Greetings all. Couple of great nights coming up in the Western Conference while a couple of real good teams cool their heels waiting for their schedule to be unfurled. So, where were we?
Prediction for what two teams are in the Western Conference Finals?
Ryan; Let's get right to it. Going to stick with my pre-series picks and I think the Blackhawks complete the comeback and I think the Sharks finally find a way to win at the Staples Center. Can't imagine that both games won't be dynamite though.
everyone is saying that the bruins have the edge in goal. while that may be true, they haven't face a team that can seemingly score at will like the pens can. the islanders have a lot of talent and chased maf out of goal, but vokoun has played well enough. at this point, I don't see a monumental gap between rask and vokoun, do you? also, rask hasn't had to face a pp like the pens have (both pp groups). the rangers pp was pedestrian at best.
chris; I agree that the goaltending 'edge' most assume goes to the Bruins and Tuukka Rask is overblown. Tomas Vokoun is 6-1 and has a .941 save percentage second only to Jonathan Quick. I think part of the issue is Vokoun has never been down this road before and there are times he seems to struggle with rebound control. But Rask is about to face the most potent offense/PP in the playoffs so while I agree that goaltending is going to be a key factor (when is it not) it may not manifest itself in the way that people imagine.
Hey Scott! What do you make of Lunqvist's non-commital response to a contract extension with the Rangers? Do you think he was just venting his frustration with getting knocked out of the playoffs, or do you think he really would consider leaving?
Garrett; I think a little of both. He knows that he has a closing window in which to win a Cup and he has to decide whether the Rangers have that capability and how that desire balances what I believe would be his desire to win one with the Rangers. He'll be or can be a UFA next summer and there is no way the Rangers will or should go through next season not knowing if he'll come back. Interesting times ahead that is for sure.
Was the right call made awarding the penalty shot last night?
Greg; I try and look at it this way; was that a penalty on Jan. 19 when the season began? Did the slash disrupt a scoring chance? Yes. It did and while it may have stung the Red Wings mightily I like the fortitude to make that call at that time in such a critical situation. Part of the problems that plague the NHL is that people say they want consistency but they complain when the consistency doesn't fit what they want.
While my team is out, I have watched all the Detroit/Chicago games. It seems that Toews has been the recipient of some abuse that has crossed the line but he has not received the calls. Am I correct or am I'm missing something?
Phil; Toews has definitely been worked over pretty well. At times he has found it hard not to react but I thought in Game 6 he withstood it quite well (he was the aggressor on the goalie interference call). Big test for both clubs in Game 7; can the Wings get Toews off his game enough to sneak out a win or does Toews come up with the kind of performance we saw in the third period in Game 6?
Hey Scott how about a score prediction. Should be a close chippy game
David; San Jose 3 L.A. Kings 1 with an empty net goal.
Scott, do you see Vingneault coaching next year and where? Dallas?
Neal; I think Alain Vigneault is a terrific coach and I think he'd be a good fit in Dallas but there are a number of qualified coaches out there including Lindy Ruff. Important hire for new GM Jim Nill. Will be interesting to see if there is an opening in New York although my gut tells me John Tortorella gets another crack at it with the Rangers. There's also Dallas Eakins who has a promising career ahead of him as an NHL head coach.
All the talk about Toews, what about the Wings captain? Hasn't scored yet in this series. Or should we maybe just realize both players are canceling each other out and appreciate two great Captains playing to their ability?
Mike; I think there is a lot to that. In fact Detroit head coach Mike Babcock alluded to that earlier in the week how the top two lines are running each other into the ground (my words not his) and how the series turns on the depth players. Red Wings got sloppy in the third in Game 6 but that's been a pretty accurate depiction of what's happened thus far in what has been a compelling series.
Scott... Will Shanahan/NHL keep Torres suspended should San Jose advance? It's obvious he has no intention to change his style. If a 21 game suspension (last year) didn't do it, perhaps booting him for another 20 games will. But I doubt it.
Jeff; No reason Torres shouldn't be in the lineup in Game 1 of the Western Conference final if the Sharks win tonight. My understanding is that there is no other restriction on his return (ie. no interview process with league officials). Now, I happen to agree that if that hit was worth six games because it was dangerous and it was delivered by a serial predator who a year ago got 25 games (later reduced) then this one should have been an easy, 'take the rest of the playoffs off Raffi' decision. But again I think the NHL looking for some sort of weird middle ground when it comes to supplemental discipline.
Scott, what are your feelings on a potential Pens-Wings III Stanley Cup Final...only this time with the favorite/underdog roles totally reversed?
Jesse; No question if it comes down to a rubber match between the two teams the roles will be diametrically opposed from the previous two. Will make for some great tales and some great hockey. As you can see thus far this spring the Red Wings thrive in the underdog role. Would it change the Pens' mindset being the favorite? I don't think so. Been a long time since '09 and this is a pretty mature crew so I doubt like that stuff plays into preparation and mindset.
Hey scott-answer Phil's question. Are the shots on Toews over the line and why are they not getting called?
Dc; Sorry, was I a bit vague? Or just avoided the tough part altogether? I think some of it has crossed the line and I suspect it's the notion of playoff hockey and that the battle lines are redrawn. Referencing an earlier question about the penalty shot call in Game 6 if it's a penalty in Game 1 in January (or October when the league isn't trying to destroy itself with a lockout) then it should be a penalty in Game 6 Monday night.
Bigger headline; Iginla rejects Boston and signs with Pens or Jagr rejects Pens and eventually winds up in Boston?
Rob; I think the Jagr/Pittsburgh connection is pretty much frayed now given his time in New York and then in the KHL and now in Philly/Dallas/Boston. Now, if Jagr lights it up I think I may revisit that but right now the Iginla backstory is more compelling given that it's so fresh.
Scot, a bit off a change of subject but what do you think about the Erat-FOrsberg trade? Seems to me the Capitals traded away a platinum prospect for a middle of the road 20 goal-50 point player
TY; Lots of folks surprised that the Caps gave up such a terrific young prospect for a veteran player with some injury issues. And certainly given the fact Erat played in just four games and had zero points as they blew that first-round lead against the Rangers won't make the trade look any more palatable.
Scott, the media has been playing up this idea that the Sharks are playing with "house money" at this point. They have nothing to lose going into Game 7 on the road against the defending Stanley Cup champs. Do you agree?
Danny; Well, I'm not sure that's exactly true but in talking to my pal Pierre LeBrun my sense is that there is a distinct difference between the two teams heading into this game. I think the Kings are in a different place having to fight for their lives this time around and not being able to close out the Sharks in Game 6 has to have set them back a bit. And there's no question the Sharks are a loose bunch, more so than in previous playoff yeasr. That said, hard to imagine Game 7 won't be as tight as the other six.
That would be 'years'.
Scott, piggy backing off the Lundqvist comment, do you think the Wild would be interested? I don't think Backstrom will be back and I don't think any of the youngsters are ready to take over yet....
Matt; Well if I'm Chuck Fletcher I am exploring all of my goaltending options given the injury issues that plagued them in their first-round loss to Chicago. The guy I'd be more curious about is Marc-Andre Fleury. If Pens go to a finals or win a Cup without Fleury hard to imagine him coming back. But Fletcher and Mike Yeo know Fleury well and he's still young and has time left on his contract. No slight against Niklas Backstrom but Fletcher has to be looking big picture in terms of the Wild's goaltending future.
Scott: When will the east coast writers realize Kopitar needs to be a Selke finalist at the least?
Ross; I think there is a lot of love for Kopitar for the Selke. I think I had him in my top three for what it's worth.
You gave predictions for the Sharks-Kings, what about the Hawks-Wings tomorrow? Score prediction I mean.
Mike; Sorry about that. Chicago 4 Detroit 2.
Can we beat Pittsburgh ?
Bill; Sure. Will it be hard? Oh yeah. Penguins are really rolling (he says stating the obvious) but with at least four goals scored in nine of 11 games this isn't really a blip but a trend. So, the Bruins will have to count on scoring three to four a night in order to win this series. That means a lot of net pressure and a PP that has to out-score the Pens' PP. And needless to say Rask has to be out of his mind.
If you are Sakic/Roy, do you take Jones or MacKinnon? I know they need D, but they also need another top 6 forward. And defensemen are so difficult to project how they will do in the NHL. When was the last #1 overall D-man that actually panned out?
Bill; I think it's an absolute no-brainer that Jones is an Avalanche. In fact I'd be printing those shirts and selling them all over Denver right now. As for first overall picks that worked out there aren't that many but I'd say Chris Phillips in Ottawa has had a pretty stellar career and played well for that franchise after being made first overall pick in '96.
will the coyotes situation finally end??
Jim; Yes it will. Yes it will. I honestly believe it will be soon. And I think, in the end, the team stays.
Scott,Why was Craig Anderson so good against Montreal yet so awful against Pittsburgh? It's not like the Habs are a bad offensive team.
Joe; Sure wasn't the series that Craig Anderson wanted to have but I think that's more a function of the Penguins being in a whole other place offensively. The Habs were banged up and out of whack emotionally from the get-go against the Sens and allowed Anderson to be at his best. Not sure he's to blame though for the outcome against the Pens.
your prediction on the pens-bruins series
Gil; I have Pens in six.
What do the Panthers need to do to improve next season?
Noah; Where to start? Have to settle the goaltending issue. Is Markstrom the guy? Or should it be Luongo? Or someone else? They have to stay healthy and they have to get back to the kind of balanced attack we saw last year when they won the Southeast. Tall order especially given the realignment.
When will the Pens Bruins series start? Hearing Thursaday, Friday or Saturday...
Sam; Yes, wouldn't want to let fans (and players etc.) know what's going on. I am hearing Saturday though.
Even if Vokoun collapses against Boston, how can Pittsburgh go back to Fleury at this point? Don't you think he's gone in the offseason one way or the other?
Jake; Well, let's say Vokoun gets hurt or goes sideways and Fleury comes on and rights the ship and the Pens win a Cup. I think that changes everything. Lot of ifs there though.
Any word on Tim Thomas? After watching the Isles impressive season you'd have to think he's at least a little tempted to play for them, no? Plus I think most of us believed with a little goaltending this Isles could have made that series even more interesting.
JD; No sense yet what Thomas's plans are vis a vis next season but you are absolutely right. If the Isles get better tending the first four games of that series could easily have been 3-1 Isles and we're talking a whole new dynamic. Question is what will Thomas be like after missing an entire year at his age? If anyone could make it work it would be Thomas. And you're right, bright days ahead for the Isles though.
Speaking personally, of the teams remaining, what Final would you most want to see?
James; I think a Chicago/Pittsburgh final would be terrific given the depth of talent and the experience. And a Kings/Pens clash with different styles would be interesting. But at the risk of sounding like Eddie Haskell is there a matchup that doesn't work at this stage? Detroit/Boston? San Jose/Boston with the Thornton connection. etc. etc.
I'm all for consistency (I think that's all people are asking for), but it's painfully obvious that the argument "was that a penalty on Jan. 19 when the season began" doesn't hold water for a lot of a series. As a Detroit fan, I've seen Toews on clearer breakways get mauled down with little or no consequence, in addition to people pulled down, sticks slashed out of hands etc. on full to partial breakaways in this series alone. Beyond that, a lot of penalties that would have been on January 19 just aren't being called, for good or ill. That aside, with a general notion that the players "should" decide playoff games and with the sheer amount of stuff, especially after the whistle, that is written off as "playoff hockey," how does a referee find/draw a line between making an "obvious" call, a "controversial" call, and a "oh dear, the stones" call?
Glenn; I admit this is a huge deal for the NHL. Brooks Orpik was saying last week that officials have told players that in scrums after the whistle they're only taking one player and we've seen that. But how does that work? Can't have it all change from game to game and period to period. But that doesn't stop it from happening.
Its possible that Pens-Bruins, Kings-Hawks could be our final four, or to put it another way, the last 4 winners of the Cup. Any idea when last that happened?
Bob; Absolutely could happen and will definitely prompt a call to Elias Sports Bureau. But a pretty cool concept.
So why no love for the Kings? Last year there was the same lack of love and they won the Cup.
Herm; Oh I think there's lots of love for the Kings. But I will say history shows that it's almost impossible to repeat and I think that's why there's a predisposition to suggest at some point they stumble. Perhaps as early as tonight.
Okay folks. Off to Pittsburgh on Thursday. Enjoy the Game 7s tonight and tomorrow and let's do this again next week. Until then.