Chat with EJ Hradek
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, ESPN The Magazine's EJ Hradek will stop by to chat about the NHL season.
Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.
Keep up with what Hradek has been up to through his blog on ESPN.com.
Send your questions now and join EJ to chat Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET!
Buzzmaster (3:02 PM)
We're getting EJ!
E.J. what can Ovi do to clean up his image? Here in DC we love his fun loving, everyman, hard hitting persona. Is that guy going to have to go bye bye?
EJ Hradek (3:11 PM)
I don't think so. He's a unique player. You just have to be smarter in some situations. In the case the other day with Campbell, there was no meaning in what he did. He didn't have to shove him there. The puck was already gone. It ends up being a dangerous play with no benefit. He's a guy who plays well. He's a big person, a big man. I don't think he has to change much, he just has to be smarter in situations.
Ryan (Lansing, Il) [via mobile]
Why is there absolutely no consistency in the punishment for game misconducts? Why isn't Cooke suspended at all and why doesn't the NHL make an example of Ovechkin who now has 3 misconducts?
EJ Hradek (3:14 PM)
It's a great question. I would agree with you that there has been a lot of inconsistency through the years that the league has handed down. In the case of Matt Cooke, he has a history of dangerous play. for a variety of reasons, the league felt that it couldn't, within the rules that they have set up, suspend Cooke. While I, and most hockey fans and observers, would have hoped for a suspension, there wasn't one. I think it's one thing moving forward that they'll have to better that system to make it more consistent. I do think it's tough because each play and incident are different from the rest. It does make it hard to be cut and dry with each case. They could do a better job if the league and players' association get together to improve the current situation.
EJ, the Stars don't seem to very motivated at this point in the season. Have they packed it in or do they still have a chance to make the playoffs? Also, what do they need to do in the offseason to get back to prominence?
EJ Hradek (3:16 PM)
I don't know if they've packed it in. They're on the outside. A lot of things can change. In both conferences, even though you can make a case for a bunch of teams, I would say there are about 9 playoff teams in the East and 9 in the West. So, basically, I think there is only one team in each conference that's fighting to get in. They have average goaltending. They're a team that will be out of the playoffs this year.
How long before the playoffs does Q need to settle on a goalie to give the guy time to establish a rhythm and confidence before the second season?
EJ Hradek (3:18 PM)
I don't think they need to establish someone. I get the sense with the Blackhawks that it will be a game to game thing. I don't know if either guy has the ability to take the net and hold on to it. Is one of these guys able to step up and take hold of that job? I'm not sure we're going to see that. It might be a situation where they run the hot guy until he has a down game and you change. They're a good team but that's an issue we'll watch with them into the playoffs.
Zach Tamilia (Pittsburgh PA)
Will the Penguins hold of NJ to win there division? And who is the most balanced team between the two?
EJ Hradek (3:20 PM)
The Devils have beaten the Penguins 5 times this year and they play for the final time in New Jersey. So, head to head, you have to say New Jersey is the better team. Pittsburgh's strength is up the middle. They are balanced on one end. I think New Jersey is a little of a strange look for them. They used to have a good group of defensemen, but when you look at them they have some good forwards and they have a no-name group of defensemen. Paul Martin's return will give them a little more balance. But from top to bottom, I would say the Penguins have a a little more balance.
Bill (Washington, DC)
EJ, huge victory by the Red Wings last night, but does Detroit stand a chance against either the Hawks or Sharks in the first round?
EJ Hradek (3:22 PM)
Absolutely, I think. I just saw Detroit play Chicago last weekend and they were able to come from behind. The Red Wings have so many guys on their team out. They really haven't had their whole roster for a good part of the year. If they can get healthy, they'll be a pain no matter who they play. They are in an unusual situation of being an underdog role. They will be a team that I don't think anybody will want to play.
Should the Avalanche be just "satisfied" with making the playoffs this year, considering how young they are and how they were usually picked 30th in the NHL at the beginning of the year?
EJ Hradek (3:24 PM)
I don't think any team, when you go into the lockerroom and talk to them, is ever satisfied. They might say that they've had a great year and they've played above and beyond, which is true. But they'll be a team that will be there to win. They've been terrific at home. Anderson's been one of the best goaltenders in hockey. If they don't have a long playoff run, we can say it was a great season for a team that was a surprise, but I don't think anyone in that room will be satisfied. They'll want to make a run at it all, like all of the teams in teh playoffs.
Do you think Crosby's narrowly escaping injury due to a questionable at best take down adds a wrinkle to the game Thursday night? Will their guys now be even more dilligent about fighting off the Bruins' probable rough play?
EJ Hradek (3:26 PM)
The players and coaches in the league understand all of these kinds of different situations. The Penguins understand they're walking into a hornets nest in Boston on Thursday. I'm sure they'll be prepared for that and whatever comes their way. Hopefully there won't be anything goofy that goes on. Matt Cooke might be asked to drop his mitts and defend himself. In this game and in future games between these teams, hopefully we won't see the competitive nature of these teams bottom out and see anything uncontrolable. Hopefully that won't be the case Thursday.
Ryan (Germantown, MD)
Can the Rangers stay consistant enough to first get in the playoffs then make a run?
EJ Hradek (3:28 PM)
I think it will be a real challenge just to get in. It will be tough for them tonight against the Montreal Canadians. For me, tonight is a really critical game for the Rangers. They need to win at home and close that gap. Depending on what happens tonight, the Rangers could move ahead of the Bruins in points. Because of Lundqvist in goal, they have a punchers chance in any playoff series. They could steal a game or even a series, but I'd be hard pressed to say they could do more than that.
kin (hong kong)
hi EJ!! assuming PHX is going to make the playoff, what seeding will they go in at? if i am the coach, who should i hope to play against in the first round? how far u think they can advance? thanks!!
EJ Hradek (3:30 PM)
Right now, when I look at them, they're on track for the fourth seed in the conference. They're not going to catch San Jose in their division, so they'll get the fourth spot. They'll get first round home advantage. That's a good spot. When you get to 3-6, 4-5 matchups, you're talking about teams that are close. With Phoenix, teams that don't have as much experience would be a favorable matchup for them. I'll be looking forward to what happens to them in the playoffs and how they're able to compete. It's been an interesting year on so many levels for a team that was close to being moved out of there in the summer.
The Devils are 3-1 against Washington and 4-0 against Pittsburgh going into tomorrow's game with Pitt. Even though they potentially will be the #2 seed in the East, will the Devils be most underrated team in the playoffs?
EJ Hradek (3:32 PM)
I have to see more from them in the next couple of weeks. They ran up a terrific record and they did fly under the radar. In mid-January, they started to struggle. They've been dealing with their own ups and downs in the season. There hasn't been the long stretches of consistent play. Their defense has been stretched because of injuries. I'll be curious to see how they finish their season. They have enough offense to score goals, but I still wonder if they'll be good enough on defense. I see their record against Pittsburgh and Washington has been terrific. When I look at it right now, despite those records, I'd still favor Washington or Pittsburgh. But New Jersey is right in that next mix of teams in the conference.
Do you see Ontario getting another team in the future? Any teams that you see possibly relocating?
EJ Hradek (3:34 PM)
I think it's always possible. The Coyotes situation is still up in the air. In saying that, I am not saying that I think it will be relocated to the Ontario area. There are some questions going forward about whether the team ownership can keep it. From a league standpoint, they are committed to keeping the teams where they are. I think there are a number of options.
EJ Hradek (3:35 PM)
Thanks again. Good questions. I appreciate it. See you next week.