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 (3:01 PM)
We've got EJ!
I thought Sidney Crosby displayed immaturity and frustration last night. Thoughts?
EJ Hradek (3:05 PM)
I would disagree with that. I think Crosby is locked in a battle with Zetterberg and these guys are two really, really gifted players and hard, tough competitors. The last two years, they've played in really high stakes games with one another. There's been a real battle with these two guys and you saw more of that last night. I think Sidney was frustrated at losing and Zetterberg never backs down. The game within the game had two very hard competitors. That's what I saw. Maybe they'll meet again in the spring.
Josh (Sioux Center, Iowa )
EJ, who do you see winning the big monumental match-up tonight between the Thrashers and Bruins? Do you think whoever wins this game will be in the playoffs at season's end?
EJ Hradek (3:08 PM)
I think Boston has the better system. So I think Boston will have to play within that system because of the injuries they have. Atlanta has more fire power and has a talented group. But they tend to be sloppy. If they can play the way they have during this four game win streak, they have a good shot. But they've been inconsistent. Asking me to pick between them is really difficult. I have a hard time picking Atlanta, because of their inconsistencies. As far as the playoffs go, we still have 10 games to play. These two are up and down. I don't think it's a death toll for either team.
Mr. Hradek, which team in either conference that is not currently in the playoffs or is on the edge do you think deserves to be in it. Also, which teams do you think don't deserve to be in the playoffs?
EJ Hradek (3:10 PM)
The team that I think deserves to be in is Carolina. They've played really well the last three months, but their start was so disasterous that it's been hard to overcome. I would love to see them be in, but they're just too far out. Other than that, I think it's pretty well defined as of now. Atlanta and Boston is a toss up but the others deserve to be in.
With all their balanced scoring and great goaltending do the sabres have what it takes to go the distance....finally?
EJ Hradek (3:12 PM)
The Sabres, as they're currently constituted, would need a lot of help. They would need some good fortune. Ryan Miller would have to be as good as he was in the Olympics. They'll really present a problem for anyone they matchup with in the playoffs, but at the end of the day, when I look at their roster and some of the other teams in the East, having to beat two of those three big teams to get to the Finals and then beat one from the West, that's a tall task. They might be one or two players or a shuffle away from making that jump next season.
Do the Hawks - or anybody at the top of the West - want any part of Detroit in the first round?
EJ Hradek (3:13 PM)
I don't think so. Particularly if Howard in goal is going to be as good as he's been the last couple of weeks. He seems to be getting better and better. They're experienced, they know what it takes to win in the playoffs. I don't think any of those top seeds want to play Detroit. They'll be a hard team to deal with.
Call me a Detroit homer, but how can you look at what Crosby did (after the horn had sounded) as anything but frustration cheap shots? And then to not give Zetterberg any credit for defens eafter the game, Crosby has alot of growing up to do.
EJ Hradek (3:16 PM)
Maybe. You get right after a game and your emotions are still running high. He's a competitive guy and so is Zetterberg. Sidney's only 23 years old, so I think he would be entitled to some moments of immaturity. These teams know each other pretty well and the top players on those teams compete hard with one another. These teams don't see each other and they don't play on the same team. They're normally matched against one another on the ice. There's probably a real healthy dislike between them. As fans, we're the beneficiary of that. I love what Jimmy Howard did at the end of the game, he gets in there with his glove and gives Crosby a little face wash. He showed that the team's not afraid and they stick up for one another.
Why are the Rangers so bad??? Its like we are never gonna be good with all of these horrible contracts... What do you think the Rangers should do this off-season to get to the point of being an elite team?
EJ Hradek (3:18 PM)
It's real simple: they don't have strength in the key positions. They don't have a No. 1 center to build their forwards around. Guys are asked to play out of position. They don't have a No. 1 defenseman and guys are asked to do things they're not comfortable with. Luckily for them, they have a terrific goalie. If you don't have those top players, you're going to be washed away.
EJ, where do you think Phoenix ends up in the West. Do you think the Coyotes are a legitimate cup contender?
EJ Hradek (3:20 PM)
I think they're a dangerous team. They have a great goalie and a coach that's been around a while. They play a real good system. Guys have bought into what they're doing. They get a lot of offense from their blue line. They've won a league best 17 games in OT or shootout. When you get to the playoffs, it's hard to say with injuries and matchups, but they have a group of guys that believe in one another. I look at it now and they're going to be a handful of teams because of all of those things. When they score first, their winning percentage is about .900. Historically, when you score first, in hockey, the winning percentage is about 60%. They'll be a great story. We'll see if their franchise can win their first playoff series since 1987.
Zach M. (Greer)
Is the Blackhawks current play or lack thereof for that matter something to worry about or is it just a fluke?
EJ Hradek (3:22 PM)
I thought they played terrific against the Kings the other night. I thought they played OK against Phoenix. They've had key players out on defense. The only thing I worry about is the goaltending. That's the biggest problem. Will their goaltenders be good enough in the playoffs? That's the question we've had about them since opening night. We'll find out in the playoffs. Huet has never won a playoff series as a starter and Niemi has never played in the playoffs. It's a problem and I'd worry about it as a Chicago fan.
Dave (302 )
whats your opinion on the flyers are they playoff and cup contenders this season thanks
EJ Hradek (3:24 PM)
I think the Flyers are an odd team right now. Their goaltending has been a strange story, losing two guys to injuries. They have enough on their roster that they can help the goaltending. But they don't really move the puck great. They're not crisp with their passing and they get bogged down with that. When I look at their roster, is there a chance they could have one of those surprising springs? Yeah. But I really don't see that. A lot will depend on who they matchup with and how the injury factor stacks up.
Who do you think would be the best first-round match-up for the Sabres? I'm just hoping it won't be Ottawa; even when Ottawa's the worst team in the league, Buffalo can't seem to beat them. What do you think their chances are against the potential bottom 4 in the East?
EJ Hradek (3:26 PM)
Assuming that the Sabres will finish third and win their division, they're looking at playing the six seed. I would say that any of those teams there they should be able to beat. Ottawa, Montreal, Boston, Rangers. Philadelphia might be the worst team for them to face. But with Buffalo, with their team, they should be able to beat any of those teams. They wouldn't be a huge favorite. Of the likely teams, I would rather play Ottawa, because of their goaltending questions.
EJ, Can you see Detroit in the 6th seed when the playoffs start? They're on fire right now, Colorado is falling off, and Nashville and Detroit face off 2 more times.
EJ Hradek (3:27 PM)
They could. They're playing well right now. They could finish 6th, but then they could finish 9th. They're 8-2-1 since the Olympics. They've been moving forward in their game in the last week or so. They've left themselves with very little room for error.
Do you think the Caps are better prepared this year for the stretch run? They accumulated depth at the trade deadline and Knuble + Belanger is greater than Federov Kozlov don't you think?
EJ Hradek (3:29 PM)
They added some guys that might be able to help them down the stretch and addressed some issues on the team. They didn't make earth shattering acquisitions. You look at the Caps, they're a dynamic team and they've been finding ways to win all year. Going into the playoffs, they're one of the teams that could win the Cup.
Is Phoenix really the 2nd or 3rd best team in hockey right now?
EJ Hradek (3:31 PM)
All I can go by is what I see when we watch the games and look at the standings. When you look at their roster, there aren't a lot of dynamic guys, but they're getting a lot of contributions from their players. They're getting more offense from their defense than most teams. Their coaching staff is pretty experienced. If you want to rank them, I don't know where they rank. I'm not a big fan of the power rankings, because it's about matchups in a playoff series and the injuries. Phoenix deserves to be called one of the top teams in the league this year because they've played well. They'll be ready to compete and they won't be a pushover in the playoffs no matter who they play.
EJ Hradek (3:31 PM)
Thanks again. Good questions. We're almost there. See you next week.