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 (3:01 PM)
We're getting EJ!
Laviolette's been nothing short of brilliant the way he's coached the Flyers. Do you see him making any changes in the Finals?
EJ Hradek (3:05 PM)
I talked to Peter last night after the win and he said that he and his staff will look at the tape on the Blackhawks and they'll determine how they want to approach things. Other than what kind of matchups you're looking for, I don't know what changes he makes. His lineups are pretty healthy. The only thing I can see is, unless he feels that he would like the element of an agitator on the team, he might want that. Or he might want to wait and see if he wants to make a move like that. He'll look at the tape and see what matchups he likes. He doesn't chase matchups. I suspect there won't be any major changes to the group going forward.
Brad (Philadelphia, pa)
Your thought on JVR, James Van Riemsdyck. Flyers fans mourn the fact they didn't get Patrick Kane. Will JVR ever come close to performing like Kane down the road?
EJ Hradek (3:06 PM)
I think that James Van Riemsdyck is growing as a player every day. He's had some impact in this playoff run. He's working well on his line. He has good size. I think he's getting stronger. There are a lot of things to like. Patrick Kane is a different player. He's a dynamic player. Kane brings a lot of good things, fun things to the table. But Van Riemsdyck is a good player. He can help the team win and that's the key.
Will the Hawks 3rd and 4th line depth be the key to this series? If not, what in your mind will be?
EJ Hradek (3:10 PM)
I don't know if that will be the key, but I think the Flyers have some depth too. There will be two things - the Flyers ability to stay with the Hawks or slow them down. The Hawks like to move the puck with their speed. The Flyers' ability to stay with them or to contain them will be key. The other key is a simple one, but true - the goaltending. Leighton was a former Blackhawk draft pick against Niemi who is a guy in his first year. They'll be called upon to make saves. Both guys were able to do it in the conference finals. The guy with the better job here, his team will have a better chance to win the series.
Tim (Skokie, IL)
Does Leighton have any chance of winning this series by himself? I'm a hawks fan, and i think he's below average at best.
EJ Hradek (3:12 PM)
I don't think any goalie is going to win any series by himself. Even in years when goalies have stood on his head, even J.S. Giguere when he has his run, Patrick Roy, Brodeur, they can be difference makers, but someone has to score goals, someone has to clear pucks. So, if you ask me if he can win it by himself, no he can't. Philadelphia have a good group of defensemen. If they're doing a good job of holding the Blackhawks down...Is Chicago a favorite in this series? I would say yes, but I don't think as big of a favorite as some may suggest.
Yasmina (San Jose)
What do you think will happen with the cap issues for the Hawks once the season is over?
EJ Hradek (3:16 PM)
Well, they definitely have some gripping issues to look at. I think it has to start with what they're going to do with their goaltender and Huet. He has a couple of years left on his contract. His cap hit is over $5 million. He's been supplanted as the starter. I don't think anyone will take him. They're not in the position, capwise, to buy him out. I think they'll have to make the tough decision to send him to the minors where they will still have to pay him, but his salary won't count against their payroll. They'll have to ante up for Antti Niemi. His contract will probably be in the neighborhood of $3 million. After that, they'll have to make some tough decisions about guys they have under contract to try and trade them. They have a lot of issues they'll have to deal with. My guess is a lot of the guys in the league would say they'd trade places with them.
Can Pronger contain Towes and Kane like he did for Canada?
EJ Hradek (3:18 PM)
Pronger is a hall of fame defenseman. He's at his best in the big games. I've heard that from a number of coaches who have had him over the years. I'm expecting that Pronger will be just fine in whatever role he's assigned. Can he contain that line? That has to be a team effort. He'll have to get good support from the forwards that Laviolette chooses to have on the ice at that time. Stopping a group like that, with the way they're playing, that will be on the five-man unit. But it's a big benefit to have Pronger out there.
So what's the verdict... have the Olympics impacted who ultimately made the Stanley Cup Finals? I say, no.
EJ Hradek (3:20 PM)
I would tend to agree with you. There are some people who have said that they think it has. In some cases, with older guys or guys who got dinged up and it impacted the way they performed. But look at it, Philadelphia had some guys on Team Canada who played until the end. Chicago had some guys on Team Canada or other teams that played deep. I don't think there was a huge impact. Pittsburgh and Detroit played in the finals the last two years and I think they were impacted by that more than they were by the Olympics. And they just ran into some teams that were ripe and ready to beat them.
Any news on who's going number 1, seguin or hall?
EJ Hradek (3:22 PM)
Yeah, in fact I talked to a couple of amateur scouting directors yesterday. What they told me was that Hall, because of his performance in the Memorial Cup, he had the opportunity to play on a big stage and have another big tournament, that will be fresher on peoples' minds and have an impact on where he goes. That said, it seems pretty certain that they will be the top guys, just a matter of which one goes first. Right now, they're still keeping it close to the vest.
I love the Yzerman signing for Lightning franchise, as I think he's one of the best hockey minds, but is the Lightning the right first NHL GM Job for Stevie Y?
EJ Hradek (3:25 PM)
There are only 30 jobs and for Steve, it's really 29, because he's in Detroit and they're committed to their GM. If he wanted to be a manager, he was going to have to step out and take one of those other positions. He's a very thoughtful guy. Tampa Bay, for a lot of reasons, is good for him. He has a new owner who will support him financially. He has some core players, particularly young players, to build around. That's all positive. From a family standpoint, that was an issue for him. He's been in Detroit since he was 18. He has a few daughters and they are involved in things like horseback riding and other things that are available in Florida. In an ideal world would you expect him to become the manager of the Red Wings? Maybe. But I think this is a good opportunity for Steve. He has the things in place to be successful.
Hey EJ. The Bruins are pretty solid with play-making Centers, but are desperate for goal-scoring Wings. To avoid the risk of Hall not being available at #2, I'd rather see the Bruins overpay in a trade (2 first, 2 second rd picks this year, first rd in next year's draft) with Edmonton than miss out on Hall. What do you think?
EJ Hradek (3:27 PM)
It really depends on how Boston feels for these guys. Do they have a strong feeling about one of them? We'll only know down the road how they end up developing. If the team does feel that strongly, they need to make it happen one way or the other. I'm sure they would make those calls if they wanted him that badly.
How many points do you expect Toews to end up with this postseason and when do you see his point streak ending?
EJ Hradek (3:30 PM)
He could continue to score points in every game of the playoffs. He has terrific linemates who can help him score. That will be the goal of the Philadelphia defense. Coming into the series, I think the Flyers, with the centers they have, they'll give Chicago a hard time in sustaining offense. If Leighton doesn't play well, they get some cheapies. I think it will be a challenge for Chicago. Philly is committed defensively.
EJ Hradek (3:30 PM)
It's been a great playoffs so far. I am really excited about the finals. We have two really terrific teams. Big cities. Big markets. Enjoy it. When we get together next week, we can talk about Games 1 and 2.
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