With the NHL Conference Finals nearly set, I had the pleasure to chat with America's foremost hockey blogging authority, Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo's Puck Daddy, about a host of stories in and around the NHL playoffs.
The Conference Finals will feature the third seed Phoenix Coyotes and the eighth seed Los Angeles Kings in the west, while the east will see sixth seed New Jersey face off against top seed New York or seventh seed Washington. Even if the Rangers defeat the Capitals, this season's playoffs would have six of the 12 series won by the team without home ice advantage.
Is there an advantage in the NHL in being the road team? Do coaches react to often when getting the last change before a face off? Is there too much pressure on the players when 18,000 fans scream "shoot" at them?
Wyshynski and I also talk about the best storylines heading into the Stanley Cup finals, including the story of the Kings riding a host of misfit castaways and a hot goalie going against the team owned by the league, to see which team will play for the Cup in the west. In the east, it's looking more and more like a New York area final, which is great for ratings but terrible for people who are sick of New York teams winning things.
We touch the suspension of Flyers superstar Claude Giroux and what (obvious) impact that had on the series with the Devils. That does lead to a larger conversation about the NHL's openness with explaining suspensions and fines. Brendan Shanahan's almost daily videos provide a great window into the NHL decision-making process, but has he been so forthcoming, it has opened the league up for criticism?
Speaking of Giroux, we discuss if he is really the best player in the world and if Alex Ovechkin is suddenly the worst. Yes, that is a tad oversimplified, I admit, but sometimes it does feel like prevailing sentiment.
We talk a lot about TV, including Wyshynski's article about why hockey fans don't need ESPN and why, seemingly, ESPN has admitted it doesn't need hockey fans. So, where do hockey fans go for their on-ice fix? Has NBC's coverage of the Stanley Cup Playoffs drawn more fans in to watch later rounds, even if their teams are knocked out?
Is there any chance even one Flyers fan would watch Mike Richards lead the Kings into the finals against the Devils or Rangers?