Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Alanah McGinley on 04/07/08 at 05:38 PM ET
Earlier today, Don Cherry of CBC’s “Hockey Night in Canada”, Mike Emrick from VERSUS and NBC, Pierre McGuire from TSN and NBC and Mike Milbury from NBC and TSN were on a tele-conference discussing the 2008 NHL Playoffs.
You can download the audio [mp3 link] if you like, or listen on the player below. (Be aware that it may take a few minutes to load.)
Update 4:41pm ET: Complete written transcript now available below.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Hello, everyone, thanks for joining us today. We’re here, of course, talking about the NHL 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We announced our conference quarterfinal date and times last evening. We, of course, start on Wednesday.
On Wednesday we’re going to have the Atlantic division rivalry continuing with the Devils hosting the Rangers. Also that night, the Penguins will host the Senators, the San Jose Sharks will host the Calgary Flames, and the Colorado Avalanche will visit the Wild.
Three series open on Thursday when the defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks host the Dallas Stars, Montreal Canadiens host the Boston Bruins and the Presidents Trophy winning Detroit Red Wings host the Nashville Predators.
On Friday, the League’s top point- and goal-scorer Alex Ovechkin makes his NHL postseason debut as the Washington Capitals host the Philadelphia Flyers.
National network television coverage of the Stanley Cup Playoffs will be provided in the United States by NBC and VERSUS and in Canada by CBC, TSN and RDS.
In the U.S., VERSUS begins its coverage Wednesday with a doubleheader featuring the Ottawa at Pittsburgh at 7 Eastern followed by Calgary at San Jose at 10 Eastern. NBC Sports will start its playoff coverage Saturday, April 12, featuring Nashville at Detroit at 2 p.m. Eastern and will continue coverage Sunday when Philadelphia travels to Washington to play the Capitals at 2 p.m. Eastern. NBC will continue weekend afternoon coverage throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs in addition to prime-time coverage of the Stanley Cup Final.
CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada continues its 56-year tradition of Stanley Cup Playoff coverage with a Wednesday doubleheader featuring Ottawa at Pittsburgh at 7 p.m. Eastern and Calgary at San Jose at 10 Eastern.
Today we’re really thrilled to have four great members of our analyst community joining us today, Don Cherry, Mike Emrick, Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury.
We’re going to ask the participants to say a few words before we open it up to questions, and in the spirit of keeping alphabetical order, Don, give us a few words on the Ottawa-Pittsburgh series and the playoffs.
DON CHERRY: Well, we’ve got Crosby in Pittsburgh. He’s rested, his ankle is supposed to be pretty good. We’ve got Malkin all over the world while he’s out. Jordan Staal I think is going to come into his own in the playoffs. He had a tough second year like his first. They’ve got two good goalies Conklin and Fleury, they’re doing well, but I think the guy behind the whole thing is Malone, good guy, hits, fights, scores goals. I think he’s a leader, silent leader as they say. He’s going against Ottawa.
Gerber has never done well in the playoffs. Their two leaders are out. Alfredsson and Fisher, they’re out, their two leaders are out. They haven’t been very good since December. As a matter of fact they’ve been lousy, and they’ve only won three out of their last ten games. So it doesn’t look like much of a contest. But you know, it’s a funny thing about hockey players. When it’s something like that happens, they dig down. It was like when Crosby was out, somehow guys stepped up. Staal was unbelievable, and it’s not going to be as easy as everybody thinks.
Everybody has been down on Ottawa now for three or four months. They might—sometimes a little magic happens, and it’s not going to be easy. I’m still going to pick Pittsburgh, but it’s not going to be right out and gone.
There’s one thing Ottawa has got going that nobody mentions. They scored more goals than anybody, and a team that can score goals can be in the playoffs very, very dangerous, but I’m still picking Pittsburgh.
MIKE EMRICK: Nashville and Detroit, two happy teams, neither has a winning record in the shootout, and that’s gone. We’re going to play all night if we need to to settle a game, and I like that. Fans like it, too, either way. 90 minutes apart instead of thousands of miles, I think they like that, too. The Red Wings crossed 29 time zone lines in five weeks before Anaheim knocked them out last year. This is a close one in terms of geography.
The Red Wings have the fewest goals yielded but there was volume in later stages. Dan Ellis was really good. He had the equivalent of four games with no goals against. They did get Tomas Holmstrom back in the lineup so they can start checking again.
The Predators have had good years from Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont. I look forward to the battles between Holmstrom and Shea Weber, old school guy, and there will be no back-to-back games in terms of back-to-back nights, so Hasek should be able to play on the day off in between if that matters. It really didn’t matter year because they had to play that way sometimes.
Detroit has got a lot of depth, offensive skill. That’s sort of obvious but Nashville knows they’re the underdog. I hope it goes six because I love going to Nashville.
In the regular season they played eight games with no fights. They’ll probably have a couple in the first game.
PIERRE McGUIRE: Well, I’d like to talk a little bit about the Philadelphia Flyers and the Washington Capitals. I think this series has a chance to have the most bloodshed of all the series, and the big reason why is because of the targeting that’s going to go on. Whether you talk about going after Alexander Ovechkin or even challenging a rookie like Niklas Backstrom, I think that’s going to be real tough for Backstrom who’s never played in an NHL playoff game.
I think when you look at the Philadelphia Flyers under John Stevens, he brought back a little bit about what made the Flyers good in the 1970s and that’s intimidation. It’s not easy to do now with the way games are being called, but I expect you’re going to see players like Braydon Coburn having an impact on the series Philadelphia is going to win. I think you’re going to see Steve Downie and Scottie Upshaw potentially have an impact if Philadelphia is going to win.
But the thing that Alexander Ovechkin does, like any superstar in the NHL, is he attacks the people that are trying to attack him. He will not be intimidated. He’s yet to show that in his three years in the league, so I expect it’s going to come down to a goaltending situation, and who’s going to be the better goalie. And right now neither one of those goalies has won a playoff round in their NHL history.
I think right now Huet has probably got a little bit of an advantage, but I think the MVP of this entire thing is George McPhee, the general manager of the Washington Capitals at the trade deadline. One of the reasons they are in the playoffs is he got Fedorov, he got Matt Cooke who’s been a tremendous energy player for them, and obviously Huet. What they’ve done with Bruce Boudreau is they’ve cultivated talent like Mike Green to put them in a position where they have a chance to succeed.
But when you play against Washington, the most underrated part of their game because everybody focuses on the skill of Kozlov, Fedorov and Olvechkin, they’ve got powers upon powers on defense. Shaone Morrisonn is a big body. They lean on you. They’re not intimidated. This will be a long, physical bloody series and I think the Washington Capitals will win it, but I think they’re going to win it under severe physical duress.
MIKE MILBURY: I’m going to follow up a little bit on Doc’s comments on the Detroit and Nashville series. Detroit is a team that wins the Jennings Trophy, wins the Presidents Trophy, has a candidate for the North and the Hart Trophy, a coach who’s been mentioned as Coach of the Year in Babcock, and two of the top six scorers in the league, and there seem to be questions about them, and I think the reasons are two. The first is their goaltending. Is Hasek going to be able to perform at the level that he has done in the past and drive them deep into the playoffs, and if he can’t, with Osgood, they’ve been just okay. But I think a rested Hasek should be okay for Detroit, certainly good enough to beat Nashville.
The second one is character. Nashville has it in the bucket load, and Coach Trotz has not really been given as much credit as he should be given. This team lost a lot of people in the off-season, but he’s gelled them together as a team that knows how to play hockey as a group. They play as a unit. They’ve got solid goaltending. They make you pay a price.
It’s going to be an interesting series but I still have to give the edge to Detroit based purely on skill and experience.
The other series that I want to touch on that is going to be extraordinarily, I think, close, is the New Jersey and Rangers series, where they’ve got two world-class goaltenders, two terrific coaches, both rely on defensive scheme that has produced terrific results over the course of the season. Despite the fact that the Rangers have pretty much dominated for the most part in the regular season, I see this one going deep and carrying a lot of overtime play.
Should be fun between two great rivals.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, gentlemen. We’ll now open it up for questions.
Q. Guys, thanks for taking the time here today. I’m wondering if one or two of you might talk about what some of the things the Nashville Predators might have to do if they’re to have any chance of beating Detroit in its first round series.
PIERRE McGUIRE: I’ll start first. I think the three young defensemen, when you talk about Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, those two in particular, Danny Hamhuis as a third, are going to have to step up huge on Datsyuk and Zetterberg, especially Shea Weber. He’s got to be a physical presence throughout the entire series. He just brings it all the time.
That’s the thing, if Detroit can’t get consistent scoring from Datsyuk and Zetterberg it will put a lot of pressure on Tomas Holmstrom to produce and it puts a lot of pressure on Johan Franzen who had 27 goals this year to produce, so I think the young defense for Nashville have to be really strong and have to be a critical component if they’re going to win this series.
Q. One other question. If any of you guys could talk about Dan Ellis and kind of what a remarkable season it is for him who played only one NHL game this year and to lead the league in save percentages. Can anyone really remember anything like that happening recently?
MIKE EMRICK: We’ve had some goaltenders that have come in and have been really strong with long undefeated streaks at the beginning of their careers, but this guy is not 22 now. He’s a college guy that’s had some seasoning in the pros before he came in, and to catch on at just the right time when Nashville needed him to get into the playoffs and to fight their way in, I think that’s the impressive test that he’s had to go through.
The pressure of playing Detroit is probably going to be equivalent to what he’s had the last couple of weeks just because there was so much uncertainty around the league. But to register what he did and be an NHL Player of the Week two weeks from the end when it really is crunch time for his team, I think that’s impressive. I’m looking forward to seeing how he does against all of that, but I think Pierre’s comment about the three big Ds because they’re the guys that are going to have to make a difference, and I love watching Weber play. We like collisions and we like guys that can generate them, and it’ll be interesting to see because they do have that bucket load of adrenaline and character. We’ll see how Detroit will stand up to that when they’re tested for the first time, which will probably be 20 seconds in. What about Price from Montreal? Here’s a guy 20 years old, and there’s no pressure in Nashville. Nobody knows you’re playing. But you go to Montreal you’ve got 4,000 papers after you, TV, radio and everything. This 20-year old kid just stepped up like a trooper.
I think down the road—nobody ever mentioned him for rookie of the year. I think he should be rookie of the year.
SPEAKER: This kid has had a hell of a run and nobody likes to talk about it. Europeans have smashed a lot of the stereotypes but it still raises its ugly head when you talk about Detroit. Do they have enough character, are they going to be stamped as the Euro skill players and can Nashville intimidate them, and that’s the story for this series.
SPEAKER: If Nashville intimidates them, let’s talk about Anaheim (laughter).
Q. Pierre, a lot of buzz about Ovechkin as MVP this year. Why beyond statistics do you feel he would be a candidate?
PIERRE McGUIRE: Because he can do it by himself. A lot of guys need other players around him. He can make himself great and make this team win because he is so overwhelmingly dominant because of the physical nature of his game.
The one thing that he does, and Don and Mike coached against him and obviously Mike played against him. Teemu Selanne was great but he needed Andy McDowell with him or another career type of player to do that. Alexander Ovechkin doesn’t need that. You give him a stick and a puck and he doesn’t even need gloves. He’s virtually indestructible. I would call him a cyborg.
When you look at it, he is without a doubt the MVP of the league, and whoever has a vote that doesn’t vote for him should have that vote rescinded. He’s the MVP of the league.
Q. Mike Milbury, you’ve seen a lot of players in your time. Is there anyone that Ovechkin reminds you of, or is he kind of his own man?
MIKE MILBURY: He’s taken it to another level that I haven’t seen. When you see him jumping up against the glass and the enthusiasm that he demonstrates with his teammates, whether it’s him scoring a goal or not doesn’t seem to matter to this guy. There’s no question he’s as electrifying a player as I’ve seen when you put him in that category. Crosby last year was in that similar vein, but I think Ovechkin may have knocked it up a notch. It’s hard to believe that he can, but this is as improbable a run as you’d want to expect from from a team that was down and out until Boudreau comes along and turns them into just a fantasy that’s hard to believe. It’s great for Washington and they’ve waited a long time and it looks like they should be good for a lot of years to come.
SPEAKER: I think George McPhee did a great job. I heard him on the radio, and he said, yes, well, we all knew that Boudreau was a great hockey mind. That’s why he left him in the minors for 17 years I guess it was, and he named him interim. Who’s kidding who? He was there just until he found another coach, and all of a sudden he pulled a little magic out and now he’s staying.
But make no mistake about it, when he first went there, he was just cannon fodder until he found another coach.
SPEAKER: One last thing on Ovechkin, the last time I checked he was tenth in the league in hits, and he’s the scoring champion.
Q. Mike Milbury, obviously you’ve had some things to say about Jagr in the past. What role do you think he’ll play in this series? How important is it for the Rangers to have him playing his best?
MIKE MILBURY: It’s very important. This is one of the great talents ever to play in the game. It’s pretty clear that his production is on the wane, but when they went out and signed Drury and Gomez last summer, that allowed them to put Jagr in a position that he’s not been in before, which is a complementary role. He needs to produce but he doesn’t have to be the go-to guy. With him playing at a high level, with Shanahan playing at a high level and complement to Gomez and Drury, they should have enough offense to get past New Jersey. But if he sleepwalks through it, they’ll have their hands full.
Q. Well, if he is a complementary player, then why is it such a detriment to them if he’s not, for lack of a better word, sleepwalking through it?
MIKE MILBURY: Well, I didn’t say he was useless, I just said he was complementary. If he puts points up on the board he’s still going to play on the first two power play units. If you’re going to give him that kind of a role, you’ve got to expect some production. It’s not bad to have balance in your lineup, and if he’s scoring then the Rangers should have balance, and it gives them a good chance to have more than one line that New Jersey has to worry about scoring.
SPEAKER: The biggest thing that Mike is alluding to, whether it’s Sean Avery or Martin Straka, it’s going to create huge match-up problems for the Devils to match up against the other team’s top line along with Colin White on the back end. Usually Colin White plays against Jagr. That’s going to give more room to Gomez and Chris Drury. Mike may think he’s a role player or a supplemental player, but he’s got a big enough role that teams actually identify him in match-up situations.
SPEAKER: If nobody burns his toast and the stars are right, he could be effective, but it all depends on where the stars are, and if nobody burns his toast in the morning whether he’ll play good or not.
Q. I’d like to ask Don and Pierre and Mike Milbury about the three Canadian teams, and Don mentioned Ottawa earlier and just how they’ll do in the first round and who might go the distance in the playoffs.
DON CHERRY: In Ottawa, and all you guys have seen this, where you don’t have a chance. They really don’t. They couldn’t have more things against them going in, but somehow or other, the players, hockey players, there’s something about them. They get together, and I don’t know what the word is, but we’re going to show them, us against the world and all that stuff. I wouldn’t bet the farm on Pittsburgh.
And I love the way Calgary is playing. That’s going to be a war. That will be the war as far as I’m concerned. That’s going to be a great, great series, I’ll tell you.
Boston, you know who I’m cheering for in the Boston one, but if they grind it out, maybe Thomas will come through, but the way Montreal is on a role, that will be a good one. But the one I think is going to be a war is San Jose and Calgary Flames.
SPEAKER: I don’t see Ottawa coming out of this. I think they’re in disarray. I don’t think Gerber has got it. I don’t think they’re coming together as a group. I suppose they could use the Alfredsson and Fisher injuries as a rallying cry, but it’s gone on too long and I’ve seen far too few signs that this is a team that can pull it together. However, you never know when they drop the puck.
SPEAKER: It’s too bad, Ottawa. They were rolling along nice. Remember we won 18 straight and we were falling into bad habits about we were going to win forever. It took us a month to get out of it. I’m not knocking Emery, but I guess I am knocking Emery. He came along and upset the club, got the coach fired. It’s just sad. It shows you that he took his kindness for weakness and got a guy fired. It is a real nightmare there. But there’s something about hockey players that get together.
SPEAKER: Well, if you’re not knocking him now, I’d like to hear you when you are.
SPEAKER: Well, what he did, how any hockey player could be getting $4 million a year or something like that and pulling the tricks he’s pulled, I’ve never seen anything like it. This guy should have had his heart cut out at the first sign, and that team would have been a lot better.
SPEAKER: I don’t disagree, and you can never count them out. It should be the first test for San Jose because they should be, and by all accounts are, the favorites to win the Stanley Cup with the addition of Campbell to their back line. They bring a component that they haven’t had in previous San Jose teams, but they still have to prove that they have the metal to get there.
Montreal has been a fun team for me to watch all year long. They do it with skill and speed and quickness, yet they’re not afraid. They’ll go to the traffic areas that they need to go to and they have a guy in goal that from all of my sightings has been remarkably composed, and the references to Patrick Roy from Canadiens history look like they might actually pan out.
SPEAKER: The one thing there is Komisarek. Let’s hope he gets back because if that Komisarek is out, they could be in a little trouble.
SPEAKER: Well, I like the Ottawa Senators to lose against the Pittsburgh Penguins only because of the upheaval that Mike and Don talked about, too, because I think they’re going to have a tough time matching what Pittsburgh has. But I think the biggest thing is they’ve lost their defensive identity. They used to be one of the best teams in the NHL. Andrei Meszaros has had a terrible year where so much was expected of him, and the acquisition of Mike Commodore has not helped them at all. They just do not have enough depth on defense to help Pittsburgh. They should lose that series and Pittsburgh should move along unscathed.
In terms of Calgary Flames, I agree with Don and Mike on that, I think it’ll be extremely physical. The problem is I don’t think Calgary Flames have enough guns to compete with what San Jose can throw at them. We don’t talk enough about the role players in San Jose, Mike Grier, Patrick Rissmiller, Torrey Mitchell might be the most unsung line in the NHL, and then goaltending you have to give Nabokov a bit of a nod over Kiprusoff.
They have too much speed, their special teams are too strong, and if Komisarek comes back I have to agree with Mike. You have to look at the injuries for Boston. Savard is an issue, Glenn Murray’s speed is not there. This should be a series that Montreal can dominate because of their special teams and their speed.
Q. Pierre and Mike Milbury, I want to go back to trade deadline day. I remember, Mike, you were the only panel on the NHL Network that said Pittsburgh should be the favorite in the East. Do you still feel that way? And Pierre, you were a little bit less than enthusiastic on Marian as a playoff go-to guy. Can you address that?
MIKE MILBURY: I think he can bring a tremendous element but yet hasn’t done that. We’ve always referred to him as Maid Marian over the last stretch of time, and he’s not produced. He’s not been as competitive, and he’s going to face that in the playoffs.
No less, given the excitement surrounding the Pittsburgh Penguins and the opportunity therein, not to mention he’s up for contract, he should be a factor.
SPEAKER: Athletically he should be a factor but he’s got yet to show he can do it in the playoffs. He doesn’t have a real strong record when you look at the long runs in Ottawa or potential runs Ottawa should have been but he wasn’t there to help him out. The reason why I didn’t like the trade is not so much for this year, and I understand what management at Pittsburgh was trying to do because they saw the East as being very fluid so they wanted to give their team the best opportunity to win.
But going forward, cap-wise that’s a disastrous trade because it’s a rental player and they gave away four components cap-wise that weren’t going to affect them, and now it’s going to affect their ability long-term to keep Ryan Malone, and I love what Don said about him. Ryan Malone is a monster type player and he’s a guy that really leads by example and he’s really found his way in Pittsburgh. If they bring Holmstrom back they can’t keep Malone so you’re picking your poison.
SPEAKER: I think that’s totally irrelevant at this junction. I think Pittsburgh decided they could add to their offense a la the Penguins of the early ‘90s so they know full well how many offensive weapons they had and add another gun to that army and get deep or win a Cup, and I think when the opportunity presents itself and you think the Stars are in alignment, to have somebody of that skill level, the future be damned, take a run at it.
SPEAKER: Getting deep isn’t enough. They’d better win the Cup. Getting deep is not enough, Mike, because you’re going to end up like the Tampa Bay Lightning in the North.
SPEAKER: Get to the Finals would do it for me.
SPEAKER: Okay, fine, get to the Finals, and I’ll capitulate on that.
Q. You guys have already touched on the Sharks here and labeled them the favorites, I guess, but I’m wondering, do they have anything to prove besides the toughness and the brave grit? I feel like this is the third year in a row that we’ve been asking this question.
SPEAKER: Joe Thornton has got to be the guy. I don’t know what Mike thinks but this has got to be Joe Thornton’s year.
MIKE MILBURY: I think he’s mature enough. They have to know they have the cojones that they can win the championship, and that’s it. If they don’t win it this year, he’s never going to win it, and he’s got to keep the clean shaven and don’t get scruffy like he does in the playoffs, and he’s got to step up and do the job. I showed him on Hockey Night in Canada, he used to be on the bench and you’d wonder whether he was awake half the time, but he’s yelling and hollering now, and he knows and everybody knows that for Ron Wilson and for a lot of guys on that team, if they don’t get to the Finals—the Finals is okay. If they don’t get to the Finals this year, a lot of heads are going to roll in San Jose.
SPEAKER: My opinion is they’re built for the Finals, and it’s this year. I think they’re going to make it but it’s not going to be simple. Maybe we don’t need any burnt toast, but maybe we need that scruffy look and the yelling (laughter).
Q. You were just talking about cojones and grit and toughness, and I’m wondering, you know, the Wild went out and got some toughness after getting beat up by Anaheim last year, and I’m wondering if you’re seeing that around the league because of Anaheim and whether you think the Wild have done what they need to do to make a serious run here.
DON CHERRY: Well, Lemaire, I can’t say enough about him. He’s won more games and coached more, played more, and I think he’s done—he was sick and tired of getting pushed around, and I think he’s done a great job. Fedoruk and Simon and the Boogeyman, he’s not going to be able to play them all, that’s for sure, but nobody is going to push him around, and I would love to—I thought maybe it would work out that Minnesota would play Calgary Flames. Holy smokes, that would have been an atomic bomb if that would have been.
But I like what he’s done, and he rewards them—the other night he put them on the power play and he got a goal. Lemaire knows what’s going on.
PIERRE McGUIRE: Don is right about the physical nature that Minnesota has, especially now when you go up against a Colorado team that has all sorts of skill and they have all sorts of disturbers like Cody and Cody and Laperriere and potentially Scott Parker. But the thing in this series to me, you’ve got the veteran skill on Colorado, everybody knows about it, it’s proven, Forsberg, Sakic, Stastny now as a younger player has proven he can do it back-to-back years, and Ryan Smyth who’s the ultimate playoff performer. Three young guys have to step up for Minnesota. Burns has to continue what he did this year, and I believe he will. Mikko Koivu is going to have to play a gigantic role in this series, he is special in a checking nature, but the biggest one is Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Those three young guys from Minnesota have to be special.
SPEAKER: Since the subject is fighting, last year in the playoffs there were 13 coincidence sets of fighting natures, 12 in the first round. Two of those series out West will probably have that many in the first round because we did have a few more fights this year than we did in prior years, but usually at playoff time it tends to go away. But I don’t think so this year. I think those first series out West where they tend to have more fights than they do in the East anyway will probably end up being that, since we were on that subject to begin with.
SPEAKER: It’s the Ducks that started this thing. They wanted to be in the top five in fighting majors, and they did, and they bullied everybody. They’ve got the meanest cowboy on the ranch in Chris Pronger. They’ve set the tone here, and everybody else is saying, as usual, we’re going to imitate the champion if they have the stuff they need to do in order to win the Cup, we’d better at least match that aspect of it.
SPEAKER: We have a quote from Brian Burke last year, we want to make sure our skill players are protected. And they were.
Q. This is a question for Messrs. Cherry and Milbury. It’s a two-parter. First, do you think fans in Boston would be sick of hearing that Montreal has a rookie goaltender heading into a playoff series now? And second, are there any parallels you can pick out between Kerry Price and his two famous rookie predecessors?
MIKE MILBURY: Well, yeah. Boston is sick of Montreal on all fronts, and particularly this year as much as any time in the recent past. Montreal, it’s the same old story. The Canadiens’ skating can make them a frustrating opponent.
But the Bruins are a plucky group. Nobody gave them any credit coming into the season, and I think that they’ll make it difficult on Montreal, and they’ll show up and put—it doesn’t matter what the score is for this team. They keep showing up. I think Julien is coach of the year by my mind, and as far as Kerry Price is concerned, it’s a little early to make strong comparisons, but with goaltenders that young that are put into that situation, the most important thing is looking at how they handle the pressures, and it’s pretty clear to me that he’s got the disposition to—he’s got the disposition of a No. 1 goaltender, even at this very ripe young age.
SPEAKER: Yeah, he’s good. He won the gold when he was a kid. He was great in junior, then he goes to the American Hockey League and he was the most valuable there. So he’s used to press. You never know about the Bruins, and Julien has done a great job.
I hope Savard is back. That’s probably one of my most favorite players. He never gets the credit. He leads the league last year in assists and nobody knows he’s alive. If anybody can play with a broken back, he’ll be playing.
It’s not going to be a rollover like everybody thinks because they only won one game. It’s not going to be a rollover.
Q. First of all, just a quick point of clarification. Was it Pierre or Mike that gave that great summary on the Caps and Flyers?
PIERRE McGUIRE: I did the Caps-Flyers. It’s McGuire.
Q. That was awesome, and it sounded like the Eagles and Redskins were going to play.
PIERRE McGUIRE: This is one of the most underappreciated match-ups in the league because a lot of people don’t pay attention to Washington and now they are because of Ovechkin, and Philadelphia had a bad last year last year so people kind of forgot about them. But there’s been a lot of bad blood between those teams for a long time because of geographic proximity.
Q. Absolutely, there’s no question that they don’t like each other in any sport they play, let alone hockey. But one quick question to the panel, and that is with regard to all that has been said, is this the kind of team, the Capitals, that is built to be a contender for the Stanley Cup playoffs, or is this a team that’s going to hopefully get experience that they will draw on further down the line?
SPEAKER: Well, I’ll jump in. You have to look at when they have a year when they got in that they don’t think they can win the Stanley Cup. That happened to me in my second year with the Bruins. We did so well to get in the Finals. This might be an awful letdown going into the playoffs, and I really don’t think they’re built for the playoffs to tell you the truth. All the other teams have to concentrate on Ovechkin. But we’ll see how it goes.
SPEAKER: Yeah, I think that there’s going to be a learning curve here. You look at the Pittsburgh Penguins last year, going out in five games to Ottawa. They had to learn how to win, too. They’re all as a group in Pittsburgh talking about we’re not going to let that happen this year. We were kind of throttled by the Ottawa Senators. So they’ll be more prepared for it.
Even though it’s easier to say, Fedorov’s Stanley Cup experience brings a lot to that dressing room, especially for two of the better offensive players, Ovechkin and Semin because he can talk to them in their native language and calm them down. He was a huge influence during the last six or seven games of the season when they had a chance to lose their focus. Fedorov wouldn’t let that happen.
Quite frankly I think they’re still a few years away from being a competitive team for the Cup but this has been a huge stroke of genius by George McPhee.
He had a guy Glenn Handler who was doing a pretty good job accumulating losses and wanting to make the team better. As you know from all your years in the American Hockey League, Boudreau finally got his chance.
SPEAKER: I think the Washington-Philly match-up is intriguing. Neither one of those teams made it last year and the series doesn’t get started until Friday. They’ve got a few days off to celebrate and then clear their heads. I think for both Philadelphia and Washington it’s a great opportunity to learn so much about what kind of team they have, and you don’t really know how good you are until you get to the playoffs. And in this case somebody is going to have a whole bunch of experience under their belt moving onto the second round, and whether they go deeper has been that or not, it’s going to bode well for both franchises and certainly the winner as they start to move ahead and look forward.
Q. It’s been ten years now since we’ve had a Stanley Cup champion come back and repeat. You have to go back to Detroit in 1998 to see that. I guess that backdrop, I was wondering what you guys thought of Anaheim’s chances this year, especially opening up in the first round with the Dallas Stars.
SPEAKER: Well, I think Anaheim, they’re built for the playoffs, I really do. Mike said it earlier, Pronger—I know Lindstrom is going to get—they go for points and all that stuff. But I’ll tell you, Pronger, he’s a monster out there. As Pierre likes to say, monster. This guy has everybody with their heads up. He’s got to step up. This is his time. Every time they say he’s got to step up, but this is the only way they’re going to get through them. I feel anyhow that’s the only way they’re going to get through is if Turco stands on his head the way he can. But I see Anaheim taking this one.
Pronger to me, he’s the force in this league.
SPEAKER: I second that, and I think this is obviously going to be a huge amount of pressure for Marty Turco, but I also think when you look at the Dallas Stars, they’re going to need more, they’re going to run into the teeth of Chris Pronger, Sean O’Donnell, Scottie Niedermayer. You look at Brad Richards, he’s going to run into Travis Moen, Pahlsson, Niedermayer. All the match-ups are really slanted towards Anaheim. I think they are taking a team to the Final in Washington and Marty Turco hasn’t done any of that, so the pedigree is not there. I think it’s going to be a real tough series for Dallas, and I do think Anaheim has a chance to repeat. I honestly believe that.
SPEAKER: Having said that, Dallas had pretty good results against Anaheim, and Anaheim, although on paper, seems to have everything that they need and then some from last year’s club having added Bertuzzi and Schneider, they’ve just never found a rhythm that makes you feel comfortable about them. Maybe they can click it on, they’ve got the experience factor going for them, but the thing that worries me about Anaheim is they just have never been on that big-time roll that gives you the spark that says, hey, they’re going to do it again.
Q. Pierre, you mentioned earlier about Philly’s physicality this year. As far as playing a physical game against Washington and in particular Ovechkin, do you give them a shot? Do you think it’ll be good enough to win the series?
PIERRE McGUIRE: I do. They have Jason Smith who’s a proud guy who comes over from Edmonton, he’s got to be a factor, Braydon Coburn is going to have to be a factor, Mike Richards. I’m talking about the physical dimension. I’m not talking about the scoring dimension. Those are three, Richards, Jason Smith and Braydon Coburn, are going to be very important.
Scott Hartnell, we saw on Wednesday night Pittsburgh versus Philly what he tried to do to Sidney Crosby. He got his nose broken and he was a bloody mess but he was still there to the end. They need that kind of championship effort out of all their players to have a chance. I think this will be one of the bloodiest series. Everybody is focusing on San Jose and Calgary Flames and they should because that’s going to be mean spirited, but I think this Philly-Washington is going to be downright ugly.
Q. Mike, what are your favorite headlines within the Rangers and Devils series and do you think it will be determined by the goalies?
MIKE MILBURY: Yeah, and I think it will determined by the goalies, and until yesterday I thought the Rangers would be the favorite in the series, but I think it’s going to go the long way, seven, and home ice has historically meant a lot. The way they played the last ten minutes yesterday, both teams, it’s one of those games that you felt by watching it that they were even. They’re Nos. 4 and 5 for a reason. They both won 8 of the last 15 to finish the year. Jagr has been great late season. The toast is okay here the last few weeks. He scored 7 of 8 games, that’s pretty good. Patrik Elias has risen for New Jersey. You have the two goalies. You have the souls of fan bases that are entrenched in next-door neighborhoods and not separated by a river but integrated in cul-de-sacs and buildings.
The way they played yesterday, it’s going to go back and forth. I think teams are going to win on the road some, but when it comes done to it, it’s going to be a seven-game series and I think because of the way they played yesterday, that reversed my opinion with the Devils. I think the Devils can win it. But both teams prevent well, neither scores a lot.
David Clarkson and Sean Avery spent the whole time before the shootout yesterday jawing at one another from their benches. They’ve scrapped already this year. I think that’s going to be one of the sidebar stories that’s going to constantly be going on. But Pierre pointed out earlier, the shutdown dilemma that the Devils might have, but their young defense has done very well in shutdown situations this year.
Their season record against the Rangers won’t show that, but their game yesterday certainly did. There were some one-on-one battles in that last ten minutes, which as I said again, told me how those teams were both going into the playoffs and Paul Martin won some of them and Michal Rozsival won some of them. That’s the thing that stands out to me how even the series is going to be. It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch.
DON CHERRY: Let me put it this way. They’ve got everything going for them. They’re like the Sharks in Anaheim. These guys can turn it on. They’ve got defense. Everything is going for them.
I would say early to the guys that Hasek doesn’t seem as—he’s got that bounce. He’s stopping pucks, don’t get me wrong. But remember when he was with Buffalo and they went to the Finals and he was out challenging guys and yelling at the referee, and he was alive. And somehow this year he doesn’t seem the same guy.
Now, if he’s on, they’re home-free as far as I’m concerned in this series. But he’s got to be on. I don’t know about him. I’ve never, ever criticized him, even when he was in Ottawa. I never criticized him because I think he’s a good goaltender. But to me he doesn’t look as alive as he used to. I don’t know if that’s the word, alive. He doesn’t seem to have the same—that Mike and all the rest of the guys would say, persona.
SPEAKER: Another goalie that I’m surprised no one has talked about yet is Marty Brodeur. Seems like he gets overshadowed by New Jersey’s system. Has that been his most impressive performance?
SPEAKER: I don’t think any one of us would overlook Marty Brodeur. My opinion is he’s the best goaltender ever to play the position. He gives their team not only a chance to beat the Rangers, he gives the team a chance to win the Stanley Cup. They’ve changed everybody in front of him it seems over the course of his tenure, and in New Jersey yet every year there they are competing and looking to go deep into the playoffs. There shouldn’t be an interpretation of anybody on this panel slighting Brodeur. He’s what personifies the New Jersey Devils. He’s got a great persona.
SPEAKER: I heard you say it the other night, and I thought it sounded so good.
Q. Just wondered if maybe each of you guys could give us some finals picks.
SPEAKER: I think we’ve all given them along because we’ve talked. I know Pierre always has a lot to say on this. Go ahead, Pierre.
PIERRE McGUIRE: I have nothing to say because I save my picks for TSN.
SPEAKER: San Jose over Pittsburgh. I don’t get paid enough.
SPEAKER: I’m just volunteering and I have the identical teams that Mike just said.
SPEAKER: Oh, in the finals? I know Brian Burke is going to punch me out, but I pick San Jose for the whole thing, and now I won’t get paid.
Q. Pierre, to backtrack on your question or your quote about Pierre-Marc Bouchard saying he’d be a key, can you expand on why you feel that way?
PIERRE McGUIRE: I think because of the way Minnesota plays and the fact that they play a lot of one-goal games. Pierre-Marc Bouchard isn’t really going to be there for his defense. He’s got to deliver. Pierre-Marc Bouchard has got to step up. He had a real good regular season, but I look at Burns and I look at Koivu and I look at Pierre-Marc Bouchard, and they’re part of that experiment. You draft guys at 18, you turn them pro, you let them learn, and you hope that it works out. So far for those four players it’s worked out pretty well, but Pierre-Marc Bouchard really hasn’t done anything in the playoffs yet so that’s the biggest key for me. They’re going to have to make sure he gets to another level, and if he does, he could be a very important player for them.
Q. I was wondering if you guys, if you were coaching the Bruins, how would you get your team to believe you could beat Montreal after they got swept by them this year?
SPEAKER: Well, I coached against them, and you think this team is good, this—I coached against a team that only lost eight games all year, if you can believe that. Of course we beat them three times out of the eight.
But you just—you can’t go in and be intimidated. I remember their morning skates back in the old days, in ‘78 and ‘76, they’d intimidate teams in their morning skates. You’ve got to go in, say Thomas, he rises to the occasion. Komisarek is out. We’ve got a shot. Don’t just go run-and-gun with them. If they’re going to go run-and-gun with those guys, they’re dead.
But they’ve got some guys—of all the teams, I think said in on Hockey Night in Canada, of all the teams I’d like to play for, it would be the Bruins because they look like a great bunch of guys that are having fun. Believe in yourself, don’t get in the run-and-gun and hope Thomas comes through.
SPEAKER: What I would do is start the first game with my heavy weights, Jeremy Reich, Shawn Thornton on the ice, Petteri Nokelainen on the ice. Early on I would tell Thomas, Alexei Kovalev, Andrei Kostitsyn that this is going to be a physical thing. You guys are not going to dominate. We’re not going to take penalties but we’re going to be physical, shoulder to shoulder, chest to chest, nose to nose, whistle to whistle and we are going to pound you. I would try to open the game up.
The Bruins know their identity. The Bruins know they’re a defensive team that has to be physical and they have to win a lot of one-goal games. Early on you send a message to your bench, we’re coming into Montreal, we’re going to be the big bad Bruins, we’re not going to take penalties, let’s see how they measure up, and if you can get that into their minds early on it might take a little bit of the speed quotient of the series.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much. I just want to take an opportunity to thank our participants today for who was just an excellent call. Don, Mike, Pierre and Mike, thank you all very much and thanks to the people who called in. We had an extraordinary amount of questions, and I think the insight generated was really great.
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