Hockey Chat with Darren Dreger
The regular season is over and it's time to look ahead to the playoffs and beyond. TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger is online to answer your questions on those fronts.
Dreger breaks news, files stories that take viewers inside the game, and is part of panel discussions and debates on TSN. He appears on the NHL on TSN, SportsCentre and Molson That's Hockey, and contributes regularly to TSN.ca.
Moderator: Good afternoon and thank you for joining us today for this question and answer session with Hockey Insider Darren Dreger. Over the course of the next 60 minutes or so, Darren will take answer your questions related to the upcoming NHL playoffs. So without further delay, let's get started...
Moderator: Quick note - with the news breaking on Craig MacTavish and the Edmonton Oilers, Darren will be online momentarily.
Shona in Calgary: Darren, why has everyone written off the Flames? I know they finished badly, but they were one of the hottest teams in the league before their entire second line went down. They have the line back finally and I think with Kipper and net and Iggy playing well, they may be able to do some damage.
Darren Dreger: Whew! Sorry for the delay Shona, but your Alberta rivals, the Edmonton Oilers have me hopping this afternoon with the breaking news Craig MacTavish and the Edmonton Oilers have agreed to part ways. For the record, I picked the Flames to beat the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round, but the injuries the Flames have sustained make for a formidable challenge. Losing Robyn Regehr who is both a terrific leader and defensive catalyst is crushing, but to your point Calgary still has enough depth to battle through, giving Regehr time to mend. Bourque's return is very significant. He's a big body with plenty of offensive upside. Good goaltending is a given this time of year, but Jokinen and Iginla have to come alive for the Flames to go as deep into the postseason as many of predicted they would when Sutter acquired Jokinen and Jordan Leopold at the trade deadline. Thanks for checking in.
Jay in Winnipeg: Hi Darren, heading into the playoffs it seemed as though the New Jersey Devils were going through a real tough stretch. What do you think caused this? An emotional letdown after Brodeur got his record, rumors of Sutter stepping down after the season, or something else? Do you think they have the ability to pull together and play like they did in Jan-Feb when they were one of the hottest teams in the league?
Darren Dreger: Jay, you've pretty much covered all of the angles and the areas of speculation that most in my business have addressed as possible reasons for the Devils inconsistency. All I can tell you is that two of the twelve non-playoff teams who responded to a TSN poll asking each coach or manager to predict the conference finalists, Stanley Cup finalists and ultimately, the Stanley Cup Champion, picked the New Jersey Devils to win it all.
Jeremy from Abbotsford, BC: Hi Darren, big Canucks fan here. There has been a lot of talk about the Sedin twins and how a productive playoff showing will help them in there respective contract negotiations. My question is, what about Mattias Ohlund? How will this playoff effect his contract negotiations, or is it already known he will be leaving the Canucks? Also with Luongo, is an extension possible after a good playoff run?
Darren Dreger: Jeremy, thanks for the email. There is so much in play specific to Vancouver's Swedish contingent and Roberto Luongo's long-term future with the Canucks. It's my understanding the Sedin twins and Ohlund would prefer to stay in Vancouver, but according to their agent J.P Barry contract talks have been virtually nonexistent. The Canucks are gambling on a softer free agent market and the possibility the Sedin's will accept an offer of $5.5 million per as reasonable at some point before July 1. In Ohlund's case, I believe his time in Vancouver is about to end. As for Luongo…he wants to win and if he believes his past chance of doing that remains in Vancouver, then he will happily extend his contract….of course, at a premium rate. :)
Jon in Fredericton, NB: Hi Darren, Lucic and Komisarek is growing into a huge rivalry, and the possibilities are endless in Ovechkin vs. Avery. What individual one-on-one match-up are you looking forward to the most, or think has the most potential for fireworks in the first round?
Darren Dreger: Jon, I can't wait for the Boston-Montreal series to start. Milan Lucic is a one man show and I believe he scares the crap out of the Canadiens - Komisarek included - for his ability to score, make plays, put you through the boards, or drop the gloves when necessary. However, Lucic will have to play a more controlled game and Montreal will do whatever is necessary to draw him into emotional situations. That said, the rivalry that exists between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers is as strong as any and for my money watching Flyers star Mike Richards pester Sidney Crosby and attempt to physically punish Evgeni Malkin will be captivating. These two teams really don't like each other. Thanks, Jon.
Mike in Ile-Bizard, QC: Darren, if the Habs are going to have a chance in the series against Boston, what players are going to have to step up and be on top of their games? Is there any word on when they will have Markov back? They'll need him if we want to at least have a chance against them!
Darren Dreger: Mike, no official word on Markov and sources close to the team say there is no real sense as to whether or not he will be able to play in the first round. Carey Price has to be at his best. Somehow, he has to find a way to be better than Tim Thomas and while Thomas was spectacular in the regular season, we've seen enough in Price's young career to know he has the ability to steal the show. Montreal's defense has to tighten up. Komisarek, Hamrlik, Gorges - go down the list, defensively this corps must be up to the task of contending and controlling Boston's forecheck. Good luck. After that, it's up to Kovalev, Koivu, Tanguay, Plekanec, Higgins and every other Hab paid to score goals to just that - provide the offence. I'm not convinced they'll be able to because Boston is that good. All the best.
Todd in Nanaimo, BC: What do the San Jose Sharks have to do for playoff success? And what has been holding them back in previous playoffs?
Darren Dreger: Todd - seemingly, there's been a lack of drive or impact from key Sharks players in recent years that has stalled this team on its quest. I think of Joe Thornton, who is star player, but shouldn't be confused with a superstar unless he finds a way to lead San Jose to a championship. In deciding games to keep the Sharks alive in the postseason over the past three years, Thornton, among others hasn't performed. However, the addition of Dan Boyle and Rob Blake shouldn't be overlooked. The playoff experience these two veteran defensemen have added to the Sharks dressing room gives this team another element and perhaps another voice to push their big horses (Thornton and Marleau) over the hump when the going gets tough. I like San Jose a lot, but too much disappointment over the years still has me questioning whether or not the Sharks have enough to knock off Detroit.
Rob in Chicago: Hey Darren, I would like to get your take on how you think Steve Mason will do in his first playoff series. I mean, Detroit has such high powered offence yet they have been known to falter in the first round in the past. If Osgood is average, do you think Mason has what it takes to steal this series in Columbus' first playoff appearance?
Darren Dreger: Hi Rob. Well, like you and like millions of hockey fans around the world, I too am waiting anxiously to see if young Mason can withstand the pressures of playoff hockey. The weight of the franchise rests on this young man's shoulders as I assure you, without his sparkling netminding this season the Columbus Blue Jackets aren't in the Stanley Cup playoffs. I recently asked Florida head coach Peter Deboer, who as you may recall coached Steve Mason near the end of last season in Kitchener, whether he had concerns with Mason's playoff inexperience. DeBoer said he did not and assured me Mason wouldn't crack under the pressure. What DeBoer didn't know at the time was that Mason and the Blue Jackets would be facing the defending Stanley Cup Champions. I believe Mason will shine, but he won't be able to “steal” the series. Thanks Rob.
Mark in Pittsburgh: Darren, I think the Pens/Flyers series comes down to the Pens' power play versus the Flyers' penalty kill. The Penguins have had a tough time scoring goals with the man advantage, and the Flyers - especially Richards - are potentially lethal short-handed. Which unit comes out on top?
Darren Dreger: Wow...Mark, you win the award for the most difficult question to answer. :) I could be completely wrong in how I read the Penguins, but I see a very strong team, perhaps stronger than the team that vied for the Stanley Cup last June. With the return of Sergei Gonchar, the Penguins powerplay has improved significantly, but as you’ve pointed out the Flyers penallty kill can be deadly. I say Malkin and Crosby will find a way. They better, four of my ten TSN Fantasy Show pool picks are Penguins. :) Good luck.
From Chris Polzer: Hi Darren, where did St. Louis come from? I thought they were a write-off! With the Blues playing so well the second half of the year, do they have a legitimate shot at a run?
Darren Dreger: Chris, I’m not betting against the Blues even though the Western Conference players I talked to near the end of the regular season pegged the Vancouver Canucks to be the team to watch in the west because of goaltending, a healthy blueline and 3 very good offensive lines. However, karma has its place this time of year and St Louis has enjoyed an abundance of good karma after enduring a plague of injuries that should have crippled this team. Just prior to the trade deadline, Blues president John Davidson acknowledged a closeness with this team he thought was special and at the deadline was protected to preserve the Blues chances of battling for the playoffs. Sometimes the best trades are the ones that never happen. That applies to St Louis who may soon have the luxury of adding Paul Kariya to the mix. The question is, will Blues coach Andy Murray tinker with his chemistry, or wait for a loss to inject Kariya? I vote for the latter. This is going to be a terrific series. Thanks, Chris.
Darren Dreger: Again, sorry for the delay near the start of this chat, but breaking news is what we do. Thanks to all who took the time to email your playoff questions and my apologies to those emails we weren’t able to get to. However, we’ll do this again soon. In the meantime, enjoy the playoff run.
Moderator: This concludes our question and answer session with TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger. Be sure to watch as the Washington Capitals take on the New York Rangers in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal, tonight at 7pm et/4pm pt on TSN and TSN HD.