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!
Buzzmaster (3:03 PM)
We've got EJ!
Buzzmaster (3:03 PM)
Let's get going!
EJ, do you think that the Sabres can keep winning?! What are your thoughts on our massive rookie Myers?
EJ Hradek (3:05 PM)
Why not? I think the Sabres have a pretty good group there. Their goalie is playing well to start the season. I think the Sabres have a pretty light schedule so far. As for Myers, he has been a pretty good player for them this season. He's amongst their top players in +/-. The other night he ended up winning the shootout for them. It shouldn't be a surprise when a first round pick comes in and plays so well. It's a great boost when you have these guys come in and fill roles for the team.
Hi EJ. Habs are 6-5 but 5 wins in OT or SO. I think they are frauds who will crash to the bottom of the standings once luck evens out. Am I right?
EJ Hradek (3:07 PM)
I don't know. I think the Canadians, first things first, they have lost their top defenseman in Markov who will be out until February. I think if you're the Canadians, you're taking any wins you can get and are thrilled about it. Those kinds of guys are hard to find and impossible to replace. I'm interested to see how far they can go with Halak in goal. They've won all four with him in goal. They have some tough games this week. I think Montreal is in a group of 8-9 teams in the East that will be battling for the last 3-4 playoff spots. Losing a key player is really a big blow for a team like that. They're going to need their goaltender to stay hot on a night to night basis.
Where do the Thrashers stand with out Kovalchuk until Thanksgiving? Can they stay afloat this season, and where does this put them in terms of re-signing him?
EJ Hradek (3:09 PM)
This is another guy. You lose one of the top players in the league and it will have an impact. You have to hope with Atlanta is that everyone senses the urgency and steps up to fill the void with the play of the group. I think they can stay afloat. They're going to need consistent goaltending. Other guys will need to produce more offense.
Gaborik is on fire...please, please, please tell me his injury is not serious.
EJ Hradek (3:10 PM)
It's hard to know how serious or not serious any injury is. Apparently in the win over Phoenix on Monday night he was uncomfortable in the last few minutes. He did not practice with the team. I think they'll take it easy with him. One thing is for sure, this guy is a terrific offensive player and has been a real positive addition to the team. They have to hope he's OK and is ready to go on Thursday against the Islanders.
What in the world has happened to Steve Mason? Cause for concern, or just going through a cold streak?
EJ Hradek (3:12 PM)
At the end of the day a goalie can't win the game by himself. Mason came in last year as a rookie goalie and was tremendous. And the team played well in front of him. He hasn't been as good through the first part of the season, but they haven't played as tight in front of him. There is always a worry that maybe will he be able to do it year after year after year? The sophomore slump? I think he's the real thing and he'll get better as we get into the second month and the Blue Jackets will get better in the end. I think they'll be right there in the playoff hunt. They will qualify for the second straight year, but I guess there's always reason for concern when you see things aren't going as smooth as you'd like them to.
Craig G. (Fairfield, California)
Hey EJ, I love your insight and the Melrose Line podcast is my favorite! WHo do you like in the Flyers-Caps matchup tonight?
EJ Hradek (3:13 PM)
It will be a good one. I saw them the first time they played in Philly. I'll go with the home team. I thought the first game was close, could have gone either way. Washington on home ice probably will win tonight. These are two teams that could compete for the Stanley Cup. If you're asking me to pick, I'll pick the Caps tonight.
Hi EJ, are the Redwings finally paying the price for being so good for so long? Did the long term contracts do them in?
EJ Hradek (3:15 PM)
I don't know if anything has done them in. They're off to a slow start this year. We're in the fifth year of the post lockout era and I think that's keeping teams on level fields. But at some point there's only so much you can do under the salary cap and you can only lose so many of the players they've lost without feeling the effects. The Red Wings, you look at them this year, clearly, they're not the same team, particularly offensively that they've been in past years.
Alon (Brooklyn, NY)
What's up with Lundquist? He looks a little off his game lately?
EJ Hradek (3:17 PM)
I guess when he doesn't shut someone out or allow just one goal, it looks like he's off his game. The Rangers play a real high risk-reward offensive game and that gives teams more good scoring chances over time. That will require Lundqvist to come up with the big saves. I would take my chances with him in goal. But really, at the end of the day, like most teams, the Rangers will live and die by how their goalies play.
Heard rumors Martin St. Louis might be on the block. What do you know?
EJ Hradek (3:18 PM)
There has been talk about certain Tampa players because of the cap situation and other financial matters. I guess I would never rule anything out when you are talking about a team trying to figure out a financial issue. But I don't see any urgency for the team to trade St. Louis who has been such a big part of that franchise.
Ryan (Newport Beach)
Why arent the Ducks looking to obtain a veteran d-man? Our D is terrible.
EJ Hradek (3:20 PM)
Yeah, I would agree. The defense in Anaheim hasn't been very good. They've been a real disappointment for me. I thought they would be a better team this year and I thought they'd have things turned around. But this is a different team, especially among their defensemen. Bob Murray will try to change the defense of this team. That's part of the problem right now is the defense hasn't clicked, they haven't gotten the puck out of their zone, so they've given up a lot of chances. I'll be keeping an eye on them as they move forward.
Chris K (Pearl River, NY)
Do you think the if the Islanders can start holding on to some leads in the 3rd period they could make a push for the playoffs
EJ Hradek (3:22 PM)
I don't see the Islanders as a playoff team this year. I'm sure they're happy to have leads in games, when they get them. That will be the challenge for them, to pull out games, as their younger players develop into full time NHL guys. I just don't see the Islanders a playoff team in the East. They're clearly rebuildilng. I like some of their younger guys that they're trying to play an aggressive game. I think the key is for their younger guys to progress and bigger picture, they have to be happy with that. It's too early to consider them as a team that willl contend seriously for a title.
David Ferry (New Orleans)
Do you trust Emery in the long haul EJ? Seems to me the Flyers are looking like they usually do no matter who is in net
EJ Hradek (3:24 PM)
At this point, I still have to see it. Even in a year when the Senators went to the Finals, I wasn't overly impressed with his goaltending. For me, it was more of a case of them being substantially better than their opponents in that postseason. Ray is in a good situation in Philadelphia. It will be a good opportunity for him in his career and show just how good of a goaltender he is. But I have to be convinced he's better than his play in the past.
Caps powerplay hasn't gotten going so far and has given up a lot of chances the other way. Is there too much offense out there with Ovi playing the point? Not like Green is thinking D at all.
EJ Hradek (3:25 PM)
The thing I'd say about the Caps PP is sometimes they get too cute. They have so many talented guys that they can do things other teams can't. Because they're so good with the puck, they might over pass it at time. It's a great group of players they put out there in that situation and no opponent wants to put the Caps on the power play.
Bruins/Flyers Winter Classic: Will we see an outdoor fight this year?
EJ Hradek (3:26 PM)
With those two teams, I think you have a better chance than in the other seasons. Will the odds improve? I would say absolutely.
Hey EJ, who do you think wins tonight between the surprising Avalanche and the home team Oilers?
EJ Hradek (3:27 PM)
That's a good one. A good question. The Oilers have had a little bit of a struggle in the last few games. I would go with the Avalanche. Craig Anderson in goal has been terrific. They have had a couple of days off. I'm not convinced about everythign about them so so, but they have another great chance to win tonight.
Johnny Utah (Los Angeles)
What to make of Kopitar's blazing start EJ? A sign that a very talented young player the last few years has finally arrived??
EJ Hradek (3:29 PM)
I think that he arrived pretty much when he got to the league. He's been a pretty good player with him the last few years. He's physically and mentally matured. He is playing with some good wingers. The addition of Ryan Smythe, he's a guy that occupies opponents. That takes away from the opponents ability to focus on Kopitar and gives him more room to roam. I'm not really surprised by this guy. He's a big, lanky center. He's progressed nicely since he came to the league. I guess what I'm saying is that I'm not surprised at all.
What do you make of the Hakws?
EJ Hradek (3:30 PM)
The worry for them is still goaltending. That's the worry. Is Cristobal Huet and Niemi gonig to be good enough in goal? The rest of that team is a pretty darn good team. If their goaltending is good enough, they'll have a chance to compete for the Cup this year.
EJ Hradek (3:31 PM)
Thanks for all the questions. I appreciate it. We'll do it again next week.