Chat with EJ Hradek
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Buzzmaster (2:59 PM)
We're getting EJ right now!
Buzzmaster (3:11 PM)
Jim Bourbonnais, IL
A lot is made of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane ushering in the hockey renaissance in Chicago. My question to you is: which one of them will be the bigger star?
EJ Hradek (3:13 PM)
That's a good question. I think for me, I think Jonathan Toews will be the more important player. But, with that said, I think Patrick Kane will be the more dynamic player. I think Toews is the guy that's going to be, because he's a center and his leadership skills being the captain, more important to winning and eventually maybe winning a championship. But Patrick Kane is so dynamic and so skilled that he makes for a great complement. They are two different players and that's why fans in Chicago are so excited. You don't usually get guys that complement each other in such a way that make you better.
Scott (Dover, DE)
Do you think the Bruins will be able to roll through whoever they draw next?
EJ Hradek (3:15 PM)
No. I think they got a good draw in the first round. I think Montreal is a team that has had a lot of problems throughout the second half of the season. Their goaltending has been shaky. They've had some injuries to key guys and maybe they were overrated a little bit to begin with. In the second round, the Bruins will definitely face a sterner test. The Bruins have had a terrific season. They've put themselves in a position to have even more success in the next round.
For the series, it seems as though Calgary is taking runs at the Hawks skill guys. It seems as though Kane, Havlat, and Sharp are getting hit pretty good between the whistles and even more after the whistle. I'm new to this whole playoff thing (being from Chicago), at what point do we see a Hawks enforcer finally saying enough is enough and dropping the gloves to send a message that it won't be tolerated anymore? Or does that not happen in the playoffs?
EJ Hradek (3:16 PM)
Well, I don't think that's the answer for Chicago. I think what they have to do to really send a message, if they feel that the Flames are taking liberties with their star players, you have to go at the Flames stars. You have to target guys on that team. Some of the grinders and hard working players on Chicago has to send a message that way. I don't think one tough guy fighting another tough guy will really solve the problem of an opponent going after your stars.
EJ Hradek (3:17 PM)
Clearly, that is part of Calgary's game plan. Based on their roster, I would see that as the only plan for them to take. I would expect them to do more of the same. I think Chicago is going to have to make life tougher for Calgary's top guys.
Liam Hart, Norton Mass.
How underrated is Pavel Datsyuk's (and the wings in general) physical play?
EJ Hradek (3:18 PM)
I think it's pretty underrated. For a guy who's not a really big man, he does not mind the physical game. When he hits someone, he hits. He gains speed, bends his knees and drives his shoulders into somebody. He deserves more attention than he gets. To me, he's the best two-way player in hockey right now.
Jumpin' Atlanta Ga
So do you think there is a double standard on rules enforcement in the NHL? The Flyers reputation versus the pretty boy Penguins being a possible example of a bias.
EJ Hradek (3:21 PM)
I don't think so. I think there is an element of human nature that comes into play here that I don't think you can discount and isn't intentional. With players who have a history or a track record of a certain type of play, I think that's hard to get out of the mind of any unbiased official. That's why they sequester juries in court cases so they don't get outside information. It's there and maybe there's an influence for that. I think it's more from fans and local broadcasters making excuses for calls in games. There are some bad calls, but that's the nature of a game that's played at the speed that it's happening.
sean buffalo ny [via mobile]
ej please back me up here, am i the only one that believes the flyers are taking this series?
EJ Hradek (3:23 PM)
I don't think you're the only one. The Flyers had a great effort on Sunday. They scored 6 goals. I think they have a great chance to still win the series. It would benefit them to win Game 4 tonight, clearly. This is a good hockey team. I think they're well matched up against Pittsburgh. I've given Pittsburgh the edge, but this is two really good teams playing against each other.
Do you see the Sharks coming back? or is it going to be just another chapter in their historical "playoff chokes"?
EJ Hradek (3:25 PM)
Well, they've got a big mountain to climb. It's one thing to struggle in your first two home games. It's another to do it playing against a really good Anaheim team. The Ducks have three legit first ballot hall of famers on their roster. They also have a trio of elite young power forwards. I think this is not an easy matchup for the Sharks. Some people might look at the numbers and think this is a choke. I don't see it that way. I think Anaheim is playing very well. Obviously, down 0-2, they need a big effort tonight. They'll need to have to find a way to get it past Jonas Hiller.
robert (east lansing)
what kind of pressure if any did the win last night for the caps put on the rangers? a young team that finally discovered how to play hockey riding a hot goalie with the thought of going back to DC tied up at 2.
EJ Hradek (3:26 PM)
There is a lot of pressure on the Rangers, unless they don't care about winning. They had a 2-0 lead on the road. They come home and don't play well. I don't think there is any question there's pressure to win Game 4. Each team is going to feel their own pressure. I think in the Rangers case, to have blown a 2-0 series lead on home ice would not be good, especially when you're playing as dangerous a team as the Caps.
Is there a more overlooked star than the real Nick Backstrom? 21 yrs old and already a freak.
EJ Hradek (3:28 PM)
Nick is playing with the Washington Capitals, which means he has to play under the shadow of Ovechkin. But he's a terrific player. I thought you saw an example of all the things he does for the team. Terrific playmaker. Gets involved physically. I saw a good example of his work ethic when he got back to help stop the Rangers from scoring late in the first period. He's kind of like Datsyuk in Detroit. They fly a little bit under the radar.
James ( Avalon NJ )
Hey EJ! Without disecting the entire lineup how is it the Flyers can go from looking so bad to so good! I've never really bought into the whole home ice theory but that's the only thing I can come up with. What do you think the factor is that changed their play?
EJ Hradek (3:30 PM)
I think the Flyers have been a little inconsistent this year. For a team that has that number of high end forwards and some really good cornerstones on defense, I kind of expected them to be a little more consistent in their play. This is a team that got back in this series with a good win in Game 3. It will be up to Philadelphia to up the ante themselves. I do think Philadelphia has been more up and down this year and I want to see where they're at tonight.
Sean (TR NJ)
In your opinion what has been the best series so far and do you see any potential real classics coming out of this years first round?
EJ Hradek (3:32 PM)
I absolutely think so. We have a couple of series at 2-1, Philly-Pitt, Rangers-Caps, Chicago-Calgary. I think we could have 2 or more Game 7s. I've been curious about the Sharks-Ducks series. Huge game tonight. The Caps and Rangers has been exciting and interesting. They've all had different elements that make you watch and make you wonder what will happen next. The first round is always so much fun for me because you have so many games and everyone has so much hope heading into the playoffs. Right now, I think the Canucks might be a dark horse. They're on the verge of advancing to the second round.
Is becoming a goalie easier nowadays? You look at the past stanley cup chapions and teams that have done very well, a lot of them are anchored by a young net minder. Is this an increase in talent level of goalies or decrease of talent in scoring?
EJ Hradek (3:34 PM)
I think the goalies have just gotten so much better over the years, especially in the last 10-15 years. The quality of athletes playing the position has gotten better. That's not to disparage the guys who played before, but the guys are bigger, stronger athletes are playing goaltender. A lot of things have combined to create a lot of good goaltenders around the league. A lot of these guys in the right situation can take teams deep into the playoffs.
What did you make of the whole Ovie espionage scandal? Big deal or just a funny story?
EJ Hradek (3:36 PM)
It's a funny story to me. I think it was great. I loved Alex doing interesting things because it gets everyone's attention. It's something we're not used to in hockey because you have a lot of people very earnest in nature. It ended up making for some news and some coverage for the NHL, which was positive. I thought it was great. And I thought it was very funny the way the whole thing was handled. I guess it's Sean Avery's turn to watch the Caps practice.
Robin (Toronto, ON)
How many days do you think until a complete overhaul happens in Montreal. Will anything less that a miracle comeback save jobs? Thanks,
EJ Hradek (3:37 PM)
At this point, I don't really know what the future will hold. The team may be sold in the near future. If there's new ownership, that would naturally lend itself to changes. I've been wondering if Bob Gainey had enough of the job. I think it could go a number of ways in Montreal. I'll be curious to see what happens there. I don't think they come back. I think they're pretty much done. Once that's complete we can see what happens next.
C'mon EJ...who ya got tonight Pens or Flyers!
EJ Hradek (3:39 PM)
Well....I always say if I really knew who was going to win, I would be on the next plane to Las Vegas. I picked the Penguins in the series, so I guess I'll say the Penguins tonight. I expect it to be a really tough game and it will swing the series one way or the other. I'm looking forward to it and I expect it to be a real nailbiter.
Marc (Malden, MA)
How awesome would a Boston/Chicago finals be?
EJ Hradek (3:40 PM)
That would be old school. The Original Six, major market teams. The NHL and I think the people at NBC and Versus would be thrilled to have all those things come into play. But I think we have a long way to get there.
How is it not a bigger story that the fans at the the Bell Center last night booed during the ENTIRE US National Anthem? It is a disgrace to the great Montreal fans and the media should call them and the the teams management out for aloowing it to happen!
EJ Hradek (3:42 PM)
I've seen this and we've seen this before with series when you have an American based team against a Canadian based team. When it happens, it's disrespectful and unnecessary. It's not something that really bothers me, because I think it's something that's more of a show of ignorance than anything else. You'd like to see fans come together in a celebration of hockey. You'd like to see people on both sides of the border applaud during the anthems. There's been a long history between the US and Canada. Hockey is one of those things that ties us together. As an American, I love hearing Oh Canada. You'd like to see more people be respectful. That's all I got on that.
Will Jose Theodore see anymore playing time in the playoffs?
EJ Hradek (3:43 PM)
I think that's hard to predict. Right now, based on the first two games, I would say no. But things change in the playoffs. Bruce Boudreau has a good read on his team and he knows his goaltenders. He'd probably like to ride it all the way to a title. But things change.
Mustard (Kingston, Ontario)
Afternoon EJ, What do you tihnk has been the biggest story line of the playoffs so far. My vote is for suspensions that are happening (or in Cammalleri's case, no suspension). A close second is the excitement of the Rangers/Caps series...fast and fun to watch. Thank-you,
EJ Hradek (3:45 PM)
Some story lines for me, the Capitals and Rangers early on. The Rangers winning the first two games and the Caps coming back with a big win. The President's Trophy winning Sharks being down. The defending champions are always a story. Can they repeat? Columbus, the first playoff game at home. The battle in Pennsylvania. The old rivals in the Bruins and Canadians. A series under the radar a little is New Jersey and Carolina. They've been competitive and that's one that could go 7 games.
EJ Hradek (3:46 PM)
Thanks for the great questions! Lock it in for tonight. We've got another 5 games. It should be fun.