Chat with Joe McDonald
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, ESPNBoston.com reporter Joe McDonald stops by to chat about the Stanley Cup finals.
McDonald, a native Rhode Islander, joined ESPNBoston.com as a Bruins and Red Sox reporter in February 2010. He has worked at the Providence Journal since 1992, covering the Red Sox, Bruins, Patriots, PawSox and Providence Bruins over the past nine years.
Send your questions now and join McDonald Monday at 3 p.m. ET!
Joe McDonald (3:00 PM)
Hello, hockey fans. It's a beautiful day in Boston as the Bruins and Blackhawks prepare for Game 3 of the Cup finals. Welcome to the chat. Ask away.
If Horton isn't 100% do the bruins still have a shot?
Joe McDonald (3:02 PM)
Cam, aren't you the president of the Bruins? Haha. Seriously, Horton hasn't been the same since his April 20 fight with Iginla and he's been a big part of the Bruins' top line. Plus, there are players on both sides that aren't 100 percent at this point of the season. But to answer your question: Yes, Bruins can win without Horton completely healthy
So far, I see this series being a lot like the 2011 Finals. They lost the first two games in Vancouver by one goal each, and this year they were able to win a game in two very even games in Chicago. But what we all noticed in 2011 is that the Bruins lost by one or two goals in Vancouver, and then would win by 3, 4, sometimes 7 goals at home. The first two games in Chicago were very close and even, just like the first two in Vancouver. Do you see the kinds of offensive explosions that we saw at home in the 2011 Finals against Vancouver?
Joe McDonald (3:05 PM)
Tyler, that's exactly what colleagues Scott Burnside, Pierre LeBrun and myself were talking about this morning. If the Bruins' top line can produce, and the third line continue to do what it did in Game 2, and Rask continues to play the way he has the entire postseason then yes the Bruins do have the ability to break out at home similar to 2011. But the Blackhawks, I believe, are a better team than the Canucks were in '11.
Hambone (Lewiston, Maine)
Do the Bruins brace themselves for their opponent's best shot - playing a bit of Rope-a-Dope - then pour it on when they feel they have the tactical advantage, or are their sometimes sluggish starts throughout the season a matter of a loss of focus that they eventually wake up from? Is it a matter of having superior conditioning and that manifesting itself later in games? Whatever it is, it seems that the difference between the team at the start of games and the end of games is like night and day at times. Go Bruins!!!
Joe McDonald (3:07 PM)
Hambone, funny you mention the rope-a-dope because that was the phrase I used to describe Boston's first period in Game 2. I don't actually believe that notion because that was the worst start the Bruins have had this postseason. If if weren't for Rask, Boston could have easily been down by four or five goals after the first period. With that said, the Bruins know how important a strong start will be moving forward and you can bet they'll come out flying in Game 3 on home ice.
Joe, I know that Jagr has slowed down but it seems to me when he is playing down low near the goal line he draws the opposition towards him. In the Pittsburg series he had a three on one and they still could not get the puck away from him. Do they have a set play for when Jagr is doubled or even triple teamed that we get a body out in front of the net? It just seems that when that happens Jagr is doubled up on and makes a pass there is no one there to get it. Great stuff Joe keep it going! Go Bruins!
Joe McDonald (3:10 PM)
Regis, Believe it or not he's Jagr's played well. He was one of best players for Boston in Game 2 and nearly proved to be the hero in overtime before his sniper-like snap shot rang off the crossbar. His ability to pass the puck tape-to-tape with the opposition literally on his back is uncanny. Usually when Marchand and Bergeron are first on the puck in the offensive zone they're looking to cycle the puck with Jagr in the mix. He's on the verge of a multipoint game and it wouldn't shock me if that game is tonight.
Craig G. (Fairfield)
Hey Joe, who are some of the more likable guys to cover on the Bruins? Thanks!
Joe McDonald (3:14 PM)
Craig, Without sounding like a homer, all the guys are great to cover. In fact, all hockey players are the best guys to cover in pro sports. They learn about sacrifice at a very young age and they never forget it. I've said many times in the past that Patrice Bergeron is my all-time favorite athlete to cover. On and off the ice he's a true pro and the Bruins are lucky to have him. Thornton likes to bust chops (shot a puck at me this morning) and Ference is always insightful.
MARI IL [via mobile]
Are you expecting more ots tonight
Joe McDonald (3:16 PM)
Mari, it wouldn't surprise me if every game goes to OT. But it's been so unpredictable that both teams could explode offensively. Either way it's going to be a great rest of the series.
I'd like to see Caron in for Daugavins. He's a big boday, a good forechecker and I think he brings a little more "grit" to the table than Daugs.
Joe McDonald (3:17 PM)
Eric, I couldn't agree with you more. The minute Campbell broke his leg, I said Caron should be the guy in the lineup. He's big, strong and would work well on the fourth line. Plus, it's only been a couple of weeks since he played with the P-Bruins in the Calder Cup playoffs. For Game 3 though, it looks like it's going to be the same lineup.
Stefan (Manchester, NH)
What do you think has been so instrumental in the Bruins PK so far against the Blackhawks? Is Chicago really that inept or are the B's just really that damn good? I'm going with the latter... What's your take Joey Mac?
Joe McDonald (3:20 PM)
Stefan, It's a little bit of both. Boston's PK has been solid the last few seasons but this year its been more aggressive and has completely shut down the opposition's PP. Like the Penguins, when you see the talent the Blackhawks have you would think the power play would be a lot better but that hasn't been the case. As Julien recently said, yes you would like production from the power play, but 5-on-5 play is so much more important than the PP. The Kings won without it in '12 and the Bruins did the same in '11.
random question here Joe: do you think that epic collapse against the Flyers in '10 helped shape this Bruins team as they are today? I mean, they won the cup the next year and are on the verge of doing it again. Do you think that taught them valuable lessons or even just got them to focus more on winning all 4 games? Or do you think it is totally unrelated. Thanks
Joe McDonald (3:22 PM)
Andrew, Absolutely that helped mold this team into what it has become. This Bruins team has experienced both the thrill of victory and certainly the agony of defeat.
Joe - it's a little nit-picky but how about subbing Caron in for Daugs? I just don't trust Daugs and Caron is a bigger body and has a lot of grit.
Joe McDonald (3:22 PM)
Eric, I would go with Caron, too.
Has Nathan Horton done enough to make the B's want to resign him?
Joe McDonald (3:25 PM)
Hi Sarah, Great question. And we'll find out the answer very soon. With his performance during the regular season, one would think the Bruins don't give him the pay day he'll likely ask for. Plus, there's a possibility he'll need surgery on his shoulder after the finals and given his history with concussions also throws up a red flag for other teams. BUT, he's proven to be a true competitor on the big stage and he's proving that again this spring. It's going to be interesting to see what Peter Chiarelli does this summer. You can bet Krejci and Lucic want their linemate back.
Ed (Queens Village)
Should Stanley Cup go 2-3-2 like NBA Finals and World Series?
Joe McDonald (3:26 PM)
Ed, I like the 2-2-1-1-1.
With Thornton and Daugs playing 5-6 minutes a game, do you think Bruins might get worn down basically playing 3 lines.
Joe McDonald (3:28 PM)
Hey Mitch, It's no secret the Bruins are at their best when Julien's able to roll four lines, but with Campbell out with a broken leg it certainly makes it a little more difficult to do that. If these games continue to go to OT those 4th-line guy will be crucial for the Bruins.
If Krug falters again after being a bit shaky in games one and two, any chance we see Bartowski or Redden for game four?
Joe McDonald (3:30 PM)
Lou, Julien made it a point after Game 1 to credit Krug. Despite the turnover that led to Chicago's second goal, Julien said we shouldn't judge him on one game. No doubt the speed of the finals is something completely new for him. Unless he implodes defensively, he'll remain in the lineup because of what he adds on the offensive side of the puck. He will score again.
How does the Stalberg change the Bruins D?
Joe McDonald (3:31 PM)
Paul, It doesn't change a thing. Bruins need to focus on their game and try to get the proper matchups, especially with the next two games in Boston.
Related to Eds questions above, what about if it was just a one game winner-takes-all. I know it's all about the money and playing 7 games rakes in a ton of cash for everybody involved, but is it really necessary to play 7 game? I think the NCAA has it right. I'd like to see both the NBA and NHL play one game for each round.
Joe McDonald (3:33 PM)
Ashley, I've been fortunate enough to cover all different levels of sports and I say there's nothing like the Stanley Cup playoffs. The hockey from start to finish is entertaining and fun. When you have the best players in the world competing for a championship, the harder it is to attain that goal the better the achievement becomes.
Marc (Malden, MA)
Can the Bruins just pay Horton to play in the playoffs? Give him $2-$3M a year to stay home during the regular season, show up for playoffs...basically what he does anyways.
Joe McDonald (3:33 PM)
The Pedro of hockey.
With the bruins having the advantage on line changes, will we see more of the 4th line tonight
Joe McDonald (3:34 PM)
Alan, that's what Julien is hoping for. The Bruins are at their best when the coach can roll four lines.
Stefan (Manchester, NH)
Completely random question Joe but one of my buddies actually thinks the NHL won't get it right until they eliminate icing calls. I believe he wants to see football like hockey scores because I don't know how else to explain his logic it's foolish haha. Do you think this would improve ticket sales or make them decline? Personally I think it would be murder on a goaltender and completely deflate them if they didn't have icing rules. How could you stop a powerful PP without icing? Neigh impossible.
Joe McDonald (3:36 PM)
Great question about icing and the PP, Stefan. When you really think about it, it is sort of strange that the team that's penalized is given such an advantage. Here's my take: The PK unit must get the puck past their blue line before they can ice it.
Unsung playoff player for the Bruins: Boychuk. He's been huge. I love watching him hit.
Joe McDonald (3:37 PM)
Eric, he's been good, especially what he's been able to add offensively. Plus, his physical play has been tremendous.
I can't wait to see a full game with the new 3rd line. Paille has always been too talented a forward to be a 4th liner forever. Not to discredit the Merlot line, but realistically, Paille deserves to stay on the 3rd line.
Joe McDonald (3:41 PM)
I'm with you, E. Since the merlot line is out of commission with the absence of Soupy, I really liked Paille-Kelly-Seguin line. Paille is a tremendous player, the type of player that can make Seguin more productive. Paille is so versatile he can play anywhere. Remember, he was a first-round pick for a reason. Yippe-Paille
In terms of the feeling surrounding the team, how does this season compare to 2011? It seemed a few years ago the boys were all focused but having a good time riding the wave together. What kind of atmosphere is in the locker room this season?
Joe McDonald (3:43 PM)
No doubt they enjoyed the ride in 2011 because most of them made it that far before. Now they're more experienced and know exactly what it takes to win the Cup. They do seem more focused (if that's even possible) but they're still having fun. I know I am.
Bobby (Chelsea, MA)
Not to put you on the spot Joe but do you see the Bruins coming out of Boston putting a stranglehold on this series or do you stick with your initial pick? I personally think that if Looch continues to be a force on the forecheck I don't see anybody derailing these Bruins. Do you you see Jagr retiring this year after he hoists the Cup again and rides off into the sunset on a high note or do you think his love for the game won't allow him to leave until he's using a walker? I love the guys passion for the game. What a model of consistency and desire! Isn't it great how things seem to happen for a reason Joey Mac? It sure looks like it was a blessing that we got Jagr instead of Iginlia. Thank you Iggy!
Joe McDonald (3:47 PM)
Bobby, I'm sticking with my original pick of Bruins in six. You're right, Looch has been a physical force. In both Games 1 and 2 he was still throwing his body around in the overtime periods. Unlike Mark Recchi, who went out on top with the Bruins in '11, I think Jagr will play as long as someone will give him a job. He truly loves this game and will continue to play until he's physical unable. Honestly, when he first came into the league I was in high school and I hated the Penguins with a passion because of what they did to the Bruins. Now that he's here, he's been a treat to cover.
Joe--without getting into a whole Rask v. Thomas thing, I was noticing how much more comfortable Rask is handling the puck than Thomas. He's not great, but he's willing to try and make a play with it.
Joe McDonald (3:51 PM)
Floober, Timmy had issues with that earlier in his career but he actually worked on it and became a bit better at it. At one point, former coaches in Boston wanted him to just stay in the net. Rask is a lot better at playing the puck. When he's not, he's allowing the defensemen to do their job. The biggest thing for a goalie is to stop the wraparounds in order to slow the opposition's forecheck and he's been able to accomplish that.
Coach Julien had to know he was just a few hours away from being fired if they had lost to Toronto in the first round. Knowing management had essentially lost faith in him and rendered him expendable, how hard is it to come back and coach the team the rest of the way? What type of conversation does he have with Neely to address the issue or do they even address it? The same could be said for Chiarelli.
Joe McDonald (3:54 PM)
Sarah, this would be a good question for my colleague James Murphy. Yes, it's possible Julien could've lost his job if they lost to the Leafs but Chiarelli later come out and said as long as he's the GM, Julien will be the coach. Since the Bruins have won the Cup and now have an opportunity to win another, it would be extremely difficult to make any changes. Personally, I believe Julien is the right guy to coach this team. He's developed as a coach during his tenure in Boston and his players have too.
Joe -Bruins win back to back games in boston, right?
Joe McDonald (3:56 PM)
Seuss, It's a good possibility. My original pick was Bruins in six.
Do you think that Horton's history of concussions will be a big factor in signing him/the type of contract he receives? I'd love to have him back, but would be nervous having a couple of concussion-prone stars
Joe McDonald (3:57 PM)
Jay, You can bet his health will factor into his next contract whether that's in Boston or elsewhere. Personally, I hope he does re-sign in Boston but he would probably have to take a discount to stay.
I'm of the generation that never saw Bruins success until 2011, growing up it was all Celtics and Patriots and the eternal hope of the Red Sox until it was realized in 2004. Now that the Bruins are the most recent champions, the Pats haven't won since 2005, where do you think the Bruins rank in Boston fans hearts among the four major teams?
Joe McDonald (4:00 PM)
Ashley, at this moment I would have to stay second behind the Red Sox. I think it's been that way since 2011. The thing about hockey is you're either a fan or you're not. There are more die-hards in hockey than any other sport. Sure, people are excited about the Bruins and they should be for many different reasons, but in the sports landscape in Boston the Red Sox will always be one. I did say if the Bruins ever won the Cup, their celebration would rival that of the Sox' and I believe I was right.
what is deal with Soderberg? he has not cracked lineup in playoffs? do you think he will be top 9 forward next year?
Joe McDonald (4:01 PM)
Mitch, I really don't know what to make of this guy. Sure, he's big and strong but I haven't seen enough of his game to give an accurate scouting report. But, there's got to be a reason why he's played in Europe all these years.
Todd (Coralville, IA)
Two thiongs. 1. I thought Jagr looked great in game 2 and I don't understand Mil;bury's criticism at all. Yeah, he's slower but he is stronger on the puck than anyone I've ever seen. He will routinely occupy 2 and 3 defenders and still control the puck to kick it out to a teammate. I would love for him to play in Boston again next year. 2, As crazy as this sounds, Maybe the Bruins should sign & trade Rask next year. Khudobin is solid and we also have Subban waiting in the wings. If Rask's asking price is too much, don't tie up too much money in him.
Joe McDonald (4:04 PM)
Todd, Rask is staying right where he is. I'm sure his extension will be announced not too long after the season ends. I like what I've seen of Khudobin and what possibly Subban could bring to the mix. And don't forget about Svedberg in Providence. I was one who doubted Rask could be a top-teir goalie in the NHL since I covered him in Providence. He has proved me wrong and what he's been able to do this postseason has been incredible.
What is holding Tyler Seguin back? It seems like he has these bursts that show he could be one of the great hockey players, and he seemed to show that off in 2011. I thought he would break out since then, but something seems to be holding him back from consistently good-great performance. He's still young, but he's been in the league for a few years now. Is this something the B's are worried about?
Joe McDonald (4:05 PM)
Jonathan, Seguin finally showed up in all aspect in Game 2 of the Cup finals. Playing with Paille now I believe he's really going to break out in a big way, maybe even tonight. Julien has spoken with him a few times during the playoffs about his game and it looks like he's responding.
I recently moved from Boston to Nashville and have been missing the passion of hockey fans in the Northeast. Around here, the only thing most people know about the Predators is that Carrie Underwood's husband is on the team. However, during the playoffs the local bars have been buzzing with hockey and it's great to see, but it won't be sustained. What does the NHL as a league need to do to keep hockey relevant and growing in smaller non-hockey focused markets?
Joe McDonald (4:07 PM)
Caroline, I love Nashville and thrilled that hockey is doing well there. I do believe there should be at least two more teams in Canada but I don't think that means through expansion.
Joe McDonald (4:08 PM)
Well, guys it's time for me to get my game face on. Thanks for all your questions and let's do it again soon. Thanks for reading and enjoy the rest of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Bruins in six.