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 4 p.m. ET!
Buzzmaster (4:02 PM)
E.J. should be joining us momentarily. Keep your questions coming!
E.J. Hradek (4:04 PM)
Hello! We're in the Finals! Ready for your questions!
Hey EJ. I can see this 3rd game being very heated with lots of penalties seeing as though Philly will be desperate
E.J. Hradek (4:05 PM)
I think Game 2 got pretty headed so I expect Game 3 to be as well. Absolutely. You have two really competitive teams playing for the Stanley Cup. One of those teams is at home and down in the series so they are going to come with a ferocious intent in Game 3. Chicago is not the type of team to shy away. It should be a hell of a battle.
Brian (S. Jersey)
EJ -- is it encouraging or disheartening to the flyers that they could've won (maybe outplayed the hawks) both games and came up with nothing?
E.J. Hradek (4:06 PM)
Whatever it is, they have to try and use it as a positive and draw positive energy from it. A bounce here or a bounce there, things could be different. They have to use that as a positive. They have turned things around before. They just can't quit, make the adjustments they need to make, and play hard.
Scott (London, On)
Great Finals so far! If Toews continues to go pointless (highly unlikely) does Niemi take the Conn Smythe?
E.J. Hradek (4:08 PM)
I was thinking about that this morning. I would say Niemi's status as a candidate certainly went up after Game 2. He is right in the mix for it for sure. He has had moments in each series and right now if he's not the leader he is right there.
At this point it looks like the Hawks can beat the Flyers, whether playing a tight or loose style. Does Philly open it up again in game 3?
E.J. Hradek (4:09 PM)
I think Philly wants to get in and forecheck and be physical when they can. They want to get pucks in and around the net and create some chaos. They were able to do that in Game 1 but they didn't get great goaltending. They want to be smart but the Flyers are an aggressive team. They have to play their game as best they can. At home, they will try to establish a strong forecheck and get the Blackhawks on their heels.
Is the Pens-Caps winter classic a good idea?
E.J. Hradek (4:11 PM)
I think it's a great idea. It's going into its fourth year and it's already a marquee event on the calendar. I think it's a no-brainer really. I'm surprised Washington wasn't a part of it this year. I'm looking forward to it. It's always great to have a major hockey event played at the time of year when people are thinking about hockey. As wonderful as the playoffs have been, the weather gets warmer and it's not a natural time for hockey. It's great for the game to have a special event atmosphere that time of year.
Rick (North America)
We know hockey players are the toughest but what sport has the next toughest players?
E.J. Hradek (4:13 PM)
I think it's pretty hard to put a knock on what goes on in the NFL. They don't play a long schedule but when you watch the collisions and the contact on each and every player with very large people involved, I have a hard time putting any sport above them in terms of toughness.
Big Chief (Blackhawk)
Fill in the blanks: this core group of Blackhawks (Toews, Kane, Keith, etc). will win ___ Stanley Cups together.
E.J. Hradek (4:14 PM)
Good question. It's tough to predict with the salary cap. The Hawks are going to look a little different next year. First things first they have to win this one. But I like their leadership a lot. Niemi is a keeper for sure and better than anyone thought. I would just say this ... I suspect barring too many unexpected changes, will be competing for the cup for the next 10 years.
EJ, Eager and Pronger both received ten-minute misconducts after the final whistle of Game 2. Does this have any affect on Game 3? Is it something the league reviews and then makes a judgment on? If it has no affect on the series, why give the penalties?
E.J. Hradek (4:16 PM)
I don't want to speak out of school on this ... I should really speak to the NHL first ... but I think when there is a misconduct at the end of the game, there is a possiblity for supplemental fines and such. In some cases it may just go away because it happened after play stopped. I would really have to call the operations people to find out for sure. Ask me again next week and I'll have a better answer for you.
Hawk fan here, who didnt follow team or NHL for a long time. The thing I've noticed that drives me nuts is this...Why do so many teams use left handed shot forwards on right wing, and right handed shot forwards on left wing?? Seems every time they get the puck in position to shoot it, they have to adjust their body to get a forehanded shot off, and by the time they do that, the defense/goalie has recovered their position. Seems stupid to me. Can you explain this?
E.J. Hradek (4:18 PM)
Well, there are guys that grew up playing that way and they like coming to the middle with the puck on their forehand. I just think these guys are so talented that it doesn't really hurt them that much. They are on that side because they feel they can be a successful player. I don't make a big deal out of it.
Luke E. (Chicago, IL)
What's up EJ - I feel like there has been a lot of negative talk surrounding Hossa, up until his goal last night. Shouldn't he be getting some credit due to his current +/- of 11? The highest in the playoffs right now...
E.J. Hradek (4:19 PM)
Hossa is a terrific two-way player. He gets paid what superstar players get paid. Last night he had a goal and in Game 1 he was a key player. He's been in a tough spot in a way having been on the losing side two straight Finals. I just think he's a very good player and this might be a year where he gets over that hump and over whatever jitters or pschological pressure he has put himself under. For the most part he has looked good during the playoffs.
EJ, does the Flyers' barrage in last night's third period give them the momentum heading into Gm 3, even though they're down 2-0?
E.J. Hradek (4:20 PM)
I don't think that will make any difference. I get the sense that the momentum doesn't really carry over.
David B (Chicago, IL)
EJ, if the Hawks win tomorrow, do you see this series making it back to Chicago?
E.J. Hradek (4:22 PM)
If the Hawks win Game 3, it puts the Flyers in a place they've been before and don't want to go again. I think Philly is a very prideful bunch and if they go down 3-0, they already know how to get out of that. I would wait to see what happens in Game 3. Don't get ahead of yourself.
EJ... Looking at the failure for the penguins to repeat it this year, what adjustments do you see made? What players interest you the most that you would personally like to see on the penguins roster next year? Volchenkov? Verstegg?
E.J. Hradek (4:23 PM)
Their biggest thing is signing Gonchar to a new contract. He changes the defense, power play, etc. A huge piece. I don't know what his intentions are but I think that is the biggest issue facing them going into July 1. If they can just add a few helpful wingers that would be a huge benefit.
Which Eastern Conference team has the most to prove next year?
E.J. Hradek (4:24 PM)
Washington Capitals. For obvious reasons. They have a world of talent and they have to prove they can get the job done when the games become even more competitive.
brian (center city)
Did you notice the flyers were more to the side of Niemi last night rather than in front of him like in game 1? Any idea what they did that? I mean the only goal they scored was because Hartnell was standing right in front of Niemi -- your thoughts are appreciated.
E.J. Hradek (4:25 PM)
I didn't notice it. If it was on purpose, it wasn't a good idea obviously. With a hot goaltender, you just have to have traffic in front of him. Guys on both posts to react to rebounds.
Everyone's making a big deal out of the Tazer line not producing goals but it seems to me that Philly seems content on dropping all five skaters against the three playmakers, only opening up the d-line for shots. thoughts?
E.J. Hradek (4:28 PM)
You're in a 7 game series so always some concern about a line struggling but it's only 2 games so it's a small sample. Somebody in that group is doing whatever they have to do keep things positive. You can't keep those guys down for long periods.Thanks for all the questions! I'm really looking forward to Game 3 and expect a great game.