Greetings from downtown Pittsburgh where the Pens will open their quarterfinal series against the New York Islanders on Wednesday night. Now, where were we?
Scott, do the Wild have any chance to beat the Hawks? I think if they come out & hit the Hawks as much as possible they could wear them down by games 3
LB; It sounds like the ultimate cliche but if watching the L.A. Kings come out of the 8th seed a year ago doesn't reinforce that anything can happen come playoff time I don't know what does. But that said the Wild probably have the biggest challenge of any first-round team and that includes the Islanders. But I think you're right if the Wild are going to have a shot at even stretching the Hawks a bit it will be by playing physical, pressure hockey. They're going to need Niklas Backstrom to be a lot better than he was down the stretch at times but they'll need to frustrate Chicago in their own zone as much as possible to stay close.
I'm am anxious to see the series vs. the Rangers. Do you think the Caps can be a legitimate threat in the East other than Pittsburgh, or do you think they'll exit early like earlier years, hopefully that won't happen being a Caps fan for many years now.
Josh; I picked the Caps in seven which means the Rangers will win for sure. Just kidding. Sort of. Seriously though I like the swagger the Caps have under Adam Oates. They're not that deep on the blue line but they are really cooking offensively and if Ovechkin/Backstrom can continue to make magic they will put a lot of pressure on a Ranger team that has struggled with consistency all season. Still, should be a long, interesting series.
Sorry, having a little tech problems with the chat system.
What will it take for a team in the east to knock out the pens?
Sorry, system keeps crashing...Neil, most scouts believe this Pens team won't self-destruct as it did against Philadelphia last spring and even if Marc-Andre Fleury plays poorly Tomas Vokoun is a more than adequate Plan B. In short not many people believe that short of catastrophic injuries anyone in the east is likely to stop the Pens.
Scott, predicting NHL playoffs is an impossible task in my opinion so I will ask about player movement. Do you see the Kings doing anything with Bernier this offseason? He's been a good soldier backing up Quick (who didn't have the strongest of regular seasons) but I'm guessing he's itching to get a shot at a #1 job someplace. Do you think he's ready and do you think LA could get a player of value in return for him this offseason?
Brian; Considering I picked the Kings to lose four straight rounds last spring I couldn't agree more. And yes, I do believe Bernier will be on the move.
Should we all just give up and wait for the CHI-PEN series?
Thomas; Not at all. Even though I think that match-up would be terrific the Blackhawks have a tough road ahead of them. Vancouver, Anaheim, St. Louis, L.A. and San Jose all have the potential to emerge from a set with Chicago. Lots of big, physical teams in the west and if any of those teams get the goaltending they're capable of getting the Blackhawks could be in trouble.
Hi Scott, I've noticed that many of you there are picking the Wings to be the 'upset' team over the Ducks in the first round. Is that due to the way they've played to finish the season off or how the regular season matchup went? Or is there a feeling that if they can get all of their players going at the way they've shown they can play, that they could be a threat?
Tod; Definitely the Wings' run through the last week or so (they finished with four straight) turned some heads. And they match up quite well with Anaheim although I think Anaheim will win that series. The Wings will need more depth scoring than they received through much of the season and they'll need Jimmy Howard to be as good as he was during that final week.
Scott, the Islanders making the playoffs is a good story and much deserved for their hardcore fans. But once the initial joy wore off, how bad do you think they are kicking themselves for blowing the final two regular season games against bad Philly and Buffalo teams that had packed it in....thus getting stuck in the 8th seed and having to play Pittsburgh. That likely cost them a legit chance to win a round for the first time since 1993, which would have made them a BIG story in New York.
Jesse; There's always a team that lets a better position get away from them. How about the Bruins letting Montreal off the hook in the Northeast. And a couple of years back Philadelphia blew a chance to get home ice and lost to the Pens in the first round ('09 if memory serves). But agreed, the Isles would have matched up nicely against any of those other teams ahead of them in the east.
What do you think about the Stars naming Jim Nill as GM?
Sean; I like it. No disrespect to Joe Nieuwendyk who guided the Stars through some pretty tough times vis a vis the ownership turmoil but Nill deserves a lot of credit for helping to build the Red Wings into the class organization it has been for many years. Very smart and very deserving of this chance.
Do you see any parallels between the Rangers of this year and the Kings of last year?
Brian; I suppose some in the sense that the Rangers struggled to find their identity for much of the season as the Kings did especially when it came to creating offense. But I'm still not sure the Rangers know exactly what they want to be other than what they were last year.
Hey there Scott, what grade would you give Patty Kane this year? Do you think the Hawks organization had a sit down with him and told him to get his head on straight???
Kyle; Kane is on my list of top five Hart Trophy candidates. Definitely a real renaissance for him and no doubt he seems to have understood he needs to be more responsible off the ice. And he has worked on parts of his game like shooting and positioning that have made him a much more dangerous player.
Everyone and their mother seems to be picking the red wings to upset my ducks. It's making me start to second guess a team I see as having a real chance to do some damage this year. Please tell me i'm right and the pundits wrong.
Jay; Had a chat with Bruce Boudreau on the weekend and he was laughing at how no one even mentions the Ducks as a team that could knock off the Blackhawks even though they had the third most points and wins in the NHL. I do believe that as long as the goaltending holds up the Ducks are going to be a handful for whomever they run across.
Everyone brings up the Kings winning the cup last year to say that every team has a real "chance". Isn't this untrue? The Kings were poised for a run but woefully underachieved during the season only to put it together towards the end. Thoughts?
Jason; I suppose that's true although having watched the Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers end up in the Eastern Conference final in 2010 out of the 8th and 7th seeds there is an element of just getting in is enough every year. Now do I think the Wild or the Islanders have a real shot at emerging from the first round? No. But that's why they play them, right?
Series you are most looking forward to?
Sarah; Hmmmm. All of them? Actually Blues/Kings. Too big, physical teams. We're going to find out whether the Blues learned enough last spring when they were swept by the Kings. Should be fun. And curious about Boston/Toronto. All kinds of storylines and good to see the Leafs back in after missing since 2004.
Why do you think the NHL playoffs are so unpredictable?
Mitch; Had this discussion with a coach the other day and we were talking about the NBA where the distance between the top teams and the lower seeded teams is significant hence few upsets, few long series. The parity in the NHL brought on in some ways by the salary cap and the difficulty in keeping top end talent together means more teams are able to rise up and take a run. Makes the Wings' 22nd playoff appearance in a row take on an even more remarkable texture.
Are you still holding on to your preseason pick of the Blues?Don't jinx them!!
Grant; Going to keep picking them 'til they're on the first tee.
Who do you see emerging from the Highway417/Autoroute40 battle?
Peter; Doesn't quite roll off the tongue like 'Subway Series' does it? I picked Ottawa although very tight. Sens are so good defensively and as long as Craig Anderson can get into a groove (he's struggled a bit since coming back from his ankle injury) I think the Sens can frustrate the Habs. Carey Price is the key and he wasn't very good down the stretch.
Is this not the best time of year???
If the Bruins get get knocked out quickly is it time to make some significant player changes in the offseason to re-tool or just shrug it off as a shortened season that wasn't all that great?
Adam; After being one-and-done last year against the 7th seed Caps I'm not sure losing to Toronto would be met with much patience in Boston. Just not sure what kind of overhaul you do. It's not like there will be a market for a guy like Milan Lucic who just signed a big contract extension before the lockout. I am a big fan of Claude Julien and not sure this is about coaching but there will be some nervous moments in Boston if they get clipped by the Buds.
sorry to interrupt this playoff chat with a draft question, but if you are the avs, do you take jones or drouin with the #1. my friend seems to the think that drouin helps them more right now, but i think jones is the no-brainer.
al; No worries. I think there's no question the Avs should and will take Seth Jones. For a team that's become irrelevant in the market Jones has the potential to be more than just a stud defenseman he has a chance to help redefine the team. Terrific player and a nice fit in that community. Will be shocked if that's not what the Avs do.
What are the keys for the Sharks to beat Vancouver in the 1st round here?
Timmy; I think the Sharks are going to have to avoid being punished by the Canucks who have redefined themselves a bit. They're game is a tough forecheck now not as creative as they were in the past so the Sharks will have to deal with that. I think they need to get at Cory Schneider and make the goaltending situation a story for the Canucks. This is a team that has shown they can get distracted by outside elements (ie. '11 final against Boston). Needless to say Antti Niemi has to be as good as he was throughout the season. I like the Sharks to upset the Canucks though. Much different team than before the trade deadline. Kudos to GM Doug Wilson for making important changes on the fly.
What in the wide wide wide world of sports is going on here when you pick the Sharks to win a series that Lebrun sees them losing?
Slim; Cats lying down with dogs, Pierre LeBrun forsaking the Sharks. You know that guarantees them a trip to the finals at least.
Do you have a darkhorse that you think could make a deep run?
John; Not sure Anaheim is a dark horse but they're under the radar and I think built for a long run. And the Capitals, although a third seed, are also a bit of an unknown having come out of nowhere to win the worst division in hockey. Very little pressure on them compared to previous years.
Are the Rangers not as good as we thought they would be or just suffered from variance in a short season?
Marc; I think it's hard to replicate the grinding style of play that made them so good a year ago when they went to the east final. I think they missed some of the glue guys that left in the off-season hence the moves Glen Sather et al made at the deadline. Will it be enough to recreate that kind of unit this spring? Pretty tall order.
Scott, how important is T.J. Oshie's return for the Blues tonight?
Paul; Big. That's the issue for the Blues I think keeping pace with the Kings offensively and Oshie will help in that department.
I keep hearing I still have a job, but how short is my leash next year?
Peter; I have no doubt that you'll be back behind the bench next fall. But if I were you I'd stockpile as many wins in October as I could or things will get ugly in a hurry in Philly.
Do you agree with Hitch putting tarasenko on the bench?
Riley; I do. And with Oshie coming back my guess is that Hitchcock feels the trade-off in losing Tarasenko's skill is made up for not being able to play the rookie as much as he'd like to. I think it shows you how important Game 1 is to the Blues that Hitchcock doesn't want a forward in the line-up he might be afraid to use. Earlier this season I know the Kings really ate Tarasenko up and I'm sure that factors into the decision too.
Do you think Fleury will have his you know what together this postseason?
Mark; I do.
Okay folks thanks for stopping by. Let's do it again soon. Until then.