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April 29, 1:00 PM ET
Chat with Craig Custance

Craig Custance
  (1:00 PM)

Hey everyone! What a night last night of playoff hockey. Unbelievable. Lots to talk about so let's jump right in.

chris (long island)

Craig, please shed some light on the Isles plans this off-season...We all know they plan on being active at the draft and when free agency begins, but what can fans realistically expect? Is the move to Brooklyn enough to entice the a guy like Niskanen or does snow repair the defense with a RFA?

Craig Custance
  (1:03 PM)

The Islanders have long had an issue attracting free agents and one of the biggest obstacles is ownership. The move to a better building will help but to me the biggest thing to watch is the ownership situation. Players want to join a team that will spend and has stability. The Islanders have good young D, to me the focus is in goal. That's why they struggled as much as they did. There will be options in free agency with guys like Miller, Hiller and Halak possibilities. That's where Snow needs to start.

Dave (SJ)

Craig whats your scores for tomorrow game 7's. If SJ loses is MCLLENAN gone?

Craig Custance
  (1:08 PM)

Whoo boy, that's a tough one. I originally picked the Kings to win in 7 and at this point can't believe I still have a chance to be right. Everything points to a Kings win, especially considering the goalie situation but I'm going to say the Sharks rebound to win. It wouldn't be the first time this group bounced back after blowing a 3-0 lead. I believe McLellan is one of the most underrated coaches in the game. The Sharks always make the playoffs, he always has them competing and you don't hear much about it. That said, if they lose, I don't know how you bring this same group back. The roster is pretty locked in, although my guess is they might let Dan Boyle walk. And you'd have to fix the goaltending. The reality is, this is a results based business and if the Sharks lose again in the first round, a coach firing has to be in play.

Shawn (Detroit)

Craig I can't wit much longer, Give me your take on the Bruins/Habs series with both of them having a long layoff? BEEEEZ IN 6

Craig Custance
  (1:11 PM)

It worked out well for both teams that they both have to deal with a layoff. It would have been much worse for Montreal if they had to sit and Boston was still playing six or seven games. I think there's a point of diminishing returns for rest in the postseason and some teams take a game to shake off the rust. So they're in the same boat there. I know the Canadiens play the Bruins close and have had success with them, but I'd give Boston the edge in this. I like their defense better. Better possession team. Rask and Price cancel each other out. Montreal doesn't have the huge goaltending edge they had in the first round. Looking forward to this series but I'd go Boston in 6.

Sara (Philly)

Also, at this point, who do you think the Pens would rather see? NYR or PHL? I know we have a bad history with Philly, but NY looks like the far better team, and Lundqvist is the great equalizer!

Craig Custance
  (1:15 PM)

Yeah, this seems counter-intuitive but if I'm the Penguins, I'd rather see the Flyers despite their success in the past against Pittsburgh. I like how the Rangers are playing this postseason, they're better defensively. They have better goaltending, I mean who would you rather face, Lundqvist or Mason? The Flyers won't back down from the Penguins and those series are always fun but if I'm a Pittsburgh fan, I want the Flyers.

Ruskin (Bismarck)

Which, do you think, has had a bigger impact on the outcome of the Avalanche-Wild series - Cooke's dirty hit on Barrie or the missed calls in Game 5? Who do you think wins Game 7? Thanks!

Craig Custance
  (1:16 PM)

Both have had a huge impact. To me, Barrie and Erik Johnson are the two defensemen who had to have a big series for the Avs to pull this off. Losing him was brutal not only for this round but if they advance beyond the Wild. I picked the Avs to win the series and I think getting MacKinnon away from Suter at home will be the difference in Game 7. 4-3, Avs.

Kid A (LA)

Another year, another boy who cried story in St. Louis. Let's face it, they have two 2nd lines, a 3rd and a 4th. You're not going anywhere in the playoffs with no true 1st line. So can you please send a memo to your colleagues its prob prudent to shut up, until they put up cause I like you guys and I hate seeing you all look silly for six months every year calling this team contenders...and even worse for some, cup favorites. Thanks!!

Craig Custance
  (1:19 PM)

Thanks Kid A, I'm glad you're looking out for us. You're right about the Blues, they don't seem to have that big scorer that produces when it matters most like the Blackhawks do. That said, they're built very much like the Kings. Until they got Gaborik, they didn't really either. I still don't think the Blues should panic, there's a lot to like in St. Louis. But rather than investing in a big-time starting goalie, that money is better spent on a finisher or a forward who can generate more offense. The Blues time will come.

Chris (Tampa)

Hockey people can be notoriously resistant to change. Have coaches jumped on the pulling the goalie earlier bandwagon just because it worked for Roy and the Avs or because of the actual logic in giving your guys more time with a manpower advantage to score?

Craig Custance
  (1:22 PM)

Hockey people are definitely resistant to change but the NHL is also notoriously a copycat league. I really believe Roy has raised eyebrows but he can also take risks that some other coaches can't because of his all-encompassing power in Colorado. Plus, they have the personnel to make it work moreso than other teams. I bet you Roy had an impact on when Bruce Boudreau pulled his goalie in Game 6. I don't expect all coaches to start pulling goalies at 3 minutes next year but Roy certainly will embolden some. The numbers suggest it's the right thing to do.

Joe (DC)

If you are Doug Armstrong, do you try to sign Miller or get someone else and keep the draft pick?

Craig Custance
  (1:23 PM)

I'm keeping the draft pick. Using the money on goal-scoring and giving Jake Allen the opportunity to be my starting goalie while signing a veteran backup as insurance.

Mickey (Chicago)

Just occured to me, but of the teams that made the playoffs in the East, 2 of them were Western conference teams last year (both in the central division, so I think that means last year's entire central division made it in this year). Just goes to show how stacked the West has been the past few years.

Craig Custance
  (1:25 PM)

Mickey - You're right. Not only that but I think the way Columbus is built, with all its Western Conference DNA, helped it succeed in the East. That's basically a Western team playing in the other conference.

Drew (Indy)

Would you agree that the return of marcel goc has been a big addition to the pens? He gives them great flexibility and is great in the face off dot.

Craig Custance
  (1:25 PM)

Yes, I would. I loved that trade for Ray Shero. He had an understated trade deadline but it was an effective one. Sometimes the biggest deals at the deadline don't pay off (right STL?) and it's the ones that add depth and specialization that do pay off. Chicago has been proving that for years now under Stan Bowman.

Rick (NY)

How does Garth Snow still have a job? He's made a ton of bad moves over the years but the Vanek trade was ridiculous. Is he definitely back next year?

Craig Custance
  (1:27 PM)

It's the owner. I'm starting to think that there might have been another Vanek deal in place that fell through, forcing the Montreal deal. Either way, you're right. That whole fiasco is enough to cost a GM his job. Whether or not may depend on who buys that team and what they think of Snow.

Nick (Deerfield IL)

Now that he outplayed Ryan Miller, can we stop doubting Corey Crawford, or does he have to win the cup...again?

Craig Custance
  (1:28 PM)

He was really good. Especially killing those early penalties in Game 6. The thing that impresses me more and more about Crawford is his resiliency.Even when he lets in a bad goal, it doesn't appear to rattle him. That's the kind of rock you need in net for a team like Chicago.

Steven (Reno)

As a sharks fan, I am pretty sure that Pierre totally jinxed my team. I am about 95% sure we lose tomorrow. Craig, give me some hope to keep me from jumping off a ledge.

Craig Custance
  (1:30 PM)

There's a lot of blame to go around, but you can't pin it on Pierre. He has to go where the best series is, and sticking with a 3-0 series doesn't make sense. But if you do believe his presence impacts a series, than there's your hope. I believe he's on his way to Game 7.

Nick (Deerfield IL)

So the new playoff format has me confused. Why don't the Ducks get Minnesota if they win at Colorado? They were a wildcard team so I thought their division affiliation doesn't matter.

Craig Custance
  (1:31 PM)

First two rounds are essentially divisional playoffs. Once a wildcard is locked into a division in the first round, they stay there for the duration.

Josef L (MIA)

If Pens fall in round 2, could they trade Malkin? Will the Caps try to trade Ovi? Will the Sharks blow up the team if they lose game 7?

Craig Custance
  (1:33 PM)

Wow Josef, you want a lot of scorched earth. I wouldn't trade Malkin in a million years. Sharks just extended Thornton and Marleau so I don't see a blowup there. You're not going to get rid of Pavelski or Couture either. Maybe let Boyle walk and change the goalie or coach. Ovechkin depends on the owner and new GM. Something needs to change there with the way that team is structured.

Joey L (NY)

Who could the Florida Panthers sign in the off-season?

Craig Custance
  (1:34 PM)

When I last talked to Dale Tallon he said they were going to be aggressive in free agency, with money to spend. They need some veterans to surround their kids. I wouldn't mind seeing them add a guy like Brooks Orpik and Dave Bolland is Tallon's kind of guy.

Sara (Philly)

Hi Craig, big (BIG) sigh of relief last night for us Penguins fans! Do you think Malkin's breakout last night will carry forward to Round 2?

Craig Custance
  (1:36 PM)

Sara - I'm not a huge momentum guy in the playoffs, although confidence plays a factor. To me it's all about matchups. Malkin isn't a guy who stays quiet for very long, you just have to trust it's going to eventually happen with a guy like him.

Joe (DC)

If Washington could have a 'do over' in the 04 draft do you think they'd consider taking Malkin - given what we know now. Ovechkin is a one dimensional player whose a defensive liability.

Craig Custance
  (1:38 PM)

Oh I don't know. Ovechkin put the Capitals on the map in that city. Sure, he may not be a 200 foot player but he scores goals at a rate like nobody else in the league. What he does has immense value. He wouldn't necessarily be my captain and the identity of my team, but he could play for me anytime. I don't think anybody there is regretting making that pick.

Craig Custance
  (1:38 PM)

Oh I don't know. Ovechkin put the Capitals on the map in that city. Sure, he may not be a 200 foot player but he scores goals at a rate like nobody else in the league. What he does has immense value. He wouldn't necessarily be my captain and the identity of my team, but he could play for me anytime. I don't think anybody there is regretting making that pick.

Sarah (IL)

Hey Craig,I submit questions every week and never get picked...something against the ladies to post? :) Anyway who do you think my Hawks will play next round and thoughts on the series?

Craig Custance
  (1:40 PM)

Haha - this is an equal opportunity chat! I'm sticking with my original pick of the Avs and if so,it won't be an easy matchup. Varlamov is a goalie who can steal games, the Avs have the high end talent to score on the Blackhawks and are so dangerous in their transition game. But ultimately, I think Chicago's dominant possession game will wear down the Avalanche and they'll win the series. At most in six.

Ern (Columbus)

The future is bright in Columbus, eh, Craig?

Craig Custance
  (1:42 PM)

Love Columbus Ern. They're doing everything right there, from JD on down. In Ryan Murray, Ryan Johansen and Bob, they have franchise players at the most important positions. They're built for the long run and that market deserves it. Those crowds in Columbus were awesome. Can't wait to get down there for the All-Star game.

Ruskin (Bismarck)

Do you think the Avs will keep Stastny? Will it depend on how far they advance in the playoffs? He is such a huge part of their offense, and they will be loaded for the next few seasons, should he re-sign. I have to think that that holds some weight in his decision.

Craig Custance
  (1:44 PM)

Ruskin - When I talked to Paul about it, his biggest thing was being convinced that the Avs were on the verge of winning which they clearly are. They can afford to keep him but he may be the best free agent on the market. Not many centers his age hit free agency. I think he can really cash in if he wants to and if it gets really expensive, the Avs have enough centers already that they might prefer to spend that money on defense. Patrick Roy has publicly said he wants to keep him. Just don't know if it's at all costs, because he'll get a ton on the open market.

Kevin (Boston, MA)

If I am the Habs, I play an uptempo chip and chase game against the B's. If they were to stick to that game plan, can big Z and the B's defense do a good enough job keeping Montreal's forwards to the outside?

Craig Custance
  (1:46 PM)

Kevin - The Red Wings had speed up front too and Boston did a great job keeping them to the outside. That's just what Big Z does. That's why he's so valuable. To me, the key will be the Bruins forwards getting possession of the puck and wearing down the Montreal D. If they can dominate possession and keep Montreal forwards on that side of the ice all game, they'll win.

Marc (Malden, MA)

Will the Islanders have a new owner before they have to decide on which pick to send to Buffalo? If I were them, I would send this years.

Craig Custance
  (1:47 PM)

Marc - It's possible. I'm leaning towards keeping this year's pick and taking my chances on next year. You can't keep putting things off for the future with the Islanders. You have to have faith that at some point your young kids will turn into a winner. I really enjoyed Frank Provenzano and Corey Pronman's analysis on it in Insider. Go read that for a really good breakdown of the situation.

Joshua Bass (NYC)

Craig. Prediction for tomorrow SJ LAK. Also do you see the kings bringing back gaborik? He's looking great out there, and I think he loves LA with the little pressure on his shoulders. You think he is still in a position where he can find that shell of his old self? How much do they bring him back for?

Craig Custance
  (1:49 PM)

Joshua - I think they'd like to keep Gaborik. Dean Lombardi was definitely open to the idea after the trade and Gaborik has proven to be a nice fit there. Better than I thought he would be. That said, he's not a player I'd feel great giving a lot of term to. It would have to be the right price.

riko [via mobile]

Who should the Ducks fans root for in game 7?

Craig Custance
  (1:50 PM)

Riko - I'd give both the Sharks and Kings the edge over the Ducks but at this point, because of the goaltending situation in SJ and how fragile they seemed last night, Ducks fans might want to root for a SJ bounceback.

Marc (NY)

Your game 6 prediction for tonight's game?

Craig Custance
  (1:51 PM)

3-2 Rangers.

Rich (From Chicago (but stuck at Logan airport))

I think it's still pretty safe to say that the Cup will continue to have to go through Chicago. Agree?

Craig Custance
  (1:52 PM)

Haha, I've been stuck at Logan airport. Hope we're helping you kill some time there. Chicago looked great. I was concerned about fatigue and saw little of that. They know how to raise their game, they know how to win at this point of the year and I like them against both the Wild or the Avs. It was huge they got through St. Louis in 6 rather than 7. More rest for a team with some mileage. If they can do the same in the second round, you'll be exactly right.

Jason (Philly)

Hear me out, what if the Devils could acquire Ovechkin? They turned Kovie into a better than average two way player, he was even killing penalities for them before he left?Would that make for an interesting story?Sincerely- a Devils fan searching for goals

Craig Custance
  (1:53 PM)

Could Devils fans stomach another player leaving for the KHL in a few years?

Jason (Los Angeles)

Thoughts on the controversial Kings goal? The Sharks coach crying they got cheated is laughable especially they folded like a tent after that goal. It also would help if they scored more than one goal. Thoughts?

Craig Custance
  (1:55 PM)

I thought it was a horrible call. The Sharks had every right to be upset. That shouldn't have been a goal. That said, it doesn't excuse the way they play afterwards. You can't help but wonder if that gives us a glimpse of their psyche.

Rich (From Chicago (but stuck at Logan airport))

Is Trotz coaching anywhere next year?

Craig Custance
  (1:57 PM)

Okay, one more from Rich because he's stuck at an airport. Yes. Trotz will be coaching next year in the NHL. Had a good conversation with him and he's ready to go. If he's smart, he's in no rush because there could be some good jobs opening up in the coming weeks. I'd love to see what he'd do with the Capitals, a team that could use defensive structure that he'll provide.

Andrew (Toronto)

Which young goalie gets more starts next year - Gibson or Allen?

Craig Custance
  (1:58 PM)

Great question. Love it. Wow. I want to think about it awhile. I'm leaning towards Gibson only because think it's safe to say Hiller isn't signed in Anaheim and we just don't know about MIller in St. Louis. He wants to go back.

Tom (VT)

GM of the year? Armstrong - Shero - Yzerman?

Craig Custance
  (1:59 PM)

How about Chiarelli?

Woody (Washington, DC)

What is your take on the Flames new GM hire?

Craig Custance
  (2:00 PM)

Love it. Absolutely love that hire. I'm not sure there was a better candidate on the market than Brad Treliving. Relentless worker. Can evaluate talent both at the NHL/AHL level as well as before the draft. Knows what it takes to win in the Western Conference. Creative, open-minded. Everything you want in a GM.

Craig Custance
  (2:01 PM)

Alright everyone - gotta run. Thanks so much for joining as always. Enjoy the game tonight!