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 (3:08 PM)
We've got EJ!
Gaba (Los Angeles, ca) [via mobile]
Do you think ovechkin will turn things around and get 40 or 45 goals this season?
EJ Hradek (3:10 PM)
Well, that's been his history. We haven't known him to have these kinds of struggles scoring goals, so I would say yes. That said, I've been watching him play the last couple of games, so I can try and see what's going on with the Caps. I don't know if the team around him isn't playing well or teams are focusing more on him. He hasn't been the dynamic player we've all known him to be.
The Flyers look like a complete team; however, they seem to me missing something... Is this team good enough to win the East, if not, what do they need to compliment the lines?
EJ Hradek (3:11 PM)
I think they're pretty darn good. The thing they might be missing is the urgency of the playoffs on a night to night basis. They beat Pittsburgh and 24 hours later they were up in Montreal and beat them. They've had a couple of odd stinkers here and there, but when they're all healthy, the Flyers have a really strong group. I guess the question will be when they get to the short playoff series, will the goaltending be good enough.
Hey EJ, what's the deal with my B's? I can't tell if they're a legit contender or if they've only been winning thanks to Timmy T standing on his head all season. Last night's ugly loss was a prime example of their inconsistency, especially on offense. What's your take?
EJ Hradek (3:13 PM)
They've relied a lot on Tim Thomas this year. They did play well in a loss last night, but they ran into a hotter goalie. I like their personnel, but I think they have a tendency to be too conservative. But that's how they play. Seguin is going to be a really good player once he develops. They've already got some other good young players there. We'll see. The Bruins will give anyone they play trouble because they're well coached and they can score goals.
Garret (buffalo , ny) [via mobile]
Who has the best game outdoors on new years day, ovechkin, Crosby, malkin, backstrom, or semin?
EJ Hradek (3:14 PM)
Well, I think watching this year, I have no reason to be that Crosby won't be the best player in the game. He's taken things to another level and there's no reason to think he won't be on New Year's Day.
Hi EJ, using the Pens centers (Crosby, Malking, and Staal) as the "gold standard", how do you think the 'Canes centers of Staal, Skinner, and Sutter will measure up eventually? Are the going to be the three-headed monster of the south? Thanks!
EJ Hradek (3:16 PM)
It's a pretty good group. Eric Staal is already a superstar center with a Cup in his pocket. I really like Sutter. Skinner has had a great first 30 games or so. We'll have to see how he adjusts more and see how he plays the center position in the NHL. But he's only 18 years old. I do like those players. You have to give the Canes credit and their scouting staff for finding good young players. I always say you need to be strong up the middle and Carolina has a nice group of players to build around.
Will my Sabres make the playoffs? Would you trade a bag of pucks for Tim Connolly?
EJ Hradek (3:19 PM)
Well, he's out right now. He's hurt. He got banged up the other night. It seems like Tim has never been able to find a level of consistency in the NHL. He has a lot of skill, but I think the injuries he's suffered over the last couple of years has hurt him. But as far as the Sabres and the playoffs are concerned, it seems like no. It seems like Lindy Ruff, who's a good coach and has been there a long time, is fighting it a little bit. He cut his media session short the other day. I think there's pressure there. There's an impending sale that will likely move forward in the coming weeks. It seems like they've put themselves in a little bit of a whole here before Christmas. They have Anaheim tonight. These are the games you have to win, especially on home ice. We'll be watching them closely the next few games to see how they respond.
I'm starting to fall in love with this young Rangers team.....gritty, hard working group with great goaltending. Caution or commit to this team!?!?!
EJ Hradek (3:21 PM)
Ahhh, the trials and tribulations of fandom. You're watching young guys there developing before your eyes. Can they win the Cup with this group? I don't think so. There are some teams with more talented players. But they won't be outworked. I like the culture they've created right now. I like that they've given the players they've drafted a chance to come in and play. I would commit. They'll be fun to watch and fun to root for. At some point as these guys develop, they may need to add a real high end player, but as a fan, you can't ask for much more than a team that comes out and competes.
do you think my hawks will make the playoffs?
EJ Hradek (3:23 PM)
They had a good weekend, which is really what they needed. They beat Detroit and then were able to beat L.A. That's something to build on. It will be difficult. They put themselves in a hole, but that's not surprising with all of the moves they had to make to the roster. They're going to have to play at a better pace than they have. Play better and put up better numbers. But I believe in the Hawks and I like the core group. If they can remain healthy, I think they can get there.
Craig G. (Fairfield, California)
Hey EJ, I always enjoy your podcast with Barry. Can you name some of your favorite goalies to watch who are currently playing?
EJ Hradek (3:23 PM)
First off, thank you for the compliment on the podcast. I really enjoy it. I like working with The Coach. We're doing another one tomorrow. Keep an eye out for that.
EJ Hradek (3:25 PM)
As for goalies that are fun to watch, Tim Thomas comes to mind. He's a great story. He never gave up. He was a great college player. He was a late draft pick. He had to go play in Finland for more than one year. He never really won me over with his play, but he's refined his play the last few years. He's a fun guy to watch. So, he's definitely one to watch. Carey Price in Montreal is another one, because of the situation he's in. He's under so much pressure. Those are two guys that come to mind. But there are so many good goalies in the league. It's not like back in the day where there were only a handful. Now, a lot of really good athletes have taken up the position and there are a lot of good goaltender coaches.
Is Kris Letang's surge as a top defenseman due to the Penguins aggresive system or is this guy just this good?
EJ Hradek (3:27 PM)
He's really that good. He's a really good player. He's grown up over the last few years. He's behind Gonchar as a really good puck mover. He's part of that youthful group that made a run to the Cup final and went on to win a championship. Defensemen tend to get better as they get older as they understand the situations better. He's also a sign of the times. He's a defenseman that's fast in and out. He'll challenge guys. He's a terrific player. It's a credit to the Penguins scouting staff. I like Letang. He seems to be getting better.
Hi EJ, I'm a big fan of the podcast. Great work...btw - when is the next one??? I keep refreshing ESPN NHL like every other minute hoping another one pops up! On a side note...what did you think of the 24/7 premiere? I thought it was great...can't wait for episode 2...
EJ Hradek (3:29 PM)
I feel the same way. I love it and I can't wait for the next episode. HBO can't ask for a better storyline. You have one team that's struggling and one that's playing well. You have two coaches who are different. It's fun to watch. We have the all-access, but you have to remember that we're seeing bits and pieces of it, not all the 50 hours of tape. I'm looking forward to episode two tomorrow night.
BK (Needham, MA)
Should the Bruins fire Julian?
EJ Hradek (3:30 PM)
No, I don't think they should fire him. I just think they get a little too conservative when they get leads. I would like to see them play the same way they do to get the lead. Going forward, they have have a lot of good young players. I think he's done a really good job in Boston since he's arrived.
who is your? Eastern final? Western Final? Who wins the cup?
EJ Hradek (3:32 PM)
They change every day, right? In the East, it's pretty clear to me, it's either Philadelphia or Pittsburgh. Right now, I'd have to probably go with Pittsburgh, but that's a toss up. In the West, take your pick of about 12 teams. They're all so close. Vancouver's played well of late. I have a lot of respect for the Red Wings and what they've done there. Maybe a toss up with those two and maybe the edge to Detroit.
EJ Hradek (3:32 PM)
Thanks for the questions. Everybody have a great Christmas holiday. Thanks for listening to the podcaast with me and Barry.