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)
EJ What is the deal with the sabres so far? We had 0 minutes of sustained pressure last night!
EJ Hradek (3:11 PM)
This is what we expected from Buffalo and Boston, especially Boston. They want to play a defensive minded game. When teams play that way, the Sabres have to work harder to create opportunities for themselves. Making their dump-ins smarter. Being more aggressive on their 1-on-1 battles. Smarter, more focused attack. You always have to make the goaltender uncomfortable, even if you take a penalty once in a while. It's just got to be a more focused game plan and execution of that game plan. This is the play that I expect in every series, games where they make it tough for you defensively.
Does a San Jose loss tonight mean its over for them?
EJ Hradek (3:12 PM)
I don't know if it's over, but it sure doesn't look good. You don't ever want to go down 3-1, no matter who you are. We're kind of getting to that must win territory for San Jose. If they can win tonight, it's real obvious, they get to regain the home ice advantage and even the series. If they lose, they'll have to read horrible things for two days. It's a pretty important game.
EJ Hradek (3:13 PM)
If you talk to the players in San Jose, they say every year that this year is different and it's a different team. And they'll get to prove whether or not that's true.
pat (new jersey)
how do you think the devils respond tonight
EJ Hradek (3:16 PM)
They have a great coach. They're a great organization. I expect the Devils will respond with a really strong effort. I think the third period in Game 3 was a poor performance. They let the Flyers take over the game and only some great saves by Brodeur that put the game into OT. They know the importance of the game. They need the puck more. They have to take fewer penalties. It seems since they've gotten Kovalchuk that at times they try to be too cute. They need to get back to a simpler game. This is where the Flyers have an edge. They matchup well with the Flyers forwards on the Devils defensemen. New Jersey's task is tougher, because you're playing against Pronger and those other good defenders.
Jason (Portland, OR)
EJ, as good as Phoenix is, could Detroit's problems stem from simply playing a LOT of hockey over the last 3 seasons? How much can deep playoff runs in year's past effect a team in the here and now?
EJ Hradek (3:18 PM)
That's a great point. I know talking to a couple of different GMs and players leading into the playoffs, they went out of their way to say both the Red Wings and Penguins if they made a deep run, they'd be impressed because of them being in the Cup finals the last two seasons. I don't want to take anything away from Phoenix. They had a great season and they are really playing their gameplan. Both teams finished the season well and playing well. When coaches and managers and players tell me that, it means there is a real stress from going deep. But if they're going to win the Cup, they're going to have to do that.
Can the Coyotes win without Doan in the lineup tonight? Who steps up and fills his role?
EJ Hradek (3:20 PM)
They were able to get the win without him the other day. The game was tied when he left the game due to injury. The answer's yes. In the short term, teams can win without certain players. But in the bigger picture for Phoenix, can they survive four rounds without him? That's a different story. But the next couple of nights, they can survive. They are a team by committee. They have a lot of players who know their role.
Tom (Lombard, IL)
EJ, Do you think its scary for the rest of the league to see that the Blackhawks are willing to play a slow tempo game and still win? What damage can be done by these young Hawks knowing they can run n gun or chip and chase? I find it very scary and interesting
EJ Hradek (3:22 PM)
The Hawks are good. They have a good team. They're well coached. They have some high end talent in that group. That's not the issue for me. The issue for me is two: 1) they're shorthanded on defense. They have two guys that are normally on their blueline not there. That changes their lineups. It's a concern now and will be until they get into the lineup. 2) goaltending. Niemi made a timely save in Game 2 and got the first playoff shutout for Chicago since 1996. He's going to have to make timely saves, especially against a team like Nashville that doesn't score a lot. You don't need to help them. This next game will be a good test for them.
Why did the Capitals come out of the playoff gate so slowly?
EJ Hradek (3:25 PM)
The Caps scored 100 more goals than anyone else this year. Maybe they just need to learn the hard way. Montreal has some good goaltenders. They have a coach that knows how to coach in the playoffs. If you make a dumb move in the zone, they have some guys who can finish. I don't know if it was a lack of respect or what, but they were very fortunate to get out of the first few games at 1-1. The way they play, it's a night-to-night proposition with them. When they try to show off their high level of skill too much, good teams will have an answer for that play. I don't know why it is that Washington didn't look like the team from the regular season, but they'll have to understand that sometimes it's better to play a north-south game and not try to make the cute plays.
If the Sharks get knocked out in the first round what does the future of that team hold?
EJ Hradek (3:27 PM)
Well, that's a great question, because I saw the look on Doug Wilson's face after they lost in that bizarre manner and that was not the look of happiness. They have a couple of key players that are going to be unrestricted free agents, Marleau and Nabokov. Their futures would be up in the air if they lost in the first round. And who knows, maybe ownership takes a good look at Doug Wilson. They're not happy with the way things have gone the last few years, obviously. I've got to think that there will be a lot of changes looming if they don't win the series.
Will either the Bruins or Flyers win their series to prevent the inevitable clash between the Caps and Pens for another round?
EJ Hradek (3:29 PM)
I picked the Flyers to pick to beat the Devils. They seemed to have a lot of success against them. If that were to happen, that would throw a monkey wrench into the 1-4 seeding. Buffalo and Boston is a toss up. That would create matchups that would open for the door for Pittsburgh and Washington to play in the conference finals. These things unfold as they unfold. I would love to see Crosby and Ovechkin meet again. If they meet in the next round, that's fine. If it's the conference finals, that's fine.
EJ Hradek (3:30 PM)
Five good games tonight. As T.O. would say, get your popcorn ready.
Buzzmaster (3:30 PM)
Thanks for chatting EJ!