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 3:30 p.m. ET!
Buzzmaster (3:32 PM)
We've got EJ!
Did you catch the Wings/Pens last night? Third period and overtime felt like I was back watching the Cup Finals in 08 and 09... high intensity!
EJ Hradek (3:34 PM)
Yeah! I did and I agree whole heartedly. It was really fun. It was one of those games that you wish would just continue. Just imagine how good that game was and how many star players weren't playing for both teams. I never have trouble watching the Penguins and Red Wings play. That was a fun game to watch last night.
Based off of their recent struggles, do you foresee yet another disappointing year for Bruin's fans?
EJ Hradek (3:36 PM)
We have some time. We have about 10 games for teams to get themselves back on the right track. They haven't played well in their last 7. Their defensive play has suffered. Sine the all-star break, Tim Thomas has looked more human than this unbeatable goalie. I think the Bruins have some time to right the ship. They have to get their confidence back and get their game back together. In terms of disappointment, it will most likely depend on how they match up in the first round.
Who do you have winning tonight EJ...Wash/Philly?
EJ Hradek (3:39 PM)
When I did my Insider blog for ESPN.com, I pick the games on Tuesday. I picked the Flyers for tonight, but that shouldn't mean anything to anyone, other than me. The Capitals are playing a little short-handed without Arnott or Ovechkin, two guys important to their playoff run. We're not seeing both sides quite at full strength. Washington has been a team that has blinded it out this year in a lot of ways it will be another opportunity to show some things. A chance on the road to grind out a win. Philly has an interesting week coming up and they probably want to make a statement that they're a big bad team from the East. I think there's obviously some teams that both want to accomplish.
Dan (Buffalo, NY)
Will the Sabres hold off the Canes for the 8 spot and if so, think they can make the first round series interesting?
EJ Hradek (3:41 PM)
Right now, they're up 3 points. If I had to say right now, I think they can and will. But things happen like the other day when they gave away a point to Nashville in losing in OT. You can't do that down the stretch. I haven't seen enough out of Carolina or the teams chasing for the 8th spot to say that Buffalo has to be overwhelming in the final 10. If they get in, because they have a good goalie in Ryan Miller and are well coached, they can give someone trouble. I don't think there's a lot of difference between some of these teams.
Who does a Sidney Crosby-less Penguins squad need to draw in the first round of the playoffs to advance to the second round? Don't see them getting past Philly, Washington or Boston and possibly not Montreal. The Rangers have given them trouble this year, too.
EJ Hradek (3:43 PM)
Let's face it, if Crosby's not in the lineup, it's going to be hard for the Penguins, no matter who they play. The Penguins are well coached. They have a guy in goal who has already won a Cup. They have a good group of defensemen and a cast of forwards and hard working guys. They'll be competitive, but they're not a first seed, so they're already looking at a 4-5 matchup or 3-6. They'll have their hands full whether Crosby comes back or not. We'll have to wait and see over the next couple of weeks, because if Crosby's healthy, he can make a difference.
Craig (Mission Viejo, CA)
Ducks - Playoffs - yes or no? Keep Emery next year?
EJ Hradek (3:45 PM)
Ducks playoffs? Yes. I love their high-end players. That's why I say yes. Getzlaf, etc. They have a defense that's turned out to be better than I anticipated at the beginning of the year. And their goaltending is good enough in the absence of Hiller. There might be other suitors interested in Ray Emery. It also depends on Hiller's health. If it's an ongoing issue, they may want to keep Emery. He's a good story, in battling back. Anaheim has a big game coming up against Dallas, so I'll be interested in seeing if he gets a start. I think he might.
I saw Montreal defeat Minny on Sunday and thought that the play of P.K. Subban and James Wisniewski was rounding in to form nicely as the playoffs approach? Can P.K. finally be relied upon in the playoffs and will Wisniewski step up and take a leadership role?
EJ Hradek (3:46 PM)
Finally? This is only his second year and is technically a rookie. He's a Calder Trophy candidate this year. His play has improved this season. He's a fun guy to watch because he's a dynamic player. He's young. So will he be prone to mistakes? Probably, but veterans are prone to mistakes in this game. I suspect that he'll be a important part of them pushing forward in the playoffs.
Any 6 - 8 seed in particular a division winner does NOT want to face in the first round?
EJ Hradek (3:48 PM)
I don't think anybody wants to play the Rangers in the East. They play hard. They have a really good goalie. They're well coached by a guy who's won a Cup in his career. You're going to pay a price for playing the Rangers. They're a team that can give someone trouble. In the West, take your pick. A team that's sitting third right now could end up the sixth seed. But I'll say this, because they're the defending champions and have some good players, the Blackhawks are not a team that you want to draw in the first round.
How do you think the Penguins handled themselves in responding to the news about Matt Cooke's suspension?
EJ Hradek (3:50 PM)
I think they've handled themselves well. I think anyone in the hockey community knows that's the kind of play that the league is trying to get rid of. And they're dealing with repeat offenders. And besides that, Cooke has been involved with plays that haven't resulted in punishment. In anything you do, leadership comes from the top and I thought Ray Shero and the ownership have been trying to be leaders in trying to get this kind of play out of the game. They showed support for the league in their statement.
Someone asked this in Burnside's chat, wonder your thoughts. When Crosby returns will refs be calling penalties any time he gets hit? Hockey's a rough sport, Crosby will be checked like any other player! Cleanly, but he will be hit.
EJ Hradek (3:54 PM)
People always say that it should be the same rules for anybody. But anyone that's been living on this planet a while knows that there are different rules for different people. I'm not saying consciously that they will be keeping an eye on him, but the game happens fast. But a guy like that that's been out of the game that long, because of who he is, they'll be paying attention to what's going around him when he comes back. And with the way Sidney is, he's smart enough to work the officials, so that's something they'll have to look out for.
Regarding Tim Thomas....any correlation to Julien insisting on playing rask more and the drop in Thomas' numbers?
EJ Hradek (3:55 PM)
To be honest, Tim Thomas, I think, is probably worn out and maybe dealing with a nagging injury issue. Boston is using Rask a little more now. I think it could be a combination of those things. I don't think it's a situation of them playing him less and then him playing poorly. He's in his mid-30's, so I think it's an issue of him being worn down and maybe a nagging injury. He was so good through the all-star break, it would be hard to continue at that pace.
Here's your stat of the day EJ: In 14 games without Ovechkin Caps have scored 4 goals a game, including a 8-2 win in Philly.
EJ Hradek (3:57 PM)
Well, they should just get rid of him. Obviously they don't need him....j/k. But that's interesting. Those numbers come from last year too. The Capitals had some talented guys on that team and were producing more offense last year than this year. But if you're a Caps fans, you have to know that you have some guys that can score and put some numbers up. We'll see how it goes tonight. I have a feeling they're not going to get 8 goals tonight.
Maple Leafs? Playoffs?
EJ Hradek (3:57 PM)
EJ Hradek (3:58 PM)
The Maple Leafs have to start the season better. I think they're only one of a couple of teams to not make the playoffs once the last few years. I'll say this, for the first time in a couple of years, they're going in the right direction. They have a chance to build on it. The just need to start better. I see them moving forward a little bit. No matter what happens down the stretch this year, they really have to find a way to get off to a better start. With this league being as competitive as it is, you just can't expect to come back and get into the playoffs.
EJ Hradek (3:59 PM)
Follow me on Twitter: @EJHradek_ESPN. If you have any other questions, you can always shoot me on that. We have a lot of good hockey coming up this week!