The NHL held a pre-playoff conference call with Eddie Olczyk, Don Cherry, Keith Jones and Pierre McGuire who were made available to answer questions for the press. After the jump is the transcript of that call provided by NHL Media Services...
2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Preview - Conference Call Transcripts - Eddie Olczyk, Don Cherry, Pierre McGuire, and Keith Jones
SCHUYLER BAEHMAN: Thank you very much, and thanks to everyone for joining us today. On the line right now we have a group of analysts who will be calling the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With us we have Eddie Olczyk from NBC Sports and Versus, Pierre McGuire, from TSN and NBC Sports, and Keith Jones from Versus. We're waiting for Don Cherry to join us, and he'll dial in when he can.
Right now I'd like to open it up to the guys to talk about the series that we selected them to talk about. Eddie, I'm going to talk about Chicago and Vancouver. Just a couple of words before we open it up for questions. Thanks, Eddie.
EDDIE OLCZYK: I guess I'd be remiss if I didn't comment on how great of a season it was in the National Hockey League. And think about the Chicago Blackhawks getting in via a loss by the Dallas Stars. The same thing happened less than 24 hours before that with Carolina not able to do the job against Tampa Bay, and the Rangers getting in the same way the Blackhawks did.
An opportunity for the defending Stanley Cup champions to defend their crown and an arch rival. I don't think there is any doubt about that, the Vancouver Canucks and the Blackhawks have become bitter rivals, and I think it has a lot to do with what's gone on in the last couple of years of the playoffs.
Vancouver, what a regular season. A great power play, and I think that will be something that I'll be looking for in this series. Both teams have an outstanding power play, but the Vancouver Canucks have been pretty much all season long.
It will be interesting to keep your emotions in check on both sides. But it will be a great match?up between two teams. You think about it, the last couple of years and two years ago it was Roberto Luongo versus Nikolay Khabibulin, last year it's Roberto Luongo versus Antti Niemi, and now this year it's Roberto Luongo versus Corey Crawford who had a terrific rookie season.
So lots of subplots in the series, but looking forward to watching the series very closely.
SCHUYLER BAEHMAN: Don, as I understand it, you've joined us, correct?
DON CHERRY: Yes, sir.
SCHUYLER BAEHMAN: Would you mind giving us 30 seconds on your thoughts in the Montreal?Boston series?
DON CHERRY: Well, Boston hammered them the last time 7?0. But Montreal holds the series 4?2. But they're not the same team without Josh Gorges and Markov. That is the big killer to them right off the bat.
Timmy Thomas in with Boston, the best goalie - if you look at the record - the best goalie of all time. And Price has got to live up to Halak. He's had a great season, but he's got to do what Halak did last year. Everybody will be eyes on him.
Should be a dandy season. I don't think there will be any trouble, as they say, unless there is a blowout. So it should be another good, tough one, and I'm picking the B's to win.
SCHUYLER BAEHMAN: Pierre, if you could give us a couple minutes on what you're looking forward to with the Rangers and Washington.
PIERRE MCGUIRE: It's going to be a great series only because of the animosity level that exists between these two teams, number one. Number two, there is a subplot that goes into the Derek Stepan and Mike Green hit that everybody in Washington remembers, and that will lead to a little more angst in the series.
The other thing is both coaches are emotional in John Tortorella and Bruce Boudreau, so I think that will add energy to the thing.
They've got a goaltender in New York in Lundqvist that's had more shutouts than anyone else in this NHL season. He's been spectacular for the Rangers since the trade deadline. He's virtually started in every game since the trade deadline because of a fractured collar bone to Martin Biron.
So when you look at it the Rangers have the experience in goal. It's probably as soft on defense. But the Rangers have one thing on defense that will be interesting to watch. A young shut down tandem in Staal and Girardi working against Backstrom, Knuble and Ovechkin. So that will lead to a lot of energy too.
I think it will be a fantastically long series with a lot of emotion, lot of energy, and a lot of bad blood.
SCHUYLER BAEHMAN: Keith, a few words on Phoenix at Detroit?
KEITH JONES: Yeah, another rematch from last year in the first round where Phoenix got off to a 2?1 lead in the series before Detroit came back and won three of the last four games. Won the series in 7 games.
You would expect it to be the same. Very tight, tight checking. I think it's worrisome that Zetterberg's going to miss at least a couple of games in the series to get things started. He was terrific last year in the playoff series against Phoenix where he had six goals.
Datsyuk was big last year as well, and you expect him to have to carry them as well. The one thing that stands out to me is Johan Franzen who last year in the playoffs recorded a point in every game that he played in, which was 12, has just two goals over the last 27 games.
He had the five?goal game on ground hog day back in early February, and then he shut it down. They're going to need Johan Franzen to step up and replace the offense in the absence of Zetterberg because you're going up against, to me, one of the most talented goaltenders in the National Hockey League in Ilya Bryzgalov.
Phoenix is a well?disciplined team that's not going to give you very many second and third opportunities or many power play opportunities.
The head coach, Dave Tippett has done a great job. And to me you look at Keith Yandle and Shane Doan and they've had tremendous seasons for the Phoenix Coyotes. But they've got a good, young, fast team that's going to give Detroit everything they can handle. In fact, I think Phoenix is going to win it this year.
Q. Pierre, do you think that since you're covering the Washington and Rangers series, do you think this is the year that the Caps are able to breakthrough given the work that they've done on defence and changing their style a little bit to be better for the playoffs?
PIERRE MCGUIRE: I do think so. But the bottom line is they're still going to have to produce offensively. It's been remarkable the transition they've made from a run?and?gun team to a defensive team.
I admire the work that Bruce Boudreau has put into this, and there have been a lot of hard sells going into it. They've lost three straight Game 7s on home ice. They lost to Philadelphia in a Game 7, and they lost to Pittsburgh in a Game 7, and last year they lost to Montreal in a Game 7 as a number 1 seed. That is not very digestible.
If they can't get out of this series, there will be a lot of questions about what's going on with the group. But I do think they have a good opportunity to get out of this thing.
What's remarkable to me is the fact that they only gave up 197 goals this year, less than 200. That is one of the better defensive records in the Eastern Conference. That speaks to the commitment they've had.
I wish all their defensemen were healthy in Dennis Wideman, and Tom Poti and Mike Green, at 100%, would be a difference maker. But this is an opportunity that I think they've been crying out for for a long time in Washington. I hope they can get through.
Q. Don or Pierre, everyone was sitting there talking about the intense rivalry and Washington?Rangers and Boston?Montreal. And we know pretty much every Boston?Montreal game has been pretty emotional. As a coach, how do you keep that under control in the playoffs?
DON CHERRY: Well, everybody realizes it's the playoffs. You can't go running around. As long as the game is close, you have to play it smart. No retaliatory stud dumb penalties or things like that. If you have any marks you have to collect, you don't start collecting them in the playoffs.
Everybody knows you get a guy like Recchi in the room, and he calms everybody down. And Montreal's been there before, Cammalleri and that, you get that under control.
Although, if the game, like I said earlier, gets out of control and somebody runs you up the score, because there have been a lot of injuries. Talk about bad feelings, and this has been going on since the '70s, the bad feelings. But you have it pretty well under control in the playoffs.
PIERRE McGUIRE: I'll add on to what Don just said. I've done a lot of the Montreal?Boston games this year. I've done the last two including the physical beat down game and the goal scoring beat down game where Boston just handled and throttle Montreal both on the scoreboard and physically.
If the Canadiens try to make it a street fight, they're going down fast. They have no artillery to play that kind of game.
The Boston Bruins with Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, they feed off one another. And if they start to around and really going after that that decimated Montreal Canadiens defense, especially on the forecheck, it's going to be a problem for Montreal.
But if Boston takes penalties, Montreal's power play is unbelievably effective against them. So that will guard against some of the potential nastiness you could see. But if the Bruins want to get physical and play physical in a smart way, they have a chance to do some good things in the first round.
Q. Keith, can you assess Jimmy Howard's performance this season? Just talk about how much better you think he needs to play in the playoffs for Detroit to make a long run?
KEITH JONES: I think he's actually been very good. I think there was a little concern there when he got banged up a few weeks ago. But overall I think his play has been sound.
He is going to have to be fantastic going head?to?head against Ilya Bryzgalov. To me, Bryzgalov is the type of goaltender that can steal a game for you. I'm not sure that Jimmy Howard will have to be that.
But come Playoff time there will be a couple that you need to get out there and rob for your team. Bryzgalov is going to do that for Phoenix. And Phoenix is a very smart, well?disciplined hockey team that's not going to allow too many extra opportunities. They're not going to gift wrap a whole lot for you. And if they do, Bryzgalov seems calm in the net.
So I think there is a decided advantage in goal in the series. Though Jimmy Howard has really done a nice job in Detroit. But I don't think he's Ilya Bryzgalov.
Q. What do you like about the Red Wings chances? What are your concerns and how far do you think they might go in these playoffs?
DON CHERRY: They've had a lot of injuries, and boy, I tell you, some of the injuries they have are killers. But you have Babcock back on the bench. They've been there before, and somehow they always seem to rise above and do something.
They've really had a tough year this year with the injuries. Somehow or other Babcock's kept them going. It's amazing what he's done with it.
I just think they've been there before. I think they've got a real good shot, and it's too bad there are injuries. That is the thing that's really put them down. If they had a full team and going, they'd be one of the favorites.
Q. Pierre and Don, other than the obvious story lines in the Western Conference with Vancouver, Detroit and San Jose, what are some of the story lines that you'll keep an eye out for?
PIERRE MCGUIRE: First of all, a match?up in Nashville?Anaheim, watching Getzlaf and Perry and that top line, Bobby Ryan going against Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, that will be a titanic match?up. I just can't wait to watch that. That will be skill, and power, and nastiness, and unbelievable energy. So I'm looking forward to that.
Pekka Rinne playing against Selanne and Koivu and Blake, the second line for Anaheim. That will be a great story line. I think that series is a little under the radar right now. It's probably going to involve so much skill and speed especially with the way both coaches like to coach.
I know Eddie has been around Randy Carlyle in his career, and he knows what he brings to the party. I think everybody on this call knows that Barry Trotz is probably the most underappreciated coach in the NHL, and potential Coach of the Year winner.
I think that series in particular is one to really watch because it's going to have all kinds of skill and speed in it.
DON CHERRY: If we have injuries ?? I keep going to injuries all the time, but I have to. I don't know how Emery's going to be. I don't know how Hiller's going to be. He's got vertigo. Danny Ellis has won two in a row. That is the big thing for them is their goaltending.
If they get the goaltending, I just think that's one of the best lines, as Pierre said, that Ryan Getzlaf and Perry, and to me he's a top player in the league. They're hungry, and they've got two good coaches going there.
But I'm a little worried about Anaheim, but they're great to watch. Their goaltending might be a little problem though.
PIERRE MCGUIRE: Another good story line is the fact that we have three teams from California. You have the Los Angeles Kings, the San Jose Sharks playing, and you also have the Ducks. This is a huge thing in terms of non?traditional hockey markets, and the fact that Anaheim has won the Cup, and San Jose went to the Conference Final last year.
There is a huge resurgence in the fan base of the L.A. Kings. That is another gigantic story line. The fact is that California hockey is really starting to boom. That is a real positive thing.
One of the kids that is an example of that is Jonathon Blum. The first California trained player to ever be drafted in the first round and he's now playing for the Nashville Predators.
SCHUYLER BAEHMAN: Eddie and Keith, can you take us through a similar walk through the Eastern Conference? There are a couple of series we haven't touched on: One involving the Pittsburgh Penguins, one of the leading goal scorers in Steven Stamkos, and the other Philly.
EDDIE OLCZYK: I think from the Pittsburgh?Tampa series, I don't think that ?? if you're not talking about Marc?Andre Fleury as a Vezina Trophy winner, you better be talking about him as an MVP.
What he's done considering all the injuries and impact, and Don was making mention of all the injuries going on, but you talk about the regular season. Ray Shero made two great acquisitions last summer. He got Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin. And they needed to get better defending defensemen in there, and they did that.
But Marc?Andre Fleury has proven to be a top?notch goaltender. He had a terrific year. He's going to see a lot of pucks. The Tampa Bay Lightning can bring it with Stamkos and Lecavalier, and Marty St. Louis had an unbelievable season. This will be a long series.
Not knowing the situation of Sidney Crosby, but I give the Tampa Bay Lightning a real big shot in this series. It might come down to that guy in goal. Steve Yzerman went out and got Dwayne Roloson and had to upgrade the goaltending. I think he's done that. This is a confident team in Tampa.
We know what the Penguins have been able to do over the last couple years. But I think Fleury is sensational. I expect the Penguins to win the series, but I think this thing is going the distance. Tampa Bay has the type of players that can win games in a small area.
KEITH JONES: I would agree with Ed on the Tampa Bay perspective. Just how well they've played down the stretch. They've won 7 of the last 8, and they won basically a playoff game against Carolina, who was trying to get into the playoffs like a Game 7 for Carolina. And Tampa stepped up and beat them, sent them packing.
So they've been in a big situation head to go the playoffs. I like the way they settled down and righted the ship before the playoffs arrived. So watch out for Tampa Bay. I think they'll give Pittsburgh all that they can handle.
Of course with Crosby being out of the lineup, it's a great equalizer if Stamkos can get his offensive game going. It hasn't been where it has to be, but maybe he's saving something for round number one.
For the Flyers and Buffalo, it's going to be the story will be goaltending on both teams. Ryan Miller, of course, not playing every game down the stretch because he's been bumped up and bruised, and got into action over the last couple of games of the season. One of them against the Flyers where he came in and replaced Enroth for the third period.
Sabres having to make the playoffs down 3?2, and Ryan Miller shut the doors. Sabres come back and win that game, so that had to do wonders for the confidence of the Buffalo Sabres. They've been terrific down the stretch.
With new ownership came a lot of victories and a new attitude. And the Buffalo Sabres are a dangerous team, led, of course, offensively by Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford.
One guy missing is Danny Briere. Who with the new ownership would probably still be in Buffalo, but moved on to Philadelphia and has had tremendous playoff performances in the past.
He went head?to?head against the Flyers in '06, and had nine points in the six games. Was probably one of the biggest deciding factors for the Flyers to go out and sign him as an unrestricted free agent. So he'll be the story.
He's been the story against Buffalo during the regular season where he had eight points in the four games. Goaltending in Philadelphia is going to be a wildcard.
Michael Leighton has an opportunity to get into the nets should Sergei Bobrovsky struggle. It was not a great final weekend for Bobrovsky, losing in overtime to Buffalo. Then coming back against the New York Islanders and getting pulled on three goals on nine shots. Not the way that I think Peter Laviolette wanted to end the season.
He announced Bobrovsky as his starting goaltender in Game 1 about a week ago. And he announced yesterday that he had given his intentions a week ago, and was no longer going to give his intentions. The playoffs are here.
So it remains wide open. Boucher replaced Bobrovsky and got the victory against the Islanders. They have three goaltenders, and it's going to come down to one of them playing really well because the Flyers have struggled over the last four or five weeks of the season.
SCHUYLER BAEHMAN: Thank you, Don, Eddie, Pierre, and Keith very much for taking some time out on what is undoubtedly a busy day.
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