Burnside: Good day, my friend. I am in Pittsburgh awaiting the next chapter in the Sidney Crosby drama. Will he play Friday against the Stars or won't he? If he won't, when will he play? But let's start our debate on last night's interesting tilt in Tampa, where the Lightning erased a 1-0 third-period deficit and defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 in overtime. Of course, all anyone is talking about is the stall tactics employed by the Flyers early on when the Lightning began the game in a passive 1-3-1 defense. It looked funny, but in my mind is there a bigger non-story? Gee. So the officials made the right call, blew the play dead as they would on an icing call when the defensive team delays in touching the puck, and life goes on. I would wager we will not see this again until the moon turns blue and the Leafs win a Stanley Cup, but maybe my outrage button has been turned to mute (hardly a chance of that happening, but let’s proceed). What were your thoughts on the great delay?
Custance: You in Pittsburgh? Stunned. First of all, you'd think that a team standing around and doing nothing would send people scrambling to change the channel in huge numbers, but I found the buzz on Twitter and other social media surrounding the stall completely fascinating. If you weren't watching that game, you almost had to tune in just to see what everyone was talking about. I found it oddly captivating to watch Chris Pronger stand there and do nothing. I also found it interesting how the opinions were generally split on who was in the wrong based on what teams fans liked. Lightning fans were livid at the Flyers for not advancing the puck and Flyers fans were livid at the Lightning for employing the 1-3-1 in the first place. I guess that's how it goes. They mentioned on the broadcast that Scotty Bowman suggested a rule change that would limit the players who could skate backward in the neutral zone. Although he has forgotten more hockey than I'll ever know, I hope this one incident doesn't set in motion any rule changes. Let's see if this becomes a more widespread issue. Leave it to Chris Pronger to sum it up after the game, telling our friend Tim Panaccio: "Way to showcase the product." I wish I could have been in that dressing room after the game.
Burnside: Funny that Pronger was outraged, but was he not a guy just standing there statue-like with the puck until the officials blew the play dead? Come on. Get over yourself. How about those two senseless minor penalties Pronger took? Wonder whether fans got their money’s worth from that. OK. Rant over. Hopefully we will not discuss this issue again for many a blue moon. But speaking of ghastly (how’s that for a transition?), what’s up with the Ducks and can they be saved? As much as we lauded Jonas Hiller’s return from vertigo, he’s looked more than a little unbalanced of late, and last night’s 4-2 home loss to Nashville (will Pekka Rinne win every game over the course of his new seven-year contract?) marked the sixth straight game without a win from a Ducks team that was pretty much a consensus pick among prognosticators to make the playoffs next spring. Do you think changes are afoot or is this just a normally streaky team going through a down cycle?
Custance: It seems like every November we're wondering if Randy Carlyle is in trouble, and then suddenly the Ducks find a way to string wins together and make us question why we ever doubted them in the first place. That said, the Ducks need to take advantage of their current homestand after struggling on the road. Last night's loss to the Predators started a stretch in which the Ducks play 11 of 13 games at home, so they might want to capitalize, especially considering how bad they looked on the road. But you're right, Hiller needs to be better. The word from Nashville is that the Rinne signing has relaxed things a bit in that dressing room. The contract talks and potential of losing all three of their stars certainly had to be a black cloud over the team. Now you have some positive momentum and an ownership group that has been very public in its declaration that it will spend to win. We saw the kind of lift that can provide a team last year with Terry Pegula in Buffalo. He backed it up spending big in free agency. Imagine the push the Predators would get if Ryan Suter gets a deal done.
As for tonight, I'm looking forward to a couple games: In Boston, you've got Taylor versus Tyler. The second game of my doubleheader will be Minnesota at San Jose, where half the players on the ice will be competing against former teammates. Too early to pick a winner between the summer deals made by Doug Wilson and Chuck Fletcher?
Burnside: Yes, a very interesting night on the NHL docket with some familiar faces going head to head. I spoke with Josh Harding and Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher this week, and it's a nice story taking shape in Minnesota with Harding coming back after missing an entire season, plus part of the previous season with injury. He was the NHL's first star this week but as always at this point in the season, it's about being able to sustain that level of play. The Wild’s special teams are pretty ordinary, and while they're getting pretty good even-strength production, it's been a bit of a disappointment in terms of Dany Heatley's production. The Sharks, meanwhile, are cruising as most people thought they would. Good team, but like Washington none of what they do in November, December, etc., means as much as the playoffs, when this team will need to prove itself. Maybe I'm being too hard on them after making it to the Western Conference final two straight years, but I still can't shake the feeling this is a team that has underachiever written all over it. I know that will make Pierre LeBrun unhappy, but there you go.
Custance: I don't know how you can call a team that has advanced to the Western Conference finals for two consecutive years an underachiever. I think Todd McLellan and this group of Sharks gets unfairly labeled because of failures of teams in the past. There's been a steady evolution going on under McLellan, and I certainly wouldn't lump them in with the Caps, who I think have more to prove this spring than the Sharks. I realize the ultimate goal is to win the Stanley Cup, but I think there are a lot of fan bases that would be more than happy to see their teams advance to the conference finals for two consecutive years. Alright, Scotty, I'll let you dive into Sidney Crosby coverage. Could be an interesting couple days in Pittsburgh. Have fun!