CHRIS MCCLOSKEY: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for joining us today. In a moment, we’ll be joined by our broadcast team of Mike “Doc” Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, and Pierre McGuire, as well as NBC Sports Executive Producer, Sam Flood.
The 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin on the networks of NBC Universal this Wednesday, and it is the seventh time that NBC Sports will present all games nationally, and the second consecutive year in which we’ll present side-by-side coverage in the first round.
Over the next 60-plus days, NBC Sports will present up to 105 games across numerous broadcast, cable and digital platforms, all the way up until the Stanley Cup Final in June. It’s always an exciting time of year here at NBC Sports, and we’ll begin the conference call in just a moment.
Let’s begin now with opening remarks and first up is our Executive Producer, Sam Flood.
SAM FLOOD: Well, thanks for joining us. What a great playoff set of match-ups we have. Couldn’t be better. Couldn’t be more excited about it. As I told my wife this morning as I was leaving to come into the city that she’s got two more nights without hockey on TV, the only two nights for then a 60-day straight hockey excitement, energy, and the perfect way to end every day watching pucks every night.
So Monday and Tuesday night, the last two nights without pucks and then there’s nothing but hockey going forward.
I feel like we’ve already won the Stanley Cup at NBC because to have the big win that both Eddie and Pierre had this year, to battle through both of their cancer situations and have Eddie back on the team and healthy and cancer-free heading into the playoffs, couldn’t be a bigger moment for all of us at NBC. But for Eddie and his family to have him back doing this, it’s really special, and to hear Eddie talking about horses this past Saturday and perhaps making a few shekels, making some bets on the horses was great, great, great theater. Just makes you feel pretty special about the team we have and the opportunity we have.
Then for Pierre to battle through quickly and get to Korea and be ready to go every day of those Olympics, it was an impressive sight and dedication to his passion for hockey is unparalleled. So it’s a lot of fun to see that.
Thank God we have the one guy that never hit the disabled list all year to lead this team, the great Doc Emrick. Doctor?
DOC EMRICK: Thank you, Sam, thank you. And I echo what you have said about being able to be with these two guys. Thank you all for participating today. We anticipate the Stanley Cup and the 125th year since the Montreal AAA’s won it. We anticipate the next page and the story is about Vegas’ initial year and the dominance of the Predators and the attempt of the Penguins to make it three straight, and the Flyers and the Avalanche joining the 16 teams on the last Saturday of the season.
I’m sure you got other things in mind, so I’m going to move along quickly by gladly handing this off to the guy who, I guess, with the fat wallet now from this past weekend is going to be buying the first team dinner, Eddie Olczyk.
EDDIE OLCZYK: Yeah, well, thanks a lot, Doc. Yeah, considering what’s going on here the last six months when I do jump on the scale it says only one person at a time. So I’m trying to shed some poundage, but not necessarily in my wallet. But it is really, really great to be back. The support that I have from our NBC family, starting off with Sam checking in with me every other day for the last seven months will never be forgotten. And the support I got from Doc and Pierre, and all of our family at NBC helped pass the time and helped get me through some really difficult times and getting back to work.
I think it’s important when I did have that conversation with Sam when I was diagnosed, you know, back on August 4 at 7:07 p.m., that I had stage 3 colon cancer, as Sam graciously said, It’s an open canvas. When you want to work, you work. If you feel doing a game, you do a game. If you feel like coming in to Stamford to do a studio, that’s what you do.
I’ll be forever grateful for that. That incredible support for me and my family and the visit as well. So I thank Sam very much.
Healthy and ready to go. I really believe as you can roll an octagon on either side of the conference, putting each team’s name on there, and whatever would come up, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that match-up. 8 versus 8, 1 versus 1, 1 versus 6, whatever it is, to me, I think that you have some interesting scenarios. You have, obviously, Vegas. You have Winnipeg, you have Nashville in the Eastern Conference, the incredible finish with Boston and Tampa. Of course the Penguins, as Doc mentioned, looking for a three-peat going up against their archrivals. I know that series extremely well.
But for me, I think the one team that I think is really going to be interested and maybe doesn’t get a lot of talk down here, obviously, would be the Winnipeg Jets.
I laid my hat there almost five and a half years of my 16 years in the National Hockey League, and they’re ready to go up there with the white out, and it’s going to be an awesome setting in there in their first round match-up with the Minnesota Wild. But I think that’s one team that maybe nationally is under the radar.
They have size, they have speed, they have depth on the back end. Their goaltending has been very good for the most part this year. The only question mark I would have with Winnipeg is can they defend enough at the most crucial time in the playoffs? Because as I said for how many years we’ve done this now, 10 or 11 years on these conference calls, is that the rink gets a little bit smaller come playoff time. The rink shrinks. That would be the only question mark. So I’m really going to keep my eye on for a lot of reasons in Winnipeg.
So from one healthy human to another, Pierre, congratulations on your recovery, and looking forward to seeing you on the road very soon. So I’ll pass the puck to Pierre McGuire.
PIERRE McGUIRE: Thanks a lot, Eddie. I appreciate it. I’m really happy you’re back and with us full-time. That’s exciting. I guess the one word I might use is grateful. I’m unbelievably grateful to Doc Emrick and his support to Eddie and his support to the NBC hockey family in particular. But more importantly, anything else, Sam Flood.
I walked out of the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital back in late November, right after U.S. Thanksgiving, and I said, ‘Here’s the situation I’m in. What do you think I should do?’ He said, ‘Give me one minute.’ And I wasn’t kidding. He said one minute. So I gave him a minute. I called him back, and he said, ‘You’re going to go see this doctor on this date at this hospital. I went to that doctor on that date at that hospital in New York, Dr. Ash Tewari.
I worked a game on January 3rd in New York, between Chicago and the Rangers, and the next morning I was in surgery at 5 a.m. at Mount Sinai Hospital, and I am so grateful for everything that everybody has done for me.
So I’m so happy that I’ve been back a little longer than Eddie. The Olympics was phenomenal. Especially the U.S. women winning gold. It’s something I’ll never forget. The Lamoureux sisters are one of the best stories I’ve had the privilege of covering in a long time. And the composure of Amanda Kessel scoring in the shootout with all the money on the line to keep it alive was amazing.
Again, it’s been an amazing year to date, and the playoffs will only be that much more amazing. Eddie touched on it a bit in terms of the match-ups, and I totally concur with Winnipeg and the white out. The big question there will be will the defense be able to hold up enough in playoff hockey, because it’s really been unproven, and the same thing with Connor Hellebuyck. But that thing said, they’re a formidable foe.
I think the Vegas Golden Knights are one of the best stories we’ve had in the National Hockey League for a long time. We’ve been begging for a long time at NBC to get Vegas and L.A. on the ice together, well, they’re going to be together now and they’re probably going to be for a very long time in this first round. That will be an amazing series to watch.
I think probably one of the most difficult and arduous series will be between Anaheim and San Jose. I mean, they’re so equal. Both coaches have done phenomenal jobs. I think eventually that will be one of the more difficult, physical series that will be played in the entire first round.
But I’m so jacked up. I got my schedule last night, and I get to do all of Boston and Toronto and all of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Can’t wait to get going with that one, or both of them, actually.
For Boston, you know, it’s just been a magnificent year for them. Bruce Cassidy has been as good a coach as there’s been in the league this year. So that will be a great coaching match-up between Mike Babcock and Bruce Cassidy. And Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, both teams trending up. Dave Hakstol and Ronnie Hextall have done an amazing job in Philadelphia in terms of amalgamating young players into the lineup and what they’ve been able to do with Mike Sullivan and Jimmy Rutherford, and recognizing hey, we’re going to lose Matt Cullen and Nick Bonino and Chris Kunitz and Ron Hainsey and Trevor Daley, and all these players in Pittsburgh. And as the year went along, acquiring assets like Derick Brassard and Riley Sheahan that are helping their team and overcoming those losses. Especially with Cullen moving on to Minnesota, and Bonino moving on to Nashville. I just can’t wait for this first round to get going.
It’s the most exciting time of the year. In particular, you look at all the series, and you can say that team’s going, they’re all going to be tight. I really believe that. I think they’ll all be tight.
Mostly a question I think for either Eddie or Pierre. But I’m doing a piece on how teams built themselves up at the trade deadline and the additions they made, whether it’s a Evander Kane or a Hartman in Nashville. What do you make of what the teams did at the trade deadline in helping themselves out, and then there’s Miller in Tampa Bay?
EDDIE OLCZYK: That’s where I was going to go. I was going to go to Tampa. I think the moves that Steve Yzerman made, I don’t know if it’s called New York South or not, but they’ve got a lot of ex players down there playing with the Lightning. But you bring in a guy like JT Miller who is versatile and can play any forward position.
You bring in Ryan McDonagh who was banged up initially, but I know a guy that you can play in any situation, but they just added to the depth on their team. Look, I think that for what Tampa did and what they gave up, I mean, they’re all in. They’re absolutely all in.
When you add two players like that and give up what they did, it’s, you know, they’re in it to win it. They won their division. I just think when you do make those moves at the trade deadline, you worry about chemistry. You worry about how it’s going to affect the locker room.
I was in a situation where in 1994 with the New York Rangers where we made a boat load of moves at the trade deadline. I mean, we really just — we moved a lot of guys out over the course of the year. But at the trade deadline when you start moving three, four, five guys out, you wonder how that’s going to affect the chemistry inside that room. How does it affect the individual player or players get pushed aside.
So those are things that managers and coaches and organizations talk a lot about. But to me I think just standing out at the trade deadline, what you asked specifically, John, to me is what Tampa did. When Steve Yzerman did that, it at least for me anyway, it’s we’re all in, and we’re in this thing to make a long run and get back to the Stanley Cup Final.
PIERRE McGUIRE: I would agree with all of that, and I would add another team too. First of all, Winnipeg getting called, they solidified a lot of their face-off play, and gives them veteran presence and helps them down the middle a ton.
But what I think Nashville did is something that shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s not always about the size of the names that you get, it’s about where the players fit and where they slot. First of all, getting Kevin Fiala back after a fractured leg last year in the playoffs against St. Louis has been huge for them. He was almost a 25 goal scorer.
The acquisition of Kyle Turris slotting in perfectly in the second hole behind Ryan Johansen was huge earlier in the year. But I think a big one was the free agent signing of Nick Bonino who didn’t play a full season because of injuries, but he’s got two Stanley Cup rings to his credit. So he’s not going to be intimidated by the theater.
I love the addition of Ryan Hartman for playoff hockey, especially coming out of the Chicago organization where he learned from a lot of guys what it takes to win. Then I can’t say enough about Mike Fisher coming out of retirement in Nashville. Again, slotting him in last year when they made their run to the final, he was the second line center, and now he’s the fourth line center, and he’s still got plenty of game left and gas in the tank.
An Olympic acquisition, Eeli Tolvanen who is one of the best players outside of the National Hockey League this past year. He’s had a bit of a slow start since coming into the league, but he’s a game breaker.
So you look at everything Nashville has done, all the names I just gave you, they never messed with the roster integrity that was created at the beginning of the year by David Poile and Paul Fenton. So I think Nashville quietly, whether it’s at the deadline or just before, did some amazing things.
Pierre and Eddie, obviously at the playoff time schedules get really insane. Are there going to be any restrictions or concerns about stamina? Also, for Sam, this is the second year in a row you’ve used Brendan Burke for the playoffs, and obviously Islanders fans know and like him, but people around the country don’t know much about him. What’s appealed to you to put him on your roster?
SAM FLOOD: He’s a good hockey caller. I live in the area and watch a lot of hockey games. I watch every region, and the next generation of play-by-play guys, he’s right up there. So he deserves a platform. The Islanders got it right when they hired him, and we’re getting it right, I hope, by giving him these platforms. He deserves it.
Then in terms of schedule, we’re starting Eddie in the studio a little bit so America can see his beautiful face, and he can have some fun in there. And then we’ll get him back out on the road. We were able to get Mike Milbury out of the studio a little bit to take Eddie’s spot alongside Doc and Pierre during the season.
So we’ll do that in the playoffs just to keep Eddie from having too chase too many different cities. There are some nice hotels in the Stamford area, so he’s used to that.
Then Pierre might think he’s doing every game, but we’re putting a minutes limit on him like a player. So in the first round playoffs, it’s going to be a six-game a week limit. Regardless of what the schedule Pierre has in front of him, that will change. So there is a headline for Pierre that he didn’t know yet.
PIERRE McGUIRE: I just want to say one thing to echo what Sam said about Brendan Burke. I had the privilege of working with him earlier this year in games we called from China, and he reminded me of young Doc Emrick, and I say that with the utmost respect for Doc.
I couldn’t believe his level of preparation, which I’ve witnessed for 13errias working with Doc. Brendan was much the same in terms of his thorough preparation and the ease with which he called a game from China off tube. So we’re really happy to have him in as part of our team.
In terms of fatigue, I went to the Olympics and I didn’t feel any fatigue after a 15-hour plane ride, went right to work. I was told I’d only be doing a game or two games a day, and that changed after the first day. So sometimes Sam changes what he says.
So I can totally understand the ability to audible. We went from a game to three games a day, didn’t we, Sam?
But that was all good, and I’m really excited, so I don’t have any fatigue issues at all.
EDDIE OLCZYK: I’m just excited to be around the people that I love and the game that I love. Being in the studio, and like I said, Sam giving me that opportunity over the course of the regular season, and Mikey coming in and sitting up in my chair next to Doc and being with Pierre. But to get in and be with Liam and Kathryn and Jonesy, you know, it’s a different dynamic, but you’ve got to kind of get a say and a hand on everything that’s going on, whether it’s current or maybe something happens the night before or something to look ahead. Somebody’s on the block maybe for a suspension or goal, no-goal, all that kind of stuff.
So it’s a much different platform, and I really enjoy it. I’m looking forward to getting my feet wet. I think with Sam in charge and Sam’s the boss, to kind of ease my way back in and not try to be everywhere. But I’ll look forward to sitting back next to Doc and getting into the rink with Pierre and doing what I love to do.
So I just think early it will be picking our spots and then we’ll go from there as the series continue. But I’ll look forward to getting back into the rinks and being around some of the greatest people.
Then in early May, I’ll have to jump off and put my — not that I could ever fit into jockey silks, but I’ll have to put my horse racing hat on and head to Churchill Downs, which you can see on NBC on the first Saturday in May, of course. But it will be hockey and then horses and then back to the pucks.
DOC EMRICK: That is a picture.
SAM FLOOD: It’s not happening, Doc. It’s not happening.
DOC EMRICK: (Laughter)
You guys mentioned the Vegas team and in your introductory remarks. Can they keep up this run during the playoffs, and if so, what do you see them having to do to make a deep run in the playoffs?
DOC EMRICK: I certainly like the notion that they have strong goaltending, Fleury with the career-best goals against and save percentage, and all the experience he’s had in making playoff runs, and the chemistry that they built. The fact that they snapped the Ducks dominance in the regular season within the division.
All of those things that they’ve had, like the snarl of showing all the teams that they played for before that, hey, we were worth something, and the fact that we were exposed on the market, and we all came here and United is something that we’re going to continue in the playoffs.
There is a certain belligerence about them in showing the world how good they are that has made them a positive story. There are a lot more elements to it than that. But I don’t see this story stopping and the snowball stopping.
But if there is a team that can really slow it down, it’s Los Angeles. I think the significant thing to me was in that home-at-home series, how well the Kings played them down the stretch, and how they had gotten a resurgence from Kopitar, and how Doughty has had a career high and how they’ve had a great year from Dustin Brown.
That’s what those of us who just have to wait and anticipate are going back and forth in this arm wrestling contest on who is going to win the series. We’ve got all of these positives on both sides that we are weighing here as we anticipate that first game in Vegas and how thrilling it’s going to be.
So I didn’t give you anything to hang your hat on, I just gave you the excitement that I’m feeling about waiting on it.
PIERRE McGUIRE: I’ll tell you this, I was there for opening night, and it’s something I will not forget. I made the remarks probably halfway through the second period, this is a call to all the National Hockey League teams that this is going to be one of the most ferocious places in the league to play. Gerard Gallant has done a phenomenal job implementing an ideology there in terms of how they play and how aggressive they are and how especially out of the start of most games, if not all, how they can get you on your heels in a hurry.
And I think one of the things that’s going to help them is it doesn’t mean It’s going to put them over the top, but it’s going to help them is the fact that they do have home ice advantage in this series. If they lose that early in the series, that would not be a positive thing for them. They are a tremendous home team, and they play with a certain aggressiveness and certain tempo that if you don’t corral Vegas early on, they are going to make you look bad.
EDDIE OLCZYK: I think for Vegas, as I said a little earlier, Ron, it is a much better game come playoff time. I think Pierre touched on it. What is their identity in being an up-tempo, push-to-pace type of team. When you get to the playoffs, you know, sometimes the mind can wander and go, can we really win this way? Can we continue to generate as much as we have? So the game is different. That will be one of the tests that they will have.
Look, they have experience there. They do. When you hear of expansion teams, you think for the most part you think young. You think of a team that’s had a tough time. No, I mean the greatest performance of any professional sports team in any professional sport – to come in and do what they did is absolutely incredible. It’s a tip of many hockey helmets to George McPhee and Gerard Gallant as Pierre touched on.
But they have Fleury, they have Engelland, they have James Neal, I mean, they have guys that have been around the block, David Perron. You have a lot of guys there. It will be really interesting to see because there are so many momentum swings come playoff hockey, and we’ve touched on this over the years. Since the league has changed, Ron, as far as the rules and going long times without whistles just because of the way the game is, it’s when you have the momentum, what do you do with it? Are you able to cash in?
When you don’t have it and it’s against you, it’s not necessarily the philosophy of how do you get it back. The first thing you have to do is stop it. Like you have to stop it.
I will use a horse racing or wagering analogy, because we are talking about the Golden Knights and being a horse guy, when it is going bad or if it is going sour, you have to stop the run. Like you have to stop it. You just can’t turn it on and go back the other way. So what I’m saying is when you don’t have the momentum, you’ve got to be able to stop it, and then what do you do to get it back on your side?
Because both teams are going to go on runs. What do you do when you’re on a roll? Do you press? Do you score a couple of those goals? Are you able to get the crowd into it? All those type of things play into it. I think for — I think there is some pressure there. I do believe there is some pressure on this team going into the playoffs, and you’re playing a team like L.A., as Doc said it perfectly, this is a team that is able to go ahead and just shut you right down.
I know they’re banged up a tad on the back end, but I think it’s going to be really interesting in that series how those teams take advantage of the runs they’re on, and what do they do to stop it, and how do they get it back on their side after stopping the runs? Because both teams are going to go on them. It’s just the reality of it. The rinks good to look tilted at some point on both sides. It’s can you take advantage, and that’s what playoff hockey is all about.
Pierre, given your unique position right in the middle of some Penguins-Flyers stuff from the last time they played in the playoffs and the coaches were going at it at the end of the regular season. My question is, what do you remember of the emotion and chaos from that last playoff meeting? And can you even imagine a scenario where these two teams will do something like that again in 2018?
PIERRE McGUIRE: They’re different personas. Mike Sullivan is definitely more emotional than Danny Bylsma during a game. I would say Peter Laviolette who used to coach in Philadelphia is a lot more demonstrative than Dave Hakstol.
I’d be surprised if we see anything like we saw with Laviolette and Danny Bylsma and Tony Granato way back when. But that being said it’s Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. It’s a turf battle. Everybody knows that.
The interesting thing is obviously you’ve got one team that a lot of people were not expecting to do very well, the Philadelphia Flyers, because of where they were in the middle part of the year with the 10-game losing streak, and the way Coach Hakstol kept it on the rails along with the leadership of that team is phenomenal. Then you see the development of some of their young players.
But I don’t expect coaching fireworks. I do expect a lot of physical fireworks from both teams. This should be one of those series where if the star players from the Penguins don’t rise quickly and the Flyers find a way to get confidence in the series, it could be a long one. But the biggest thing going for Pittsburgh though – in every game they played this year against Philadelphia , they scored five goals in the game. So they haven’t lost, and they’ve won every game by scoring five goals. Philadelphia’s going to have to find a way to plant the seed of doubt early in the series.
EDDIE OLCZYK: Having coached in this — coached against the Flyers, not in the playoffs, but then playing against them as a member of the Penguins in the playoffs, I think it only takes one player, one comment from somebody where all bets are off and that gasoline tank will be ignited fairly quickly.
This is as good as it gets. I mean, it really does. Pierre touched on, I think Ronnie Hextall, Paul Holmgren, Ronnie Hextall, you look at kind of what the plans have been here the last couple of years.
I mean, how about the start of the season for Philadelphia? You know, we’re going to put Claude Giroux along the wall. And what does Claude Giroux do? He has a career season, and gets the Flyers not just into the playoffs, but he helps them get into a third seed. So there are a lot of things going on there.
But this is one series that — Pierre has coached in it as well — it won’t take much to get the blood boiling behind the bench. I’ll guarantee you that. It is an emotional series when it comes playoff time, and just really looking forward to.
That’s actually going to be my first game that I’m going to be doing is going to be in Philly on Sunday afternoon, so I’m really looking forward to watching those first two games and getting there to Philly and watching these two teams get it on for game three in Philly.
I was curious looking at Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, we know all the big players and stars. You just mentioned the year Giroux had. I was wondering who you see as the sleeper candidates the people you think might have a big impact that are getting overlooked maybe nationally and don’t have a lot of recognition, but people who might be able to turn that series either for the Flyers or for the Penguins?
PIERRE McGUIRE: Well, Ivan Provorov doesn’t have a big persona around the National Hockey League in terms of fans around the league, but in Philadelphia he does, and people who make hockey decisions for a living definitely know who he is. He has a chance to step in and really make a difference in this series. He’s just that good a player.
If you look at where he was last year to this year in terms of time on ice, he’s improved almost three minutes a game. He was a minus-7 last year. I think he’s a plus-19 this year to finish the year. That’s a gigantic swing in one year. He’s somebody that doesn’t get enough credit.
A subtle line change they made at the end of the year, moving Travis, connecting off the line with Sean Couturier, and Claude Giroux and putting Michael Raffl up there, and moving Konecny down to play with Val Filppula and Wayne Simmonds, I thought that was really a smart coaching move.
Now they’ve got offensive balance on their top three lines. Michael Raffl is not a big name around the league, but he could be a big presence in terms of board play and slot area presence play playing with Couturier and Giroux. And he’s shown that over this weekend. You could see the power he has in terms of being able to dominate physical play.
So those will be two guys that I don’t think a lot of hockey fans outside of that city would really know. But they’re two players that could definitely leave a mark in a playoff series for Philadelphia.
EDDIE OLCZYK: Yeah, I would add in that I’ve been so impressed with the way that he energizes. He energizes players, his line mates, his team, listening and talking and communicating with Ron Hextall over the course of the last seven months. The Flyers and Ronnie and Paul Holmgren have been just terrific in my battles and always checking up on me. That’s one of the two guys that always kind of gravitate to, but he’s just an energizing type of player. He scores big goals.
I think there were back-to-back games early in the year. Where he scored back-to-back OT winners, and they were both, I think, 26 or 27 seconds into overtime, the same exact time in back-to-back games which is a long shot of long shots. So when you talk about players, let alone, scoring back-to-back overtime winners but having 27 seconds into overtime.
But he’s that type of player that is infectious and not afraid to play in traffic. So I think Pierre touched on two other players, but I would look at a guy like Konecny and go, oh, yeah, he’s known in Philadelphia and teams and coaches know who he is, but when you talk about mainstream media and public, he may not be — you know, he may not be one of those guys that come to the tongue very quickly.
DOC EMRICK: Howe and McCrimmon played together for so many years there and were just glorious. You look at the potential. Maybe we’re not talking about a Hall of Famer, but, hey, Provorov has really impressed in two years time. And he and his defensive partner were a plus 27 together and they scored 30 goals together this year. And I know give it time, but that’s something if I were a Flyers fan, I’d be looking at their ages and really enjoying the prospect of seeing them play together for a long time, if that’s how it unfolds over the years.
Doc, you have Boston-Toronto first up. Can you speak to a little bit about the rich history of those Original Six teams and how it might be a little bit they’re all special, but how it might be a little bit more special.
DOC EMRICK: Well, it’s special, I guess, for those of us who are gray at the temples and maybe have lost some of our hair on top just because we remember the days when there were only six. But also the fact that for those of us that are older, we didn’t get to see them play very often against one another. I mean, from ‘33 to ‘59 they played ten times and there were six teams in the league and four made it. Then there was this gap where they played three times and then there was this one that they’re snarling about in Toronto that didn’t go very well in the seventh game for them.
The fact that there are a lot of Bruins that remember that and maybe a few Maple Leafs, and an awful lot of Leaf Nation remember that disastrous finish in Game 7 in Boston. Or that wonderful finish in Game 7 in Boston adds a lot of luster, and I’m sure an awful lot of video that will be seen in Boston and nationally in Canada and in the United States before the first game that will add to the luster of that.
But also the fact that these are two 100-point teams that went at each other pretty hard during the course of the season, and that have vibrant coaches with different styles that had great success and have had star-caliber players of differing ages. Some of the lightning like players for the Maple Leafs are much younger.
But there is an awful lot that we can talk about, and I’m sure we’re not going to have time before the first game. The good thing is it’s a best of seven series, so we can do an awful lot with it.
But these two teams matter an awful lot to the cities and to the countries that they come from. And I think that adds so much to — gee, I’m getting goose bumps — I think that adds so much to what we have walking into Boston for the first game is that, yeah, they played each other for the Stanley Cup back in 1939. I mean, they actually played for the big trophy back then.
But most of the people that are going to assemble in Boston weren’t alive then, but some of us can at least talk briefly about it. And then we can bring it up to date with how we’ve got a 41-year-old defenseman that’s got another year on his contract, and he leads that team in ice time and he remembers that last game, when he was standing in front of the net when the tying goal was scored. And we’ve got one of the best American-born players in history that’s going to wear that number for Toronto out there.
I don’t know if I’ve answered your question, but it’s an exciting prospect to see those great emblems that have hardly changed in a 100 years time are going to be out there and be so well represented. It’s going to be a wonderful series, I think. I hope I’ve addressed that.
I like the goose bumps.
DOC EMRICK: Okay good. Well, it’s just great theater. I can’t think of two better places that have great theater than Air Canada Centre and TD Garden. They’ve got a good organist there too, and The Garden Legend will be out there on the ice to sing, and we’ll factor how many fist pumps he’s going to bring.
Just wondering what you think about the Penguins chances at a three-peat? If not, your thoughts on some of the lower seed teams that could surprise during the playoffs?
EDDIE OLCZYK: I’ll just make a comment on Pittsburgh. Any team that has Sidney Crosby on it, you can’t underestimate. Regardless how tough we think it is and we know it can be, that gentleman has everything that it takes to want and will himself and his team to accomplish something that I think a lot of us really — I mean, going back-to-back, let alone trying to be a three-peat, would just be absolutely incredible.
So, look, regardless, yeah, they’ve had a lot of changeover. Pierre touched on it a little bit earlier, but they just seem to find a way. At some point, whether it’s this year or next year, it’s going to end. Until you knock off the champs – and they’re the champs for a reason the last couple of years – that will be a very difficult mountain to climb.
You need a little luck, there’s no doubt about it, but you need some luck. And sometimes maybe you can make your own luck when it looks a little dire, and they’ve been able to do that over the course of the last couple of years since Sid’s been in Pittsburgh.
So what a way to start the playoffs trying to make a three-peat and you’re going up against your archrival.
PIERRE McGUIRE: Yeah, Eddie touched on Pittsburgh, and I would agree with everything he said. It’s hard to bet against Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. When you have double trouble down the middle, that’s difficult to overcome in a playoff series in particular if they both stay healthy.
Two teams I think people would not want to play against, one would be the Columbus Blue Jackets who are trending upwards at the right time. They did some really creative things at the deadline too.
We were asked about the trade deadline before. But adding Ian Cole to their defense really helps their penalty killing and their shutdown component. It brings two Stanley Cup rings into the room. Mark Letestu has been a tremendous depth player for them since they acquired him. Thomas Vanek fits in fantastically well.
But if you look at the mobility, and size and defense in particular, it’s hard to get to the net to score playoff style goals against them. I think they have one of the most upwardly trending rookies in the league right now in Pierre-Luc Dubois.
If he turns out to be as good as he’s trending towards, he’s going to be almost impossible to shut down over the next two and three years. He’s just going to be that good. So they’ve got a lot going on there in Columbus. That’s going to be a tough match-up for Washington.
And for Anaheim, if they can stay healthy and get some people back, obviously Cam Fowler probably won’t be back, but they’ve still got so many weapons. And I think Randy Carlyle has done a magnificent job coaching that team this year, tremendous job. That’s another team I wouldn’t want to play, too, Anaheim and Columbus. Two teams that aren’t getting a lot of attention right now.