Eastern Conference Playoff Preview with Craig Custance
The Illegal Curve Hockey Show airs from noon to 3pm on TSN Radio 1290 in Winnipeg. The following interview is transcribed and paraphrased from the latest episode, available directly at IllegalCurve.com. Alternatively, you can subscribe on iTunes and have the podcast automatically sent to you as soon as it becomes available.
On Saturday’s show ESPN Insider Craig Custance came on to preview the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
On the favourite between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia:
“Right now to me it’s the Pittsburgh Penguins. When you talk about what you need to construct a playoff hockey team and a team that’s successful, they have all of those combinations. You want that strength down the middle; there isn’t a better trio of centres in hockey than Crosby, Staal and Malkin. You want good goaltending, and you want goaltending experience, and you’ve got that with the Pittsburgh Penguins.”
“The only thing they didn’t have is a little bit of luck (in terms of a first round match-up). The Philadelphia Flyers certainly aren’t intimidated by the Pittsburgh Penguins. When you talk to people about beating Pittsburgh they say you have to play them physical, you can’t respect them too much, and you have to give them a little push back. We know the Flyers can do that. That’s a horrible draw in my opinion for the Penguins; I expect that series to go seven and ultimately I still think Pittsburgh comes out of it.”
On the more vulnerable between the Rangers and Bruins
“I don’t know if I see either one as really vulnerable, especially not early on. Both of them has the goalie, Lundqvist with the Rangers, and Tim Thomas in Boston. You like that, and they both have playoff experience. The one question mark with both teams is you worry about their depth.”
“The Rangers have the high end scoring with Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards. But you wonder, do they have enough guys, let’s say they give up 3 or 4 goals, do they have that scoring offense to keep up with a team? That concerns me a bit with the Rangers.”
“The Boston Bruins, you look at what they lost compared to last year’s playoff team. They don’t have Nathan Horton who’s probably not going to play, they don’t have Mark Recchi. They’re missing a couple others of those forwards who were so good in the playoffs for them; Michael Ryder is now in Dallas. Those are important players, I had one scout tell me, it’s almost like they have two fourth lines in Boston. That wasn’t the case last year. Those are my concerns, but I don’t think either of those teams are necessarily vulnerable.”
On the Panthers and Capitals chances at winning a first round series
“No, you look at their team (Florida), the goal differential is a minus 27. I like their depth at forward, but I’m not ready to hitch my wagon to Jose Theodore. I worry about their goaltending, I looked at their team up and down and tried to imagine a scenario where they get out of the first round but I don’ t think it’s going to happen.”
“Washington to me is the interesting team out of those two; I could see them upsetting a team in the first. The Capitals are interesting to me because if you talk to their players, I spoke with Alex Ovechkin and Brooks like and they said, look we’ve gone into the playoffs as the favourite and done everything we need to do in the regular season and piled up a bunch of points, that didn’t work. Instead of putting things in cruise control in February which they had to do in the past. I think they are kind of internally hoping that this struggle and this resiliency they’ve shown will help them in the playoffs. They still have that high end talent with Ovechkin and Backstrom. I’m a little worried about their goaltending health, but I’m not counting them out of pulling out an upset.”
The Illegal Curve Hockey Show airs Saturdays from noon to 3pm on TSN Radio 1290