So, where were we? Oh yeah, playoff races, post-Olympic hangovers, head shots. Bring it on.
Scott, who makes it in as the #4 seed in the West: COL, LA, or PHX?
Ryan; That's one of the more compelling races out there as the fourth seed naturally means home ice and it also means avoiding Vancouver in the first round (assuming Colorado can't reel them in which I think is unlikely given the number of home dates the Canucks have down the stretch). Right now I must admit a soft spot for the Coyotes. Great story. And they are a tough team to play against and they got better at the deadline which often tends to energize a team, especially one that has to gut out as many wins as the Coyotes do.
Matt Cookes hit on Savard of the Bruins was cheap, and I certainly didn't care for it one bit. However was it really against the rules? I remember my boyfriend showing me Mike Richards hit on Booth of the Panthers, which was just as vicious.. should the Penguins really be penalized just because Cooke isn't a high profile player?
Ashley; You've hit on a number of important issues (if you'll pardon the pun). Technically the Cooke hit isn't illegal just as the Richards hit on Booth wasn't illegal. Just wrong. And while I thought the referees got the call right in Richards' case giving him a game misconduct at the time I thought the league dropped the ball by not handing down a suspension. Cooke will definitely be suspended. In fact it might handed down before this chat is over and the fact he is a repeat offender and has been warned about blows to the head before means he'll likely get a stiff one. But you're right, easier to suspend Matt Cooke than the Flyers' captain which is a problem the NHL has got to deal with.
Mr. BurnsideYou have covered the NHL for years and are familiar with Cristobal Huet. It seems like he can get hot for a stretch of games and then cold for a stretch as well. From what you have seen and know of him, do you personally think he can lead the Hawks to a cup run? People say to go with Niemi but a few weeks ago when he had the starting job, he gave up 3-4 goals per game in the process (but still won them). Even though he doesn't have playoff experience, everybody has to get some at some point. In the end, who do you personally chose to tend the net for the playoffs or who do you believe to be the best choice.
Nick; I look at the 'Hawks goaltending situation in much the same way I look at Detroit's goaltending the last couple of years. True, no one will confuse Chris Osgood with Patrick Roy or Dominik Hasek but he deserves more credit than he gets. Huet of course has yet to prove he can win in the crunch but he doesn't need to stand on his head for the 'Hawks to go to a conference final or beyond. Will he? Great question. I think he'll be fine. I also have a pretty good idea that Joel Quenneville won't be messing around and that Niemi will get his looks if Huet goes sidways. People forget Carolina used Martin Gerber a couple of times en route to the Cup in '06 and Ilya Bryzgalov saw time when the Ducks were rolling in '06 and '07.
Dear ScottCould you see the NHL having strict steroid policy?
Chioke; Depends on your definition of strict. There is a drug testing policy that has players tested up to three times a season all without warning. There is, however, no off-season testing which is a problem. Under former executive director Paul Kelly there was a will to make the testing policies more stringent and that's something the league would like but now with a leadership vacuum within the union who knows how long a more comprehensive plan will be if there's one at all.
Why can't they extend the rink to olympic style or close to it. This would help with the no.1 issue at the meetings, headshots... There are 16 guys on the ice who are on top of one another and the players are bigger and faster. I think this would help tremendously with the game and the players health. What are your thoughts?
Dmakkk; I can pretty much guarantee you'll never see Olympic size ice in the NHL. The game, as you saw in Vancouver, is exponentially better on the smaller ice. Yes, there is more hitting but there are ways to make the game safer without going to a bigger surface which makes for a more boring game. Plus, the cost of retrofitting rinks to expand ice surfaces make it a non-starter.
it seems that the wings really need a long term goaltending solution. ozzie is get old quicker than everyone expected and while jimmy howard has been solid at times this year, most of the detroit faithful don't see him as the long term keeper. who's available over the next couple of years to fix this situation?
Bret; I think it will be fascinating this spring assuming the Wings get to the post-season dance once again (I think they will) how Mike Babcock uses Howard/Osgood. Like the Chicago situation I wouldn't be surprised to see both Osgood and Howard at various times pending on the length of their run. As for Howard, he's done pretty darned well for a guy who started so slowly this season.
Why doesnt Shane Doan get any respect from the media?
Abe; Not sure how you feel he is being disrespected but he's considered one of the game's great leaders and an all-around nice guys. Not sure what else we can say about him.
the western seed will be8._____________9._____________10.____________
Brad; How about this;7. Detroit, 8. St. Louis, 9. Calgary, 10. Nashville
I know you aren't the biggest fan to Luongo but do you think he can take the Canucks pass the 2nd round this year ?
taj; I think my feelings about Luongo have been misrepresented (mostly by my friend and colleague Pierre LeBrun I am sure) but I remain skeptical that he can get beyond the second round although i am impressed by the entire Canucks squad. The problem for them is that barring a major upset (and one could happen as Sharks fans well know) the Canucks would be looking at a second-round match-up with either Chicago or San Jose and I think that's a tall order for Luongo et al. Who knows, though, perhaps this is the year he proves all the doubters wrong.
What are your predictions for how the Habs goaltending situation will unfold both for the rest of this year and next season?
Marcus; I think Jaroslav Halak will be the goalie when the playoffs start but I figure Jacques Martin will give him a pretty short leash and go to Carey Price at the first sign of trouble. Then when Price spits the bit Halak will finish up. Then the Habs will trade Halak at the draft because they'll be afraid of the backlash of trading Price.
Who wins tonight? Detroit or Cal-gary?
Detroit in a shootout.
Scott, I asked this same question to EJ but he didn't answer it...if the NHL gave out a trophy for the best sophomore, who would win that trophy this year....Doughty or Stamkos? Doughty was a stud at the Olympics and a probable Norris finalist, but Stamkos has 40 goals which puts him third in the league behind two guys named Crosby and Ovechkin.
Jesse; That is a great question. Saw Doughty up close in Vancouver and the kid is wise beyond his years and was among the top Canadian defensemen in the tournament. But Stamkos is the real deal, too. I would go with Stamkos only because I know Doughty will get a shot at the Norris and that way no one goes home mad.
Who's your rookie of the year?
Dan; That's a tough one and I'm going to have to put my thinking cap on before registering my vote later this month but I think right now Tyler Myers will be at the top of my list but I'm going to take a good, long look at Jimmy Howard's numbers before I make my final selection. He's been sneaky good. Varlamov's numbers are great, too, but too much time off I think to get any real traction. Matt Duchene and a couple of the Colorado kids will also get a good, hard look, too.
Why were no high profile goalies moved at last week's deadline? The expiring deals and team needs seemed to be there, so was it simply a question of cap issues?
Lawrence; I too am baffled at the fact only Vesa Toskala, Justin Pogge and Joey MacDonald were moved. Hardly a who's who of the pipe set. I still can't understand how Garth Snow couldn't have unloaded at least Martin Biron. And I still don't get how Paul Holmgren ended up with Michael Leighton and Bryan Boucher as his playoff goaltenders at the end of deadline day. That will come back to bite him, I can almost guarantee it.
Is Colorado going to be kicking themselves for years for trading away Wolski at a bargain price? Sure, Mueller has been great for them the last couple games, but that does not last.
Loup; I think Wolski didn't fit both financially (he'll be a restricted free agent and the Avs as you know have a bevy of young kids who are all going to come due at about the same time in terms of the end of their entry level deals) and I don't think Joe Sacco was particularly enamored of Wolski's consistency so Mueller becomes a bit of an experiment. If he gets his act together it'll be one of those deals that make both players better and both teams. Right now, though, the Coyotes got the more complete player.
East conference finals - Pitts vs. Wash. Who wins and why?
Patrick; Hope it happens having been there for Round 1 and for the Sid and Ovie show in Vancouver. I still like the Pens because they have an edge in goaltending (I know, Theodore is on fire. Let's wait til a few April dates before we make him a saint.) and their understanding of how to get it done. Both teams improved themselves at the deadline but I still experience gives the Pens a slight edge. I call it in seven games one more time.
If the Avalanche win tonight against Vancouver do you think they will be taken more seriously as a contender for a top seed in the West?
Tom; I think they are taken seriously but they are part of a group of teams like the Kings and Coyotes that are relative strangers to playoff discussions so that may be muting any buzz about the Avs. Good team, though, that hasn't seen the drop off in play most expected would happen. I think most people have ceded them a playoff spot but I think, likewise, most have ceded the Canucks the top spot in the Northwest. Tonight will be a good test.
How many losses will the Blues be "limited" to
Brad; Well, I figure the Blues need 23 points to get to 92 which should get them in. They have 17 games left so if they went 10-4-3 that would get them in. Yikes. I may have to revisit my prediction for the Blues to grab the last spot. Still, they've been playing well and know how to get it done down the stretch.
Why is home ice really not much of a factor in the playoffs, with the exception of a game 7?
Dennis; I'm not sure I agree with you. Yes, the Pens won twice on the road in Game 7s last season (Washington and Detroit) but I think of the Lightning in '04 won East final at home in Game 7 then Game 7 of the Cup final at home and I know they believe that was the tipping point. Last year the Flyers gave up home ice on the final weekend of the regular season and I don't think they ever got over it. Bottom line is financially it's important to open at home.
True or False- Headshots will be illegal by the playoffs.
B-Diddy; False. Almost never in-season rule changes. Hopefully by next fall, though, there will be a rule that discourages blind-side hits.
Whats wrong with the Devils? Do you think they can right the ship before the playoffs start?
Derek; Must admit I haven't seen all that much of the Devils since the Kovalchuk trade but sometimes integrating a big presence like Kovalchuk takes time. Remember Marian Hossa in Pittsburgh two years ago struggled to fit in early on. Of course this is a Devils team that isn't all that deep on the blue line to begin with and once again has used Martin Brodeur far too much so I'm not sure. They should get through the first round but beyond that I don't like their chances.
Who wins the division? Buffalo or Ottawa?
Steve; Buffalo. Better goaltending and the Sens are way too streaky.
Scott, was there a better off-season signing than Craig Anderson (G-Col)? Would you agree that Anderson is the primary reason for the Colorado turnaround?
TJ; Good to see so many Avs followers out here. I think Anderson's play early on allowed for that very young Avs team to gel and for young players to get badly needed confidence. So, yes, team MVP for sure.
aside pits or was, who do you think could come out, as the eastern conference representative?
Robert; Honestly I think those are the two obvious teams but Buffalo if they can get some offense going will be tough to beat with Ryan Miller in a groove. They could be the dark horse but they've got a ways to go given their anemic offense.
How do you explain the big drop in production for Roy, Pominville, and Vanek from their roughly point per game numbers of a few years ago? It's not like the way the team plays has changed or that they're past their prime. Could Briere's departure or Connolly being healthy really make that much difference?
Felix; Good follow-up to the previous question. But I think it's about guys being put in different roles. When Drury and Briere were on the scene guys like Vanek could play with little pressure and with little attention from opposing teams. Now teams focus on those guys and in lots of cases they haven't responded. Vanek is key to the Sabres' offense and if he can't get it going in the playoffs they might not even get out of the first round.
How far away are my beloved Leafs from making the playoffs? Next Year? Two Years? Are they going to be players in adding to their forwards, they have one top 6 forward right now... :(
Brad; You have identified the main problem for the Leafs but have heart Brian Burke is on the right track. Impressive blue line is now in place. Goaltending should be okay as long as Gustavsson isn't a total bust but they need to find some guys who can fill out the top six. Look for Burke to be very aggressive both at the draft and July 1 in adding top talent to his squad. I say two years.
Better chance of happening next year - Kovalchuk in the KHL or Jagr in the NHL?
Darius; Great question. I think Jagr's return is almost inevitable (as much as anything is when it comes to the mercurial Jagr) and I doubt Kovalchuk goes to Russia. He knows his NHL legacy will be shot if he chases the money to Russia, especially after the Russians flamed out in Vancouver.
True of False: Sid The Kid will be a lifetime Penguin...
Weston; False. Life is a long time.
how far do you think the tampa bay lighting can go if they make the playoffs
Evan; I have a soft spot for the Bolts and I think they're one of those teams that could make some noise provided they get their act together and get to the dance. Decent goaltending combo, under-appreciated defense and some great talent that's been there up front. And Stamkos.
Who finishes 4th-6th in the east?
Chuck; This is the ultimate lottery but I'll give it a whirl.4. New Jersey5. Philadelphia6. Ottawa
What are the 5 worst contracts in hockey right now?
John; Big test but how about Huet, DiPietro, Redden, Briere, Gomez
What is the top of the draft class looking like right now in your opinion? Hall or Seguin looking like star players, or is it another ho-hum affair?
Brad; I don't spend a lot of time looking at the juniors so this is just my sense in talking to GMs and coaches. But both those kids are the real deal and players who could help NHL clubs right away. The top end of this June's draft, like a year ago, has good NHL-ready talent in it.
What do you think of the Kings chances of advancing past one of the big 3(San Jose,Chicago,Vancouver) in the playoffs this year?I feel their style of play can get them to the 2nd round but after that its gonna be an experienced team theyll face
Harry; I think it would be a big mouthful to get past a Chicago or San Jose or even Vancouver in the second round but a lot will depend on Jonathan Quick. How does he respond to his first taste of life in the playoffs? We saw Carey Price wilt under the pressure a couple of years back so it's the kind of thing that can happen not just to a young goalie but a young team. Should be fun, though, for Kings fans to go along for the ride for a change.
Can the Rangers sneak into the #8 slot?
Ryan; Sure. The east is so full of mediocre teams all the Rangers have to do is string about five wins in a row together and they're in. Now can they do that? Well, that's another question entirely. Three straight losses and now most of their competition except Montreal have games in hand.
Because of the goaltender inconsistency of Washington and Philadelphia, do you feel Pittsburgh should be the favorite to win the East?
Dave; I do feel that.
Assuming the Kings don't have a massive collapse from here until the end of the season, how can anyone other than Terry Murray win the Jack Adams award? People are always going to mention Quenville, Boudreau and McLellan...but look at the talent of those teams on paper. I may be a bit bias, but I feel like the #1 reason for the Kings success has been Mr. Murray (Not the acquisition of a Heatley or Hossa!). Do you agree with me??
Andrew; Agreed that Terry Murray has done a great job of getting the Kings to the next level. A difficult task for sure. But Dave Tippett's job in Phoenix, Joe Sacco's job in Denver and perhaps even Cory Clouston's job in Ottawa are also worthy of attention given the level of talent those coaches had/have to work with.
Well folks, as always thanks for taking the time to write in.Let's do it again next week. Back to Monday for me I believe. See you then.