Western Conference Playoff Preview with Eric Duhatschek

Posted by Michael Remis in Radio on April 10, 2012 — No Comments

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 Eric Duhatschek of the Globe & Mail came on to preview the Western Conference playoff picture.

On the favourites in the Western Conference

“I have two, the Vancouver Canucks and the Nashville predators are my co-favourites.”

“The Canucks have really started to pick up their play after a real lull in March. I’ve seen them twice in the last week live, once in Calgary once in Vancouver. I think they have another gear and that’s pivotal when it comes to the playoffs. I think there are some teams in the West that have extracted every last ounce of effort and emotional commitment just to get to the playoffs and have the type of seasons that they have had.”

“I think that those teams generally cannot win four playoff rounds, which is what it takes to win the Stanley Cup. Because eventually, you just have a lull, it’s a mental thing as much as a physical thing. If you have a lull in the playoffs, all you need is one week where everyone is a bit off and you’re done.”

“I think Vancouver has another level to get to, and I think Nashville has another level to get to.”

“Vancouver because their season essentially starts when the playoffs begin, because of the deep run they were in last year. They have done a good job of pacing themselves through the regular season.”

“Nashville because they have done the unusual thing of changing some key personnel at the trade deadline. They’re trying to sort it out; in the last week they have done a better job of sorting it out. I think that everyone in that organization now has a clearer sense of what their role is going forward.”

On the Blues chances to make a run

“I spoke to Ken Hitchcock about that a couple weeks ago.He said a lot of people are going to ask, “do we have another level, and my answer is I don’t know if we have another level.” He says, “we have got the maximum out of our people this year. The one way we can get another level is if we get Alex Steen, Andy McDonald and Matt D’Agostini back and if we can integrate them in and get them into the rhythm of the season.”

“All of those players have come back now, and St. Louis hasn’t been the same team. They’re 4-4-3 in their last 11. That is inevitably what happens, they had a thing going in St. Louis and that was terrific, everybody had brought in. Suddenly they have disrupted that.”

“Hitchcock has remade his third line which is critical to his success; he relies so much on them. He’s got Jason Arnott centering that, and he’s got Alex Steen playing there. He told me he thought Steen was their best player before he got hurt with that concussion.”

“St. Louis has another level, if these guys can find their midseason rhythm when the playoffs start. I think that Andy McDonald is an elite player when it comes to scoring. If you look at he playoffs he had for Anaheim in 2007, I believe he had ten goals, and that was tops on their team. I think Arnott has playoff experience and he can conjure up a big goal.”

“I’m not too worried about the fact that maybe David Backes or David Perron is their best player. There are players in that lineup that are capable of winning that 2-2 game or that 1-1 game you get in the playoffs.”

“The larger issue with St. Louis is; can they get back to that hounding defensive presence that was so important for them when they were the top team in the NHL and virtually unbeatable on home ice.”

On the most capable of the Pacific Division teams (San Jose, Los Angeles, Phoenix)

“When I look at the teams, I think that San Jose has the best team; to me the best team is always the one that has the best chance of winning. They have a lot to prove in the playoffs, I think they have a huge other level they can get to because beyond a handful of players, they have something to prove. Dan Boyle has something to prove in the playoffs Brent Burns does, Martin Havlat has been injured most of the season he’s got something to prove, Ryan Clowe has had terrible year, he seems to be catching up.”

“I have questions about their defense; there are a lot of things that can go wrong with San Jose, but if the pieces fall in place for them, they’re personnel is better than the other two Pacific Division teams.”

“Phoenix, it looks to me they are certainly capable of winning a round in the playoffs, based on the way they are playing right now. But they have even less high end offensive talent than the St. Louis Blues, can a team like that win more than one round, maybe two. I don’t think so. Eventually your lack of scoring depth catches up to you if you’re the Phoenix Coyotes.”

“Los Angeles, I’d like them more if Jeff Carter was healthy, and was the Jeff Carter of a couple years back that scored 46 goals. He just hasn’t been the same player; he hasn’t been a factor very often since coming over from Columbus. Same thing with Mike Richards, I want to see more than is there. This guy has been a much better player at different times in his career than he is right now.”

The entire interview is available here at Illegal Curve, or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

The Illegal Curve Hockey Show airs Saturdays from noon to 3pm on TSN Radio 1290