Chat with EJ Hradek
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, ESPN The Magazine's EJ Hradek will stop by to chat about the NHL season
Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.
Keep up with what Hradek has been up to through his blog on ESPN.com.
Send your questions now and join EJ to chat Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET!
More EJ Hradek: Chat Archive
Kevin T (New Zealand) [via mobile]
EJ, all things being equal in the Cup Finals 3-2 as last year: if the Pens do not win, then who is on the chopping block and/or free agency?
E.J. Hradek (3:01 PM)
No one! They're in the Finals for the second straight year. They want to get over the hump, but I don't think they are going to cast blame. They have a young team that is continuing to find ways to get better. They still need some help in a top-6 winger who can play with Crosby and Malkin, but the best way to do that may be to trade Jordan Staal to fill that hole on the wing. Also, are you really from New Zealand?
bob and philly [via mobile]
what is the deal with the goalies in philly?
E.J. Hradek (3:03 PM)
The Flyers have salary cap issues and they are not certain about which direction they want to go in with their goalies. They are taking a chance on Ray Emery and they are hoping he can give them some short-term help as they try to develop some young goaltenders through the draft, and maybe some guys who are undrafted free agents.
Tom (River North)
EJ, do you think the Penguins have avoided putting Malkin and Crosby together because of the defense played by Z and Lidstrom on Crosby? With Datsyuk back the D gets even better. Also, Crosby and Malkin are defensive liabilities, given Crosby's minus rating in the finals and Malkin's 2 for the whole playoffs.
E.J. Hradek (3:05 PM)
They've avoided putting them together because they've had success playing in their natural position of center. They've been good enough to beat all challengers in the East. The problem is that they are just not good enough to beat the Red Wings. They are that much better than any other team in the league right now. The Penguins have several areas in which they need to improve to beat Detroit--namely, more support on their top two lines from a more talented winger, and to make some improvements on their defense.
Do you think the Cup is presented tonight?
E.J. Hradek (3:06 PM)
It's hard to predict. Tonight will be much closer than Game 5. I expect the Penguins will really give their best effort of the series. They obviously know what is at stake, and Detroit will need their best tonight if they are to wrap it up.
J.B. (Dunmore, PA)
Would you say that Fleury's inconsistent net play might be part of the Pens problem and that maybe they should at least consider other options should the team not win the Cup?
E.J. Hradek (3:07 PM)
No, I think Fleury still has room to improve and get better, but let's not forget that this is a guy who got to the Finals winning six playoff series over two years. They have invested in him with a long-term contract, and he still is a very young guy with a lot of chances to move forward. At this point and time, they are comfortable with their goaltending.
shawn des moines ia [via mobile]
if the pens dont set the tone in the first period and show that the last game is out of there head, do they have a chance at winning game 6?
E.J. Hradek (3:09 PM)
I just think they have to show up on time and be ready to play. If you play the Red Wings, you have to be at your best. The answer for me is that they will have to give their best effort period in the series if they are to extend it to seven games.
don, pittsburgh, pa [via mobile]
shouldnt malkin get the conn smythe even if the wings win the cup? And when do you see the penguins returning to the finals ?
E.J. Hradek (3:10 PM)
I think if the Wings win the Cup, Zetterberg or Osgood will win the Conn Smythe. Malkin has definitely played great, and if the Penguins rally to win, he'd top a list of candidates along with Crosby. With the players the Penguins have, I think they will be a force in the Eastern Conference, with a chance to go to the Finals for each of the next few years. They can keep Malkin and Crosby together, and they will be a force.
Which team have the biggest salary cap problems this offseason?
E.J. Hradek (3:12 PM)
I think a lot of teams have salary cap issues. Philadelphia will have significant issues to deal with. Down the road, Chicago will have some questions with expiring contracts and young free agents. I think it's an issue for a lot of teams in the league, and it will be more of an issue if the cap number comes down, which is possible considering the cap number is based on revenues, which may decrease and change the dynamic of the financial landscape in the league.
Kris (Holly, Michigan)
Do you feel that the Pen's young players who are letting thier emotions take over will be one of the Wings winning factors?
E.J. Hradek (3:14 PM)
I would say the Penguins have done a good job of keeping their emotions in check since the second period of Game 5, but I expect they will be much more focused and disciplined overall. If they are not, they'd better start getting ready for the offseason tonight.
Marc (Malden, MA)
I love hockey, but the NHL can never seem to get out of its own way. Game 6 the same night as game 3 of the NBA Finals...not smart.
E.J. Hradek (3:16 PM)
The NHL just can't set its schedule around what the NBA decides to do. Certainly the television interests of the NHL's rights-owners do come into it. In a perfect world, no events would ever overlap. I think the NBA fans will watch Lakers-Magic, and the NHL fans will watch Penguins-Red Wings, so it shouldn't be too much of a big deal
Tom (River North)
EJ, any chance we get a prediction from you? I'm going to say 3-2 Detroit with Hossa scoring the game winner for poetic justice.
E.J. Hradek (3:17 PM)
I don't know if I'll make a prediction...I predicted the Penguins would beat the Wings for the Finals, so I should quit while I'm ahead. I believe the Red Wings will eventually beat the Penguins, though I think Pittsburgh will play a strong game at home.
You've written in a blog post that you've worked a lot on the postseason stuff. What can we expect after the cup is won?
E.J. Hradek (3:20 PM)
Today on my blog, I broke the story than Danny Heatley of Ottawa is asking the Senators for a trade. I think that is one of many stories that we will be following in the coming weeks, with the draft where all the GMs will be together, and teams will be looking to restructure. Then we have the free agent period on day one. For a lot of hockey fans, there are a lot of different things taking place in the coming weeks.
J.B. (Dunmore, PA)
Follow up on my Fleury question. What do you see as his greatest weakness? I think he's a bit too aggressive in playing the puck but I'd like the opinion of an expert.
E.J. Hradek (3:21 PM)
I would agree, though I don't know if I'm an expert. Fleury sometimes chases the puck too far out of the crease area, and he takes himself outside of position. That is one area where he has to focus on getting better. Like most butterfly goalies, he goes to the ice a lot as a first reaction. It would be more to his advantage to be more of a hybrid goalie and to stay up more often.
Jonathan (Estero, FL)
LOVE the hockey chats. What's your opinion: If the Wings win, does Hossa bolt?
E.J. Hradek (3:24 PM)
There have been reports that they are close to doing something for him to to stay. In my conversations with Red Wing officials, they have denied that. I think it is a very tough call in both sides. If he is to stay in Detroit, he will have to take less dollars than he might get somewhere else. but there is no price on winning. They will have to be careful. I could see that one going either way. Hossa would love to stay in a perfect world, but it might be a bridge too far for both sides.
As a newer hockey fan, I think these playoffs have been great. But I don't understand why Crosby and Malkin are the faces of the league. Henrik Zetterberg seems to have everything the league would want - young, talented, good looks, a proven winner and a great playoff beard. Why isn't he the face of the league?
E.J. Hradek (3:28 PM)
He does have a great playoff beard! Crosby is a North American kid who's been on the radar since he was 14 or 15. That momentum builds though his junior career through his draft day. He also came into the league after the lockout, so here was this young star. Malkin being there creates a unique situation. Zetterberg on the other side was a low round pick who wasn't expected to be a factor. AS things have turned out, he has become an unbelievable player, one of the best all-around players in the league.
E.J. Hradek (3:28 PM)
Get ready for a great Game 6 (hopefully) tonight...maybe we'll see the cup, and if not, you know what we'll see Friday night.
Buzzmaster (3:35 PM)
Thanks for your questions, everybody!