by Patrick Hoffman on 05/18/10 at 04:00 PM ET
As I am sure many of you knowledgeable hockey blog fans are aware, Justin Bourne, who we have interviewed here on Kukla’s Korner, runs the great http://www.jtbourne.com and his now contributing his musings on Puck Daddy.
Justin was kind enough to take time out of his busy blog schedule to give us his thoughts on the Western Conference Finals:
PH: So, the top two teams in the Western Conference will are battling it out to see who goes to the Cup final. Was this pretty much expected?
JT: No, before the playoffs I don’t think it would’ve been safe to say that the Sharks would find the will to get past a top team in a seven game series. Roster-wise it would have been easy to say, but most people are aware of their post-season crumblings, so them getting by Detroit was a heckuva feat. I’m glad they did - the West final is intensely interesting right now.
PH: What do the Chicago Blackhawks need to do to be successful in this series?
JT: Honestly, if Niemi puts on enough performances like he did in game one, I don’t see how they can fail. Their “d” transition the puck so well that their forwards get a few more opportunities per game than other forwards, and it just so happens their depth chart of forwards is Pacific Ocean deep. To top it off, they’ve got the grit to get it done. I’d like to see them continue to roll 3/4 lines as much as possible and let their sandpaper wear down opponents before the skills guys finish the job.
PH: Is Niemi ready to become a big-time goalie in Chi-town? He’s certainly showed it early on in this series.
JT: Yeah, I think so.
Some goalies just make you nervous, you know? Maybe it’s because expectations for him are lower than they were for, say, Luongo, but I have zero fear that the guy is about to blow the game like I did with, say, Luongo. I like his demeanor, his size his speed…. I’m on the Niemi-wagon.
PH: Looking at the Sharks, what do they need to do to advance to the Cup finals for the first time in team history?
JT: They need to play the best hockey they’ve ever played. They have good enough goaltending, so I think they need two things - they need their honestly-kinda-average d-corps to play out of their heads like Montreal’s did in round one and two. They need to block shots and eliminate any second-chance opportunities Chicago may get. Second, their big three forwards need to catch absolute mind-numbing fire. They won’t win games if they don’t produce, so it’s not a “maybe they need to be good” situation. If they win, it will be because those guys got it done when it counted. They can only lean on Pavelski so much.
PH: If the Sharks lose this series, do you foresee any major changes with the organization?
JT: I don’t know. It’s tough to say, because, from an owner’s point of view, every year you make the playoffs (with home ice), get a bunch of home gate receipts, and are considered a Cup contender. The fans are treated to a positive experience most nights because they win. Sooo, it’d be hard to think they’d scrap it and say “this isn’t working”.
I’d be more prone to think they would make minor changes, or at most, move one of the Big Three to get someone with a little more youth, zest and pep in their step. It’s not that Thornton can’t contribute, but he certainly hasn’t shown he’s able to get it done as the number one guy out there. Maybe they need their own J. Staal, Franzen or Byfuglien that seems so crucial in winning grind ‘em out playoff games.
PH: Last but not least, and since you’re from the area, what do you think of this whole Phoenix/Winnipeg mess?
JT: THROW THE SNAKE!
The Coyotes can make it work here, and I think the Ice Edge group are the guys who could do it right. But I’m no lawyer; I’m a hockey fan that, like so many others here, would be devastated if the opportunity to watch live NHL hockey was taken from us. Winnipeg probably deserves a team too, but this city hasn’t got its fair shot yet. The team moved here, sucked, got moved into a suburb on the outskirts of town, then continued sucking. By the time they got the right personnel in (Don Maloney, Doug Moss and Dave Tippett) and got the team turned around, the “should they move?” chaos had started up.
A season with a solid team, good management and sincerely committed owners, and this franchise will prosper here.
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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.
Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.
For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at email@example.com.