Chat with EJ Hradek
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, 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 Friday at 4 p.m. ET!
Buzzmaster (4:01 PM)
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Buzzmaster (4:13 PM)
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Buzzmaster (4:25 PM)
EJ is here!
Hey EJ,Now that all the Game 1's have set the stage, which first round series do you think will be the most intensely fought? Bruins and Sabres flirted with the boiling point a few times last night, already.
EJ Hradek (4:26 PM)
I think a lot of these series have chances to be really good. I don't think there's one over another. The LA-Vancouver series looked like it had an edge to it from the get-go. I think all of these series have started off with a lot of energy. I'll be real interested to see Games 2 and 3. We've had good starts, so I will be interested to see how it goes.
John M (Phoenix)
Everyone seems to think the Red Wings are prohibitive favorites against the Coyotes. The shot chart from Game 1 shows a lot of perimeter play from Detroit. Isn't it time to give the Coyotes some credit?
EJ Hradek (4:28 PM)
I can't speak for anyone else, but I feel like I've given them a lot of credit. If you've watched them play, they have good goaltending. They're well coached and they're on the same page. That's important. Scott Niedermayer reminded me of the fact that the teams that have had the single-mindedness in approach and can stay focused on the task at hands, that's the key to winning. From what he's seen this year from playing against them, that's what he's seen. I'm really excited about Game 2 tonight in the desert. I think it will be a lot of fun to watch.
The Sabres underrated offense (10th in goals for) and Ryan Miller has to be a combination that can win the East. Give me one reason the Sabres can't win the East if they keep series short give Miller long rests between series.
EJ Hradek (4:30 PM)
They need to make sure they don't tax him game to game. You could play 4 games and work him hard, and play 6 and not have him work that hard. It reminds us that the competitive level of these teams are high. It comes down to matchups, good fortune, stick-to-it. The Sabres have the first ingredient of Ryan Miller. They can scratch together enough goals. Vanek seems to have picked up some fire the last couple of games. Based on what I've seen these last couple of games, we might be looking at as wide open a year as I've seen in quite a long time.
Cedric Elijah (Montreal )
Did you think it was the right move by Bruce Boudreau to call out Ovie after last night's loss?
EJ Hradek (4:31 PM)
I think Bruce has a real good handle on his team. I think he has a good handle on all of his players, including Ovechkin. When he does that, I think Ovechkin knows where he's coming from. Bruce's record in the NHL has been impressive. He's had a good relationship with those guys. I don't have any issue with that.
Dave (Plattsburgh, NY)
Could the Pens be where they are without Crosby? Could Washington be where they are without Ovi? Your MVP and why
EJ Hradek (4:34 PM)
My MVP would probably be neither this year. My two MVPs this year are Henrik Sedin and Bryzgalov. These are different rosters, different teams. They bring different things to the table. They serve different functions on the team. Washington has a really skilled group of players there. Does that mean that the Caps without Ovie for a long period of time would be OK? I don't know. Pittsburgh is in a unique circumstance in that they have three centers there in Malkin and Staal with Crosby. These guys are really valuable to their franchises and if you want to win a championship, I don't think you can win one with either of those guys on the sidelines.
Anthony (San Franciso )
I'm pressed for time tonight because of family commitments so I need your help. Which of the five games tonight should I try and watch?
EJ Hradek (4:36 PM)
Wow....That's a great question. The natural bias is always there for fans. We've seen 7 Game 1s so far, so if you want to see how the Nashville-Chicago series is going to play out, maybe you watch that one. If you want to see the young upstart Avalanche team or if Phoenix can continue its play. The defending champs are down 1-0 at home. You have a lot of choices. If you're really in that circumstance, I think those are the things you need to think about. For me, if it was just myself and they're all going on at the same time, I would want to watch the Detroit-Phoenix game.
Ryan (Portland, OR)
EJ, is it a stretch to call tonight's game a "must win" for San Jose?
EJ Hradek (4:37 PM)
No. I don't think it's a stretch. It may not be. Colorado is a young group. Even if they go up 2-0, they could get excited, go home and lose control. I think San Jose needs a good game, make a statement from the outset. For a lot of reasons, I don't think it's a stretch. But it's a very important game for San Jose to make a statement.
Its only one game in and I can say these playoffs are more exciting and energetic than the last few years.
EJ Hradek (4:39 PM)
What we're seeing now, we don't remember the things that were on the first few games last year. It's early on. If anything else, I will say this, the teams have shown more parity. We've seen the salary cap really have an impact. Now you have to make some hard choices. It's a tighter group of teams. Not as much separates the teams.
EJ. I know hockey is the hardest sport to referee... but why is the officiating SOOO bad in the NHL (see high-stick on Lidstrom w/o penalty)? They NEVER admit when their wrong and, unlike football where they huddle up to make sure they get the call RIGHT, NHL officials have this pact that they will NEVER overrule their partner even if it means it screws a team.
EJ Hradek (4:42 PM)
First of all, wrong, wrong, wrong. I've seen the officials huddle up and advise one another if they have a clear view of things. In the NFL, there is a big group of referees. You have to see something pretty clearly to make a case to overrule it. It's easy for us on a replay or slow motion replay to see it. When you're ice level and sometimes there are things you just don't see or think you see, but it doesn't happen. Sometimes, I wish the NHL would be quicker to admit there was a mistake in the game. Even though it doesn't make you feel better as a fan, but it at least shows they made a mistake. But as you admit, it is a hard game to officiate. I got over this a long time ago, maybe because I don't live it like a fan, I'm covering these things. Sometimes in hockey adversity takes the form of a bad call. I try to look at it as when things don't go your way, you have to get over it. For the most part, I think the refs do a good job and the coaches and players are wise to not focus on that and really focus attention on the play at hand.
Chad (Denver, CO)
If the Avs hold tough the first five minutes of the game tonight, what shot do you give them of taking game two in San Jose?
EJ Hradek (4:44 PM)
I thought the Avs played well in Game 1. The key will be Anderson. He has to play well in goal and make them feel like he will give them a chance to win the game. He made some big stops and kept his team feeling confident and made the Sharks scratch their heads. If the Avs can continue to feel confident in their goaltending, they have a fast team that wants to skate, then you really feel comfortable about playing that kind of game. I think the Avs depend on Anderson. If he's strong, it will be another close game.
EJ iam a huge Red wing fan and I think people are panicing way to early in the series your thoughts ?
EJ Hradek (4:46 PM)
I don't think it's any panic. When you lose a road game to start the playoffs, it's not the end of the world. Someone once said that the playoffs don't start until you win on the road or lose at home. Bryzgalov played well for Phoenix. As the game went along, their confidence group. It will be for Mike Babcock to counter what Phoenix is trying to do. Tighten up the penalty kill.
Do the Kings have any chance of winning the series now that they lost a golden opportunity to steal a game in Vancouver?
EJ Hradek (4:48 PM)
It's the same circumstance as the other ones. You lose a game on the road and you were 6-8 inches from winning the game. The good news is that Quick had a good game in goal. The Kings have a lot to build on in that game. That series started right off the first face off. There's a little bit of the natural hate there. I'm looking to see how that continues. I think the Kings are a long way from being finished here.
Brian Sullivan (Boston)
Ottawa has made do without would-be starters all year ... Leclaire, Spezza, Alfie, Kovy, Volchenkov, and so forth. Will they be able to continue, though, without Michalek now, too?
EJ Hradek (4:50 PM)
You don't want to start losing guys. In the playoffs, you want to stay as healthy as you can. Michalek is a good offensive player. He's a top 6 forward. But the reality is that he's out. He's not a guy that cuts to the core of your group. When you core elements, they're harder to replace. But that's a loss, there's no question.
About to leave for the Flyers / Devils game...who wins tonight and why?
EJ Hradek (4:52 PM)
I have got to think that New Jersey is going to look at the game film and they're going to try to do things a little differently tonight. Try to attack the goal. Same thing for the Flyers. They only got 14 shots on goal. Philly has won 6 of 7 meetings this year. From a psychological standpoint, they have to be feeling confident. I think New Jersey wants to try and do a better job against Philadelphia. Philly would love nothing more than to put a dagger into the Devils and put them down 0-2.
Can Nashville win a game that Chicago scores 3 goals?
EJ Hradek (4:54 PM)
They better. Chicago scores. I looked at their 6 previous meetings and they haven't played in 2010, so they haven't played in a while. In those six games, Nashville scored 12 goals. They need to get more goals. They're going to need to get contributions from more people. That will be the key. They need to find those goals in the series. As good as their goaltending can be, I think Chicago will score some goals. They'll have to try to get Niemi out of rhythm in Chicago's net. That will be crucial for the series, whether Nashville can get in Niemi's head.
EJ Hradek (4:55 PM)
We have five games tonight. Whichever you pick, it will be a good one. Have a good weekend.