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I just watched the Pens-Flyers play out Game 4 and was shocked at how atrocious the goaltending was between Ilya Bryzgalov and Sergei Bobrovsky. Peter Laviolette has played the goalie card before in the playoffs. What are the chances that, say, Michael Leighton gets a crack at it before all is said and done?
A: Eric, the possibility shouldn't be dismissed. Goaltending in this series has been a main storyline and Bryzgalov's blunders were overshadowed by Fleury's mismanagement through the first three games of the series, but the Flyers know their goaltending is a huge issue. Speculation suggests Bryzgalov might be injured, although the Flyers reportedly refutes that claim. If Pittsburgh wins Game 5 and the Flyers goalies are once again the heart of the problem, Peter Laviolette will have to explore all options. It seems unlikely we will see Leighton, but who expected the Pens to hammer Philly 10-3 in Game 4? At this point, nothing would surprise me from this series.
Who has a better chance of being around in Vancouver next year if the Canucks bow out in this round - Roberto Luongo or Alain Vigneault?
A: Andre, it's possible both Roberto Luongo and Alain Vigneault could be part of a significant change if Vancouver bows out to the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Kings. Most expect Canucks GM Mike Gillis will address goaltending this summer. Cory Schneider has developed into a top NHL goalie and has exhibited great patience and a professional attitude in waiting for his chance to be a No. 1. Schneider deserves the opportunity next season and because he's proven he can handle the work load and the market with a keen and sharp sense of humour to match his ability, most believe Luongo will, or has, become the Canucks' trade target. As for Alain Vigneault, all coaches have a shelf life and a first-round loss to the Kings may push up Vigneault's expiry date. However, Vigneault is the winningest coach in Canucks history and deserving of credit for his role in Vancouver's back-to-back Presidents Trophy seasons, so if management/ownership opts for change, Vigneault won't be unemployed for long.
Good morning Darren,
First, I would like to say that I love your work! Great job!
Now, I have a question regarding my Red Wings team. Of course, we have high expectations in Hockeytown, but that does not stop fans like me criticizing and dissecting the way the team plays. Recently, there has been a lot of 'hate' towards our coach. Fans are blaming him for the lack of effort and basically everything that is going wrong in the Nashville series. I would like your input on this situation. Do you think it's age, or lack of leadership, or maybe Ken Holland's absence at the deadline?
Thank you very much for your time,
A: Hi Nathalie. Mike Babcock's resume speaks for itself and his accomplishments on the bench at all levels could fill this page. As a fan, you have the right to criticize and dissect your team and as you point out, Detroit's history of winning makes the Red Wings a perennial favourite. Detroit had interest in a number of players are trade the deadline (including Rick Nash), but for the timing for this type of trade, a blockbuster wasn't right and the cost to land the star winger both financially and structurally (because of the assets Columbus would have asked for in return) was simply too much. Holland will have money to spend in the offseason and provided Zach Parise and Ryan Suter go to market as unrestricted free agents, I'm sure the Red Wings will be among the top contenders. Land one or both and that should make the future look a tad brighter for Wings fans...no? Plus, let's give some credit to the Nashville Predators. This organization has been incredibly loyal to its staff and patient in the development of the team we see today. In this series, Pekka Rinne has been the difference and as Babcock or any other NHL coach will tell you, a hot goalie can carry a team a long way.
With several series becoming incredibly nasty this year, do you see significant changes to the discipline system happening in the CBA negotiations? It seems that Brendan Shanahan is very limited on what fines he can impose. It has to be a player safety issue, right?
Not to say the games haven't been enjoyable and intense with several overtimes. But the cheap shots and head hits have to be taken out of the game before someone is seriously injured.
Thunder Bay, ON
A: Dan, I touched on this Thursday night during the intermission of the St Louis-San Jose playoff game. The NHL's discipline system will mnost definitely be a major topic in collective bargaining. The players have to invest more if change is really going to come and I believe the players are willing to do that, provided all of the league components but in as well. Boosting the maximum a player can be fined would absolutely become a deterrent. However, I'm sure the players will push for an additional fine system for ownership as was proposed by Penguins owner Mario Lemieux two years ago. If things really get out of hand on the ice, perhaps a consistantly large team fine along with player suspensions or player fines would help curb some of the nastiness? The PA would also like a more substantial role in supplemental discipline and have been strongly opposed to the existing appeal process which includes NHL commissioner Gary Bettman as the mediator. I believe most of the 'cheap' stuff we've seen in the first round will largely disappear as the playoffs progress.
Braden Holtby has been a bright spot for the Washington Capitals in the early part of this Bruins-Capitals series. Do you think George McPhee is ready to anoint the Saskatchewan kid as the undisputed No. 1 goalie?
A: Dave, Holtby is certainly making a strong case to be the Capitals' No. 1 next season. Both Holtby and Neuvirth have another year remaining on their contracts before both become restricted free agents. However, both are still very young and inexperienced. As you know, it's never a good idea to push a goalie's development, but Holtby is proving at 22 he might be ready to assume the role full time. He's been sensational and based on his current performance, it's hard to imagine the Capitals don't give Holtby every opportunity, while still being mindful of where he's at in his development. The purpose of adding Vokoun was to add stability to the position while taking heat off Neuvirith and allowing Holtby to continue to improve with steady starts in the AHL.