Williams
    8% Kamerion Wimbley

  • Who should the Arizona Cardinals select with the No. 10 pick?
    42% Winston Justice
    19% Haloti Ngata
    18% Jimmy Williams
    11% Tye Hill
    10% Brodrick Bunkley

  • Who should the St. Louis Rams select with the No. 11 pick?
    25% Haloti Ngata
    25% Jimmy Williams
    22% Chad Greenway
    15% Tye Hill
    13% Brodrick Bunkley

    Detroit Taking Huff with the ninth pick looks nice but it won't help their two biggest needs: linebacker and offensive line. If Huff is still available at the ninth pick Detroit should trade down to a team like Baltimore that needs another safety to complement Ed Reed. Detroit can than draft OT Winston Justice or a LB like Chad Greenway or Ernie Sims. Drafting an outside LB will allow Lehman to play ILB were he was originally drafted to play.

    Tyler (Detroit)

    Any first round selection by Detroit that's NOT a wide receiver should be deemed a successful pick. I would be very pleased if Huff fell to us at the No. 9 slot.
    Jason (Detroit)

    The Cards are in a no-lose situation. We'll be dancing into our new stadium with the best OL prospect in the draft
    (Justice) dropping to us at 10. Should Davis or Huff be there instead we are still in great shape. Those players address our three areas of greatest need and one will be there. But don't be surprised if Denny throws a curve ball and trades down.
    Scott (Cards Country)

    If the five choices for the Cardinals are the actual top five guys who turn out to be available at No. 10, there is no doubt in my mind they should move down.
    George (Akron)

    If you ask me, any of those guys would be a big help for the Rams. But we'll still miss the playoffs again.
    Aaron (Columbia, MO)

    Missed an edition of The Pulse? Click here to check out the archive!