Chat with EJ Hradek
Keep up with what Hradek has been up to through his blog on ESPN.com.
Send your questions now and join Hradek in The Show on Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET!
Joshua, Vacaville CA
Given the Sharks history with the playoffs and their current plethora of injuries. Should shark fans be more enthused about this years team than, say, any of the previous teams?
EJ Hradek (3:03 PM)
I think they should be. This has been a great year for the Sharks. They got off to a great start, and with little exception, they have had a really terrific year to date. They did have some injury issues to deal with. They have had the luxury to allow some of those guys to have the proper time to rest due to their place in the standing. I don't see anybody as a really prohibitive favorite, especially watching the games over the past couple of weeks. The team in that dressing room has to be really excited, as they can go about the task of winning their first Stanley Cup soin.
Catch any college hockey this weekend?
EJ Hradek (3:06 PM)
I did. I caught several of the games. It was absolutely great to watch. Very exciting--some crazy finishes and major upsets. I'm really thrilled for a program like Miami to get to their first Frozen Four. I think Bemidji St.'s story is the Cinderella of this tournament, and I really look forward to see what they will do next as we get to Washington the weekend after next. I'm still a little sad for Air Force. I have a little bit of a special place in my heart for the Falcons because I was able to be part of the regional broadcast team last spring for them. I like what they are doing with their program and I was sorry to see them lose in a double-OT game that could have sent them to the Frozen Four. But it was a great weekend of hockey, and we'll see if anybody can take down the big favorite, BU, in Washington.
GMS - Pittsburgh
Who's the dangerous team in the East right now that nobody wants to play?
EJ Hradek (3:07 PM)
If you're a Pittsburgh fan, you know the answer to that question. They have two of the three best players in the league and have had the experience of having gone to the Final last year ... I don't think people are too eager to play them right now.
What is the best first round match up for the caps? I'm thinking Rangers as they've played them good this year.
EJ Hradek (3:09 PM)
I don't know. Based on the way things are going, I would rather play Montreal. That team has had a lot of struggles over the past few weeks, and I haven't been impressed by the way they have played. The Caps have had some success against the Rangers, but I don't know if you want to be locked into a first-round series with Lundqvist. I think whoever the Caps draw will present some sort of problem. I'll be interested to see how the Caps respond in their second postseason effort with Ovechkin and Co. I think there is a different expectation level, which can sometimes be a burden.
Adam (Lake George, NY)
EJ, do you think that if Sidney Crosby was blatantly hit from behind by Maxim Lapierre, that Maxim would be suspended? If so, why was he not suspended for doing the very same thing to Patrick Kaleta the other night?
EJ Hradek (3:11 PM)
Yes, he would be. I guess you're asking me, is there a double-standard when it comes to who is involved in these types of plays? I think the answer is yes, there probably is to a certain degree. Patrick Kaleta is also a guy whose play has bordered on dirty in his short time in the league, and there may be some who feel that this is a case of a guy getting almost what he deserves. That said, we don't want to see guys getting run from behind in this league. It is something the powers-that-be need to take a long look at for a lot of reasons.
Jason: (hackettstown, nj) [via mobile]
Guerin has fit in nicely with the penguins. Do you see the penguins keeping him after the season ends?
EJ Hradek (3:13 PM)
There's a terrific chance if he wanted to keep playing, which I think he does, that he would stay in Pittsburgh. This is a salary cap world in the NHL, and he is a guy who, at his age, would be affordable to the Penguins and could help them as a top-6 winger and on the power play. At this point with guys like him, it is a year-to-year proposition. He is really thrilled to be in Pittsburgh, and it's very possible he could be back there.
Blair - Chicago
Do Wings fans need to be concerned? The last two games are troublesome, and Osgood has been brutal all year.
EJ Hradek (3:15 PM)
I don't think any team would be thrilled with getting shut out at home by the Islanders and then blowing a third-period lead against Nashville. The Red Wings and their fans have pretty high standards, and there are questions, particularly about the goaltending, as we go forward. But they are still one of, if not the best team in the league. Every time they have had to step up in a big spot, it has happened. I still think Osgood can get it done. While I think there is always reason for concern, I might want to look at other clubs, as their concern would be greater.
Bryan (Pullman, WA)
Hey EJ, are the red hot Canucks going to take the Northwest away from the Flames? They play one week from today in Vancouver, I think the winner wins the division.
EJ Hradek (3:17 PM)
Vancouver has a chance to leapfrog Calgary tonight if they can beat Minnesota. This will be a race for these two teams to the end for the division title and No. 3 seed. I think you are right--it could come down to that meeting between the two teams. I like the way Vancouver is playing right now. I think they are playing a more consistent game than the Flames, but it could go either way. If I'm betting on it right now, I'd go with the Canucks.
Adam - Buffalo
You see the Sabres surviving and making it to the playoffs?
EJ Hradek (3:19 PM)
No, not right now I don't. I think that they are in a tough spot. They've gotta really overtake two teams--Florida and Montreal--to get into that final spot. They are four points out with seven to play. They will pretty much have to win out and get some help . I've gotta think it's not gonna happen. It's unfortunate they lost goaltender Ryan Miller for such a long stretch. If they miss by a point or two, that will be the reason.
Who do you think will take the last 2 playoff spots in the Western Conference?
EJ Hradek (3:23 PM)
Boy, I wish I knew. Two days ago, I would have given you a different answer. It's so hard to predict. St. Louis seems destined to overcome every obstacle, and Nashville is in a similar situation, but they do have some significant obstacles. The Blues play five of their last six on the road, and the Predators are without three key veterans..Jason Arnott, Martin Erat, and David Legwand. Those teams have real blocks in the way. The Oilers finished the season with five of six at home, which means they could take the last spot soon. Any one of those four teams could get in.
With the way they're playing right now, how far do you see Carolina going in the playoffs?
EJ Hradek (3:24 PM)
They could go a long way. They are playing terrifically right not, and the key really has been the goaltending of Cam Ward. Remember, he's a guy who backstopped them to a Cup in 2006. He has been great. The return of Eric Cole has been a positive thing for the team. They are getting a lot of contributions and playing with a lot of confidence right now. I'll be interested to see if they can carry that in to their first playoff run, since they won the cup a few seasons ago.
With the Blue Jackets success this year and young talent within the organization, does Columbus become an attractive team for free agents?
EJ Hradek (3:26 PM)
It's certainly more attractive now. The emergence of rookie goaltender Steve Mason really changed everything in Columbus. Players for the most part want to be in a situation where they can win, and a young goaltender like Mason, so early in his career, will give a team an opportunity to win for a long, long time. There is going to be more of an attraction to go there.
Chris (Manchester, New Hampshire)
The Bruins have recently turned it around but one thing I have noticed all season is that this team thrives when 2 players are on their games, Phil Kessel and Milan Lucic. If you watch the Bruins when these two play well they win when they do not they lose, Do you belive the Bruins playoff success lies on these two guys shoulders?
EJ Hradek (3:28 PM)
The Bruins have been a team that have gotten contributions from a lot of players this year. They are the type of team that needs everybody chipping in and doing their part. Those were two good young guys, but you need the entire orchestra playing the same way if you want to make music.
EJ Hradek (3:29 PM)
Thanks again for all the questions! There will be a lot to look at over the next few weeks.