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!
Buzzmaster (3:02 PM)
EJ will be here shortly, everyone!
mike (pitt) [via mobile]
What can the pens do differently vs the wings so that history does not repeat itself
EJ Hradek (3:08 PM)
I think the biggest thing is that having been there last year, they are going to be ready for the Stanley Cup Finals series from the puck drop in Game 1. Whether they would admit it or not, the circumstances were too large last year for a group that inexperienced. Having gone through that last year, this has to be a big plus for them. They're trying to do things differently and will be more engaged from a high level at the start, in what should be a terrific series.
How disappointing have both conference finals considering all 4 semifinal series were great?
EJ Hradek (3:09 PM)
I guess you'd have to say that thus far, they haven't been on par with what we saw in the first two rounds, but they aren't over yet. There's always a chance for the Canes and Hawks to rally, though I don't see that happening. That's what you get sometimes...when you get to this level, it really can separate the good from the not-so-good. It's a little disappointing, unless you're a Penguins or Red Wings fan.
Michael (Washington DC)
Watching the Wings without Lidstrom the other night made me think, when will he retire? Any thoughts? ps - it's been a privilege to watch him play for the last 15 years.
EJ Hradek (3:11 PM)
Clearly he can still play at a high level, so it's up to him as to what he wants to do in the future. I think he could play for another five years. It's a commitment to all the things you have to do off the ice to be ready to play.
Rob: New Castle, Pa.
With what looks like 2 freight trains ready to collide, does the Pens/Wings series come down to goal tending or will something else determine the winner.
EJ Hradek (3:13 PM)
Goaltending is always important in a playoff series, so clearly that will be a factor. I think there will be a lot of things that will come into play. They've clearly shown themselves to be the best teams in either conference. The play of Staal behind Crosby and Malkin may be a factor. Crosby and Malking will play well, and if that's a given, then if Staal can be a force in his minutes, it puts a lot of pressure on the Red Wings and will create matchup advantages. But it really shapes up to be a terrific series.
Jason: hackettstown, nj [via mobile]
The penguins had a up and down season. Considering they had a awful december and january which found them 10th and people counting them out and also a coaching change, if they win the cup would it make the penguins turnaround this season one of the best in nhl history?
EJ Hradek (3:16 PM)
You might be able to make a case for that. They were struggling in late January before the coaching change. I think the return of Gonchar was the big turning point for the Penguins. He's a No. 1 option who helps them in all situations and you really can't replace guys like that in the lineup. It put their group of defensemen in the right slots and roles. In turn, it allowed the Penguins to make the Kunitz trade. I think Gonchar has made a huge difference, and the fact that he has returned from his playoff injury as well has been critical to their success. If Gonchar had been out and not able to play, they would have had a much different challenge.
Matt (Tiffin,OH) [via mobile]
Due to the Blackhawks EMBARASSING game 4, what are your predictions for the Stanley Cup Final? I honestly dont think ive ever seen a sports team play so embarassingly before. Its like they didnt want to play that day. The Pens are on a roll,but do you think theyve faced much of a challenge defensively so far in these playoffs? My bet is they havent,and Malkin and Crosby will have troubles dealing with the robotic-expertise of Lidstrom,and dont forget Rafalski and rookie Ericsson. What do you think?
EJ Hradek (3:19 PM)
I kind of agree with you. Before the season and before the playoffs, I picked the Red Wings to beat the Penguins. I look at Pittsburgh, and I know they haven't played anyone as good as the Red Wings yet. I am really looking at this now and wondering if they have a chance due to how well they have played. I still think Detroit is a little bit better. There are some weaknesses that Detroit will be able to take advantage of. But I think it will be a great series.
SaL, San jose, CA
E.J. I just finished a box of tissue watching thinking about the SHARKS playoff exit! What do they do this offseason ?
EJ Hradek (3:21 PM)
The biggest thing is not to overreact. They have to figure out how they can be a little bit better in the playoffs, and they have to figure out the formula for how to win in the Stanley Cup. They need to take a really good look at their group and figure out how they address those areas. To overreact would be foolish...they don't need to tear it all down, they just need to figure out what went wrong. They had the misfortune of playing a tough opponent in the first round and couldn't find a way to beat them.
Tom (River North)
EJ, should Brian Campbell spend less time calling people gutless (especially after his hit on Umberger two years ago) and more time worrying about not being awful defensively? Think the Hawks are regretting paying him $7 million a year?
EJ Hradek (3:24 PM)
I don't think he helped himself or anyone else speaking out between Games 3 and 4. That kind of talk is a waste of time especially in light of the play itself, which was far from gutless and I thought was in fact clean. I was really disappointed in Joel Quenneville's leadership during this whole thing. I thought he should have instructed his team to play and not speak, and his Game 4 bench meltdown did little to help his young team. In fact, I thought they followed his lead and experienced their own meltdown. He's a good coach, but these last few days haven't been his finest.
Tom (River North)
EJ, I can't tell you how frustrating it is to see the NHL front office ruin the game? Back to back games for the first two games of the series? Ridiculous.
EJ Hradek (3:26 PM)
I don't know how to respond to that, really. We live in an era now where sports schedules are often dictated by television. I don't enjoy watching the World Series being played at night in the cold, or championship games in football being played at that time. It's part of the sports landscape, and the best scenario would be to play every other day. For better or worse, it's the business. I don't know that it gives either team an advantage. While it's not ideal, it is what it is.
Hey there EJ, what can you tell me about the Oilers new coach and will he have any impact on the team next season? thanks.
EJ Hradek (3:27 PM)
The new coach is Pat Quinn, a very experienced coach who will be helped by the addition of Tom Renney as associate coach. When you look at that division in the Northwest, the Oilers have as strong a staff as any other. That is a good group and will be helpful in pushing the Oilers back in the playoffs.
Yikes, Kessel and Krejci both out 4-6 months with injuries. Do you think Claude should have sat them in the playoffs or was this too good of a chance of a Cup to do that?
EJ Hradek (3:29 PM)
I'm sure the Bruins medical and coaching staff and the players involved discussed this, and there must have been a feeling that the players could not do any additional damage by playing. I don't think they had any better options than those two, and I don't think they played poorly...just not at 100 percent. It's a second-guess at this point. I'm sure it was a decision made after a lot of thought and discussion. I think it happens for every team...they have those types of situations and they act accordingly.
and do you think the chances are good to "make it seven"? (seven canadian teams)
EJ Hradek (3:30 PM)
I don't have a problem with that, just not one in Southern Ontario under these circumstances. I'd have a second team in Toronto, perhaps north of the city. That would entail building a new stadium. There would have to be a lot of work, planning, and coordination, but it would make sense to me.
EJ Hradek (3:31 PM)
Thanks for the questions. Talk to you next week!