Scott will be here soon!
About 51 hours before the start of the playoffs...hard to believe we are that close.
The caps haven't looked like the same team in the last month or so...Do you think they'll be able to flip the switch and turn it on for the playoffs?
That is always the great unknown for teams that wobble into the playoffs. Washington did not have much to play for at the end and locked themselves into the Southeast division crown. And that can take the edge off, when a team knows where they stand. But it is an issue to be able to get up to a playoff level. The Rangers have been playing playoffs hockey for weeks now, so they do not need to go too far to find the next gear. But there is no reason the Caps should lose this series.
The battle of PA, a different outcome this year?
Certainly both teams are very different than they were a year ago when the Pens won the East Final with relative ease. The Flyers are much stronger up front with Simon Gagne fully recovered and with a full season Timonen missed the conference final last year and is now healthy, so the Flyers are a much more dangerous team than the team that faces Pittsburgh last year. But I think the Pens are just as dangerous as they were last year. So I think in the end the result will be th same even if it takes 6 or 7 games this year.
What do you think about Franzen signing that long extension with Detroit? Now that Ken Holland locked up Franzen do you think he will be able to resign Hossa?
It sounds like they may take one more run at Hossa before the start of the playoffs, and if they cannot they will wait until after the playoffs conclude. It will all come down to whether Hossa is once again willing to take significantly less than market value to stay in Detroit. If they make it to the Cup I think Hossa may take less, but if they get bounced early maybe not. But who knows what the market will be and where the salary cap will be and that will also factor into this.
Would you analyze the Bruins-Canadiens series. It should be as wild as ever. Thanks
I agree, there is always going to be tremendous drama when these two meet. We saw it last year when the Bruins looked like easy picking and ended up forcing a seventh game. I do think the injury to Markov is really going to make things difficult for the Canadiens in this series. It puts even more pressure of netminder Carey Price and he does not always respond well to pressure. They need to get maximum production from their PP and they will need to work hard against a much more physical Bruins team to keep from getting pushed off the puck. The thing for the Habs is if they get an early lead in the series, maybe the Bruins start thinking about pst upsets and allow the Canadiens to get in their heads. But honestly, I do not see it happening. I see this one over in a hurry and in favor on the Bruins.
What are the odds that the Blackhawks make it through to the second, and then any subsequent rounds?
I think the Blackhawks have the best possible matchup for them in the first round against the Flames. I do not think it is a stretch to suggest the Flames are the worst team to qualify in the West. Their goaltending is spotty and they cannot win away from home and will be opening in a rocking United Center. Nikolai Khabibulin is playing like he did in 2004 when he became the first Russian goalie to lead his team to the Cup and the Hawks are healthy and playing well. Yes, the Hawks lack experience in the playoffs, but I do not think ti will stop them to advancing to the second round. Then it is a question of whether they are getting stronger or have shot all their bullets. But let's take it one step at a time. This is a team that had not made the playoffs since 2002 and has not won a playoff series since 1996.
I watched the Habs/Bs game the other day, and it looked like the Habs could get in their heads, force dumb penalties, and take advantage on the PP. Makes me nervous. Your thoughts on how that could impact the series?
It was an interesting game foe exactly that reason. The Bruins seemed to become unhinged, which is very unlike the team that we saw all year, the team that captured the East. But that is the great unknown in the playoffs. How do teams respond when they are tested by opponents or bad calls? It is up to Claude Julien to maintain his team focus. I do not see it being a huge problem. I think they have their collective eyes on the prize.
Not trying to deprive you of your "voting" right, but don't you think the players should ultimately determine the MVP. I mean what do these "writers" know anyways? Seems like they vote for whoever gives them the most stories throughout the year instead of the most valuable player.
Fair commentary. I often ask myself that too: what do writers know? And your comment on players is valid. And the the players vote in the Lester B. Pearson award, a players choice MVP. About 80% of the time the players and writers agree on league MVP. Last year they both pickled Ovechkin and Corsby before that. And it is a bit surprising that the writers and players usually agree on this. If you talk to players, sometimes privatively, they often say that the greatest honor is to be identified by their peers; so to win the Lester Pearson means more than recognition from the writers. Go figure.
Hi Scott, what 1st round matchup presents the biggest chance for an upset?
I think, and maybe it would not considered that big, but I am surprised the St. Louis Blues have received so little respect from people in the hockey writing business. Everyone like Vancouver as a darkhorse, but I think the Blues, who have been the best team in the second half present not only a potential upset candidate, but I think they could knock off the Sharks in the second round if they both advance. The Blues have it all: great goaltending, a stellar group of young players who have matured, and top veterans and they may Kariya back either at the start of the series or shortly there after, which is a bonus. I think the Blues are a great team and story given the number of injuries they have had to overcome starting in training camp.
Sharks in 6?
I think that is what I predicted. As interesting as this matchup is, this all Cali matchup, I think the sharks are too deep to lose this series. Of course, the Sharks were topo deep to lose any series the last two years and they have been bounced in round 2 every year since the lockout. The interesting part of the series is that both teams are full of Cup experience, so neither team should get rattled when things do not go their way. So yes, the Sharks should win in 6. Of course they should have multiple cup rings.
Will Osgood and/or Conklin play well enough to get the Red Wings to the Finals again this season?
Yes, I think they will. I am just not sure in which combination or with which goaltender leading the way. I think there is a comfort level with either guy in the dressing room. They are both veterans and have an easygoing manner and varying degrees of success. And both have shown, over short periods of times, to be successful. I do not think it will be as big an issue as people think. It certainly was not an issue last year when Osgood went 14-4 and won his third ring.
How many consecutive playoff series have you now picked the Devils to lose? At least 6 or 7 I believe.
I think you may be right. I think it may got back to the first round in '04, which oddly enough they did lose. Luckily for me they have not advanced past the second round since 2003 so my record is not as bad as it could have been.
Blue Jackets got zero nationally televised games during the regular season. No they got zero nationally televisted games at home? Columbus is a hidden gem, why not share it with the rest of the NHL?
I am enthusiastic about Columbus. A great city and an underappreciated hockey market. And they got to a place many people, myself included, did not think they would get to this season. Now they have a huge hill to climb and even if they get knocked out quickly it does not diminish what they have done this year. And I am with you, it is a fine town.
Seems like the Devils had a letdown when Brodeur returned ... can they put it back together against Carolina?
I think this is a fascinating series. Obviously Brodeur was sensational when he first returned, but he and the Devils hit a flat spot, before finishing playing pretty well. I think the Hurricanes are actually deeper on offense, from the blueline, and the way Cam Ward has played, I know it sounds heretical, but I think they have the better goaltender heading into the playoffs. And he may prove us all wrong, but Brodeur has not had a great playoff since 2003.
Sean Avery is back in playoffs! Why NHL allow that? Rangers are that desperate?
The simple answer is yes, the Rangers were desperate. They were desperate for grit and character and Avery brings it. I am with you, I am not a big fan of all of his antics, but he is been more than useful as a player and gives the Rangers something they were lacking. This appears to be the only place in the NHL where Sean Avery can not only exist but thrive. The NHL will keep close tabs on his and he is on a short leash with Tortorella and the league braintrust. But I will say this, if the Rangers upset Washington, Sean Avery will be a significant part of it. Love him or hate him, that's who he is.
What is the biggest match up in the Flyers series? Richards vs Crosby? Or Flyers PP vs Pens PK?
Those are both key points. I think both those are potentially crucial elements. I think it is the ability of the Flyers defense to control the Pens' big centers, Crosby, Malkin and Staal. No other NHL team can roll out three centers that are as hard to control as those three. Randy Jones is hurting as is Parent so there is a lot of pressure on guys Coburn and Timonen to clear space and not let the Pens control the puck in the offensive zone. I think that is the key battle in the series.
Do you think Tim Thomas will win the Vezina?
Yes I do. I think his numbers are just too astounding not to win it. I think the Bruins finishing 1st in the East and second overall all point to him winning his first and well deserved Vezina.
Do you agree that the even though the stronger teams are in the Western Conference that the Stanley Cup Champion will come from the inferior Eastern Conference because the Western teams will wear each other down by the time tthey get to the finals?
I think there is something to that, but I think it is a disservice to Boston, Carolina and Washington. All are very good teams and all have a shot of going to a Cup final. Everyone assumes SJ and Detroit will meet in a conference final, but we have seen upsets almost every year so I am not sure it is a given that the path out of the West will be any more difficult than the one out of the East and if you look at the level of play this last month Detroit and SJ were rather ordinary. I understand that concept, but I am not sure it will hold true in the coming weeks.
Do the Sharks have an Answer to the Perry/Getzlaf/Ryan line?
I think they do. I think their size on the blueline and vets up front like Grier or even a guy like Jeremy Roenick, I think those are players who in the heat of a playoff battle will be entrusted with trying to keep the big line in check. It goes without saying that that is a key element for the Sharks. If they can neutralize that line, the Ducks are not as deep as the Sharks. I think the Sharks' team defense can shut them down, but can they execute?
What kind of an effect will an all-California playoff series have on hockey interest in CA?
I think it is crucial for Anaheim, for their market, it reinforces the Ducks' place in the market. And it may draw back the casual fan. SJ has had a solid fanbase for years and years. It is a novelty to have both teams facing each other. And I think next year the Kings will be much more competitive and I would not be surprised to see three California teams in the postseason next year.
If the Bruins clean the ice with the Habs more than a zamboni, how much damage control would management do in Montreal?
Great question. There are so many questions about the Habs future, does Gainey stay behind the bench. There are 10 UFA, how many come back? Is Koivu gone? Is Kovalev going to leave? Seems likely. There are a lot of questions. But I think a strong showing, even if they do not win, will be important for the team going forward. But I don;t really see it.
It sounds like we will do more chats in the playoffs. Looking forward to see how the postseason unfolds. Does not get any better than this. Looking forward to catching up with you in the coming days!