Monday, April 8, 2019
MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us today for our NBC Sports 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs conference call. In just a minute, we’ll be joined by NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood and our NHL commentators Mike “Doc” Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, Pierre McGuire, and Mike Milbury.
Before we get to the playoffs, just a quick look back at the regular season. We released the news this morning that NBC Sports regular season coverage, viewership increases across all the platforms NBC, NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. For more info on that, you can go to nbcsportsgrouppressbox.com.
A reminder as we head into the playoffs, this will be the eighth consecutive year which NBC Sports group will televise and stream every Stanley Cup playoff game and the third straight season we’ll have side-by-side coverage in the first round. NBC Sports exclusivity begins in the second round, continues through to the Stanley Cup Final, which will be televised on NBC and NBCSN for the 14th consecutive year. As a reminder, a transcript of this conference call will be available.
For now, let’s begin with opening remarks from our speakers, starting with the former captain of the Williams College hockey team, Sam Flood.
SAM FLOOD: Best time of year, obviously. Couldn’t be more excited about what these playoffs and matchups, how they set up both East and West. We’ve had a fun season exposing more teams than ever before to the audience in the United States. We thought that was an important next step in the evolution of the game and how we cover it. The NHL was incredibly supportive and pushed us to open up to different teams on our Wednesday nights and more doubleheaders.
Steve Hatze Petros and the group over at the league put together a fantastic schedule for us. We were able to capitalize on it and showcase a lot of newer teams and these growing stars, and I think that’s been an advantage, and we’ll see some of that value in the playoffs where we’ve got three Canadian teams, all of whom will be competitive and all of whom will add some good drama to the playoffs, which we’re looking forward to covering all that.
As for our team, we’re mixing people around this year. We had a great time having Pierre be the king of the West Coast. He now has more miles than any human being alive as we did a ton of the West Coast doubleheaders, as we put a real focus on making the late games of a doubleheader important. We’re going to continue moving our talent around to give us the best opportunity to make each game special and each night must see TV, living up to the old NBC adage, it’s must see TV.
With that, I’ll send it to the must hear voice of the NHL, the great Doc Emrick, who was nominated for his — I think it’s 100th Emmy award — just a couple weeks ago.
MIKE EMRICK: Thanks so much. I got fired up listening to Joel Quenneville’s speech to the media and to his players. These are guys that are about to head for home or maybe the World Championships, and he said remember how you feel today because their season is over. Ours is just beginning.
Then he talked about one year from today on how you’re going to feel by contrast, talking about these playoffs, and I started to think ahead about these playoffs, and we are in the second of three days that separate the end of the regular season from the start of the playoffs, and weird things can happen to teams that maybe finished poorly and now can turn things around. Like San Jose and Vegas and Toronto only won three of their last ten, and I think back to a ’91 group of North Stars that staggered to the finish and won only two of the last eight and faced the Presidents Trophy winning Blackhawks, who won 9 of the last 12, and knocked them out in six in the first round. Or that 2012 Kings group that required the next-to-last game to qualify for the playoffs and went through three coaches that year, and then in each of the four rounds they went through won the first three games, won the Stanley Cup, and the first 8 seed in North America in pro sports to win a championship.
Another thing that stands out is that we have had such an impressive team in Tampa Bay that did everything right this year, and even in the shootout, won 6 out of 7 of those, and it reminded me the shootout is no more, the three-on-three overtime is no more, but, boy, do we ever have overtime when it comes to the Stanley Cup.
And I recall last year in Game 2 between Columbus and Washington Alexander Ovechkin played 30 minutes of a game that required 72 minutes to settle, and his team lost, and they were down 2-0, and then they went into Columbus for a third game, and how many of those shifts must have been do or die because they go down 3-0 and they’re in big trouble. He wound up playing 30 minutes in a game that went 89, and his team won. Dmitry Orlov played 36 minutes, and John Carlson played about 30, and they survived that overtime and were still down 2-1, and they still had 15 more wins to get to the Stanley Cup, but they did. It takes so much from everybody to win a championship, and that’s what makes this so wonderful, and that’s what makes playoff hockey so exciting and especially when it goes into overtime.
There aren’t any guarantees it’s the best. I’m just thrilled that I’m here and glad Eddie Olczyk is too, except when there’s a Triple Crown horse race, and then we say good-bye to him for a brief time over the weekend. We say hello to him right now.
EDDIE OLCZYK: Thank you, Doc. What a letdown for everybody having to hear from me after hearing Doc. So all I will say is this is why we do what we do because this is the best time of year. Don’t know what’s going to happen. Yeah, there are favorites. Yeah, there are long shots, I can tell you in both sports as well as anybody, in hockey and horse racing, but at the end of the day, the theater, it doesn’t get any better than playoff hockey, whether it’s Game 3 of round 1 or lucky enough to be a part of Game 7s in the Stanley Cup Final. This is why we do what we do, and it’s an honor and privilege to sit next to Doc on most nights or get the opportunity to be in studio, like I will to start the playoffs on Wednesday night.
So I’ll look forward to doing a little bit of everything for the team, but, again, can’t emphasize enough how special a time this is for all of us to be able to bring the best game in the world to what I think are the best fans in the world. On that, I will dump the puck into Pierre McGuire’s corner.
PIERRE McGUIRE: Thanks a lot, Eddie. I appreciate it. I can’t wait to see the reaction in Uniondale when the Islanders take the ice against the Pittsburgh Penguins and how amazingly passionate and loud that fan base will be. I can’t wait to see the reaction in Nashville on opening night when the Dallas Stars are back in the playoffs. I can’t wait to see the reaction in Carolina when they get to host their first playoff game in what seems like forever against the Washington Capitals. The new teams that are in, the different story lines that have the potential to be created.
And then you have the defending Stanley Cup champs, the Washington Capitals, who a lot of people say can they or can’t they? Based on the way they were trending down the stretch, I think they can. And then you have the Tampa Bay Lightning that Doc talked about, and the one thing that stands out to me is they can overcome so much because they’ve got special teams, number one in the power play, number one in the penalty kill, and they have arguably the best goalie going into the playoffs in Andrei Vasilevskiy.
There’s so many awesome story lines because of what Sam had alluded to as well. Different teams getting opportunities to be exposed to the national spotlight. I think it’s going to be just a magnificent playoff for everybody that’s involved, and hopefully, there will be a lot of people following these story lines. Mike Milbury, over to you.
MIKE MILBURY: This time of year, everybody’s supposed to make predictions, and I hate it because I don’t know what’s going to happen. We just don’t know. The West seems completely wide open right now. It looks like Winnipeg at one point was going to be poised to make a charge, and they’ve had some issues. Nashville’s had some issues. But Vegas started off slowly, and all of a sudden, they started to roll a little bit, and they’re back to where they can compete for a championship.
But in the East, the two stories obviously are Tampa Bay. Can they do what Washington did last year? Which was find a way to get the job done. It’s okay to have a great regular season, record setting, 62-win season, but this is, as we all know, a completely different beast, the playoffs. You’ve got to be focused. You’ve got to reset after every mistake, after every game, and they have to find a way to do that in order to make themselves champions, as the Washington Capitals did last year quietly. Again, quietly, I say, because the Stanley Cup Championship will be anything but quiet. They come into this playoff, maybe not as the odds-on favorite, but you can’t pick against the Washington Capitals this year. They seem to have a really strong group, hang together really well. They find ways to win. They’re not afraid of the tough going, and it all sets up for a great postseason.
This question is for Mike Milbury and anyone else who wants to weigh in. I’m curious about Carolina getting back to the playoffs, and I’m mostly curious about the ownership there. I’m just curious about what you think of the job they’ve done, and if they’ve kind of gone about it in a unique or unconventional way.
MIKE MILBURY: Certainly, unconventional is the way to look at it. This is a team that just kept on chugging, and in all those little celebrations, somehow managed to be a cohesive thing for them despite getting some pretty strong criticism from up north. The Justin Williams part of the story is a pretty good one too. He’s just been an amazing leader for this team.
I don’t think this is an opponent the Capitals can underestimate. They’re going to keep on coming. They’re going to throw their defense into the offense. They’re going to do whatever they can to keep it going because the party’s been too much fun for them. I think it will be a whole new atmosphere in Carolina, something they’ve been waiting for for an awfully long time, and I think this team has a belief in itself that makes them very formidable.
The owner Tom Dundon has only been there for barely a year. Has it been difficult to shake things up so quickly and I guess shake up the status quo?
MIKE MILBURY: Listen, it was — there was some shaking that needed to be done. But he put some pretty good people in pretty good places, and they’ve managed to do some awfully good things. I don’t know the man, so I can’t speak too much about him. I don’t know if he’s involved every day, but he’s got a heck of a coach and a manager who’s been around the block a time or two, and the pieces fell into place. Obviously, he didn’t get in the way because owners that get in the way usually are just a giant pain in the ass, and owners that let their selected executives and coaches do their thing are more likely to meet with some pretty good success.
So whatever the formula was that was used down there, it’s shaken out a pretty good team, a team that’s made the playoffs for the first time in forever, as Pierre pointed out, and I think will be a tough out.
This question is for Pierre because, I guess, out of the group he’s probably seen the Golden Knights here in Las Vegas more up close and personal than anybody else. Pierre, I guess there was some — and somebody else can jump in too after I ask Pierre. I guess we would expect to see drop-off from the Vegas scene after last year’s amazing season. Your comments on that and any thoughts you might have in regard to the matchup against San Jose in the first round?
PIERRE McGUIRE: I really like their team a lot. I was doing a game with Eddie and Doc not long ago, and we were talking about how the top line had really started to evolve, much like it did last year with Reilly Smith, William Karlsson, and Jonathan Marchessault, and eventually they went on to lead the team in scoring. I think one of the big problems for Vegas this year were key injuries, whether it was to Max Pacioretty, whether it was to Paul Stastny, and suspension because of performance-enhancing drugs to Nate Schmidt. That set them back a way.
One of the things the Schmidt suspension did allow for was for Shea Theodore to take his game to another level. Not having Marc-Andre Fleury as much as they maybe would have liked probably set them back a little bit, and Erik Haula’s injury was really problematic for them. Last year Carle had 29 goals. This year he only played in 15 games and only had 2 goals.
You put it all together, they had some injury things, but I really like the way this team kind of went in — I discount what happened on Saturday night in their game versus San Jose. I would be looking at that as being a very difficult series to project on. I think it’s pretty darn even because San Jose has had their fair share of injuries also. I don’t think there’s a building in the league that’s as rambunctious and as difficult to play in right now for the visitors as it is whenever you go into Vegas.
Eddie, you’re kind of a Vegas guy. Can you jump in a little bit on those two questions about the expectations going in and how hard it was to match those up with what happened last year. And any thoughts you might have for the Sharks series and the Golden Knights.
EDDIE OLCZYK: I think first off, with this series, is which team is going to be able to defend better. Both teams aren’t afraid to give up chances, and sometimes they leave their goaltenders out to dry, and maybe the numbers aren’t as glowing as both teams would like. It’s easy to always point at the goaltenders, but I think that it’s going to come down, to me in the series, and I think it’s going to be a hard series, and it’s going to be a nasty series, and it’s going to be the team that can play with that discipline not only when it comes to the penalty box, but most importantly, which team can defend the best because both these teams, as I said earlier, have the ability to give up chances.
Look, both teams can score. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a high scoring series like every game. I can see these games being 5-4, 6-5, a 5-2 game. Playoffs — I’ve had a saying for a long, long time that the rink gets a little bit smaller come playoff time. The rink shrinks because it seems like you’ve got six or seven guys out there. So you’re going to have to fight for space, and neither team is going to be intimidated. Both teams are battle tested, but at the end of the day, I look at this series as coming down to the guy in goal that can find his game and the team that is going to be able to limit the opportunities because you know both teams are going to give them up. It’s just how many you’re going to give up.
Come playoff hockey, as everybody in Vegas saw last year, and we were there front and center, is that the momentum swings in playoff hockey are absolutely incredible, and Mike Milbury can speak to this better than anybody because he played at the highest level and he coached at the highest level at the most crucial points. When you have the momentum is what do you do with it? Are you able to put the puck in the back of the net? Are you able to get your crowd into it? Are you able to take the crowd out of it?
Most people would say that, when you don’t have the momentum, everybody just says, well, we’ve got to get it back on our side. Well, the first thing you have to do is you’ve got to stop the surge coming at you, and then you’ve got to be able to turn the tide and get it on your side. Then what do you do with the momentum? And Doc and I and Pierre have talked about this for a long, long time. When you have it, what do you do with it? You can’t miss opportunities. You’ve got to be able to put the puck in the back of the net. You’ve got to get a save.
And we’ll see these momentum swings in these playoff series, and I think in that series, because of the talent level, the guys on the back end on both teams that can turn two-on-twos into three-on-twos or a one-on-one into a two-on-one is that, if you can take advantage of that, you’re going to give yourself a hell of a chance to have success.
I can — it’s going to go back and forth because both these teams can come at you in waves, and I think it’s going to be — I mean, it’s going to be an awesome series. Like for me, I could see this series being front and center six or eight weeks from now and go, look, you want to sell playoff hockey, all you got to do is just play the tape of this series because I think it’s going to have everything that is great about our game and come playoff hockey.
This question to Pierre first since you’re right there in the crowd at every big game, and for everyone really to follow, what do you make of these Islanders? And what do you expect in the cauldron of the Nassau Coliseum for these games coming up this week and heading to the playoffs?
PIERRE McGUIRE: I think it’s going to be phenomenal. I’ll be working a game down in Tampa when that game starts on NBCSN on Wednesday night when they play Pittsburgh, but I can’t wait to see the tape and see how everything shakes out. It’s going to be wild.
The last playoff series they played there, I had the privilege of doing that. It was the Islanders versus the Washington Capitals, and the already gave the Capitals everything they could handle. It was as physical a series as you’ll ever see. Eventually, they just ran out of gas, but the home crowd helped propel them beyond belief. I’m expected to see an amazing series there. I really am.
MIKE EMRICK: This is Doc. I remember Tavares getting the overtime goal in (in Game 3 in 2015), and the place just — it’s a little roof. It’s just perfect for noise because it always struck me as a low roof, and I thought that even advantaged the 1980s Islanders too because you have a boisterous crowd that was ready to raise the roof, and they were able to do it that one overtime victory they had in the Islanders series.
The Game 7 back in Washington, they were either out of gas, or they just couldn’t manufacture the offense that they could that day, but it was a wonderful series to see, and it was a heartening series as well. Altogether different Islander team now in the way they approach the game. They’ve had wonderful success with it. So it will be intriguing to see the contrasting styles and how it all plays out.
Eddie touched on this earlier about the goaltending. My question for Mike, is it realistic or wishful thinking to expect Martin Jones to elevate his level of play in the playoffs considering the struggles he’s had this year? What are the realistic expectations for a Sharks team that ranked so low in goals against and save percentage this year?
MIKE MILBURY: Well, the encouraging thing is that Martin Jones has been to the Big Dance and performed pretty darn well. I mean, there is a history there. The more recent history is a little disturbing, and it gives you pause to consider their feature or their fortunes going forward. He’s going to have to play well. He’s going to have to play really well in order to get this team, which has been uneven at best down the stretch, to where they want to be.
You can’t win it without outstanding goaltending, and mediocre goaltending is the kiss of death. Now, I don’t pretend to have any idea what goes on in his head right now, but they’re going to have to batten down the hatches in front of Martin Jones. It’s not just Martin Jones either. They’re going to have to play a tidier brand of defense if they want to get it going. We’ve always seen that in the playoffs. Teams that have had to fight through — that may be talented. They may have all the offensive skill in the world, but unless they buckle down and play tight, tight defense, yielding as few chances as possible, you’re not going to win it.
When teams like San Jose, with all their offense — Eddie pointed out how much they do have offense — forget about their own end. They’ll leave the goaltender out to dry. They can’t get away with that. They’re not going to get away with that against Las Vegas or any other. I think Pete DeBoer is a heck of a coach, and he’ll have them prepared to play slightly different style headed into the postseason. If they don’t, I don’t think they’ll get to where they need to be.
It’s a very critical juncture for them. They’ve had an influx of some pretty darn good players, but Pavelski is getting a little long in the tooth, as is Joe Thornton. Health obviously a little concern right now with some guys on the back end. All in all, San Jose has put themselves in a sort of place of uncertainty, whereas sometime around the middle of the season, we all had them as Western Conference finalists. I don’t think you can say that right now.
What are the realistic expectations for Erik Karlsson considering the nature of his injury and he was just able to get into one game before the playoffs began? What are the real expectations for him?
PIERRE McGUIRE: I think we all saw him a couple years ago take Ottawa to the Eastern Conference final, and he was nowhere near 100 percent when he helped Ottawa get to the Eastern Conference final. He’s proven over time, even go back to the Sochi Olympics when he was basically playing on one leg and he helped get the Swedes into the gold medal game, where they eventually lost to Canada. So he’s proven over time in major competitions that he can step up. He definitely knows the difference between pain and injury.
He’s a human highlight reel is what he is. If he can play 85 to 90 percent, he’s going to help that teem a ton. Eddie and Mike are right about the offensive value of that team. My concern is not about Erik Karlsson, it’s about some of the injuries they’ve had lingering up front in Joe Pavelski and Timo Meier down the stretch. If those guys aren’t capable of playing, that’s a problem.
The one thing they have, though, in San Jose when everybody’s healthy is just the size and the speed on the wings, and it makes a big difference for them because it makes it tough for the opposition to defend against them. But I would say that their question marks about San Jose more than anything else because of the goaltending and because of injuries.
My question about John Tortorella. He is going to put a 19-year-old kid in Alexandre Texier in the lineup, but we have seen Tortorella do this in the past, not being afraid to be unconventional, putting ChrisKreider in the lineup in 2012, scratching Brad Richards as one of his best players in 2013. What do you think of Tortorella’s style and sometimes taking chances with a lineup that maybe other coaches may not do? And what does it say about the way he coaches?
EDDIE OLCZYK: I think the pedigree speaks for itself. He’s going to do what he feels is best for that first game come playoff time, and if it’s a 19-year-old kid or a 39-year-old and he thinks they’re going to be able to be the difference, then you know what, I’m all for that. Again, it’s easier — I shouldn’t say easier. When you’re able to make those decisions because of the resume that you have, there’s no second guessing, there’s no looking back on the individual’s part. And I think Torts has earned that opportunity.
Look, that’s a real interesting situation there with everything that has gone on there with the two unrestricted free agents pending, and Bobrovsky and Panarin and then the moves that Jarmo made with Ottawa, a couple different moves with Ottawa.
To me, if he thinks that’s what needs to be done, regardless of the age of the player or the experience or lack thereof, that’s why he’s gotten the opportunity to stand behind that bench as long as he have.
Either Mike or Pierre can jump in on that, same question about the way that Torts has kind of handled some big moves in the past.
PIERRE McGUIRE: I think this is the best that John’s coached. And I’ll take you back to a game that was played in Edmonton. He lost 4-0, and they basically got the team together, and they had basically a meeting, and the coaches were involved in the meeting. But it wasn’t anything nasty or screaming or yelling, how are they going to fix this going forward? The next night they played Winnipeg, and they lost to Winnipeg, and they started sorting things out again.
But you look at it, the body of work later on on a road trip, again, it’s Edmonton, they lose a Game 4-1, and then they go into Vancouver and win 5-0. He’s found a way to communicate with this team. I’ve done a fair number of Columbus games this year, and the one thing that’s really apparent, he’s having fun, he’s communicating openly and with less vigor. He’s not challenging as much verbally in terms of being negative. He’s more positive with his players, and I think he’s created a tremendous workplace for his players. I really do.
I’ve said this to John right to his face, I think it’s the most fun I’ve seen him have in a long time, and I think that’s really positive.
MIKE MILBURY: When you start throwing in the younger players, it is a bit of a crap shoot, but it’s not unusual. I can remember back several times guys like Craig Janney in Boston or Bobby Joyce. I mean, a lot of guys that have come in and have added a certain spark. It doesn’t always work, but if you have a hole that needs to be filled, sometimes the enthusiasm of a new body that young, fresh legs can make a big difference. It’s no sure thing, but if you think you have some need and this kid might fill it, it’s worth a shot, at least a try.
I think anybody knows good players don’t always make good coaches, but what’s impressed you the most about what Rod Brind’Amour has been able to do with this team, first year as a head coach?
MIKE MILBURY: This is not a team with anybody’s expectations being high. This is not supposed to happen, and you’ve got a guy who’s just doing this for the first time. There were all sorts of question marks, but it’s pretty obvious that what he has done is taken his experience as a player and how to make for a good atmosphere and transferred to to his team. I mean, there isn’t another team in the league that had as much fun as Carolina did this year, is there? I mean, they really bonded together, hung together, won some tough games down the stretch, and I think you have to credit him with setting that culture or that stage for them to be successful in.
EDDIE OLCZYK: This is Eddie. I just want to follow up if I can. I think, with Roddy being there, having been there, knowing a lot of these players, working for a guy like Billy Peters, who did a hell of a job, working for the prior general manager in Ronnie Francis, I think getting that opportunity. And look, at the end of the day, they opened up the purse strings, and they spent some money here the last little while.
Look at their defense. If you look at their defense, it’s as mobile as any team in the National Hockey League, and when you look at shot attempts and all the analytical numbers, a lot of it starts with the back end. It’s the way that Roddy wants to play. He wants to play straight ahead, a lot of north, get the puck, don’t dust it up, get it off your stick, get it up, get into foot races, and direct pucks at the net. When you look at the big picture of it, there’s familiarity. He puts his own fingerprints on it.
The organization spent some money. They brought in a big salary in a guy like Dougie Hamilton. So there are a lot of things that — I don’t want to say it’s been — no puns intended here, but the so-called perfect storm because I think a lot of us thought that this team was on the verge, and, yes, the goaltending was an issue the last little while. Not talking about this year, but last year. So if you don’t get consistent goaltending and you don’t have the depth, it’s going to make for some lean times. Look, they made changes, and Roddy has done an incredible job.
Like I say, they play super fast, and I think a lot of it starts off with the back end because I would put these — when healthy, when you go one to six, in my opinion, you could look at this team and go they’re top five in the NHL without any hesitation, in my opinion, when you look at one through six of what they all bring in the strengths. Everybody has blemishes, but I think it all starts with the back end.
One follow-up too, with the post-game celebrations, do you think it overshadows some of the things going on here at Carolina this year, or do you think it brought a lot of attention to the franchise?
EDDIE OLCZYK: It’s Eddie again. I think it brought a lot of attention to the team. It brought a lot of attention to the game. Look, yeah, did that get precedent over Sebastian Aho or Teuvo Teravainen? I think somebody mentioned the goaltending. I talked about the defense. So maybe a bit. Maybe a bit. If you’re not winning hockey games, you’re not celebrating like they are.
I would say a bit, but I think anybody involved in our game looks at that team or have looked at that team and go, you know what, it doesn’t matter what they do after the game or in between periods or whatever. Like it’s a pretty damn good hockey team. People know of how they play on the ice more so than what goes on in post-game celebrations.
MIKE MILBURY: You know what, though, Edzo, I thought that’s what they needed. Let’s face it, Carolina hasn’t always been the greatest place to play. Sometimes the stands are half empty. Some of those guys have been there for a while where it’s been a little bit boring and more of a job than a passion. The silliness of the whole thing, I thought was great for them. I thought it bonded them. I thought it was certainly attention getting, brought a large smile to my face wondering what they were going to do next when they won. I thought it was so much fun. That’s what it’s supposed to be, fun. But I also know that there’s a time and a place for that, and I understand they’re probably going to — they’re not going to do this during the postseason, and I think that’s probably a good idea.
EDDIE OLCZYK: Yeah, they’re not going to do it at home, Mikey, but they’ll do it on the first playoff game on the road. Hey, Chip, you really want to get some attention, do it on the road in a playoff win and see how that goes over. That would be old time hockey Mike Milbury style right there.
Doc, from your standpoint, there might not be a more difficult sport in the business than calling play by play on hockey. How do you pace yourself while also getting Eddie and Pierre and Mike and the rest of the group involved? It seems like you guys do it seamlessly.
MIKE EMRICK: You’re very kind to say that. I would argue that hockey is probably the easiest sport to call, on television in particular, because people can see it. You’re identifying players, and it’s continuous action. You do not have to wait that interminable time between pitches, which are now regulated by a clock. You don’t have to wait for players to unpile. You don’t have a lot of timeouts in the last couple of minutes. You only have the one that each team is allowed if they have not lost it through challenge or spent it earlier. So I think it really is the easiest of the four major sports to call.
But also the fact that your two partners have a lot to share as well, and there are times they can do that while play is going on, especially if there’s no attack going on toward the net. Having worked with Pierre now 14 seasons and Eddie 13 seasons, plus the time we spent together on radio, it is a very kind observation that you’ve made, but just to be contrary, I guess, I really think that it’s one of the easier sports to call, especially when you are working with people who know when to anticipate that time to bail out and to let you call play when it’s around the net or when there’s an attack going on.
So I do thank you for that, but it is — they give you a good seat for the game. You get in free. And you get to watch the best athletes in the world at the best time. Call me Pollyanna if you want, but it’s just wonderful. I encourage young people who want to get into this line of work to do it, and I encourage them to get into hockey because it is one of those sports where the people that you’re around are just the best.
Mike, following the Dallas Stars and specifically Tyler Seguin, a guy that’s been in the league for a long time, is the league — the outsider perception of him is this guy is an elite upper tier talent, or does he need to have a run to solidify himself with the very, very best forwards in the game?
MIKE MILBURY: I think that applies to every great player. I mean, sort of hovering over the head of Alex Ovechkin, can he get it done in the postseason? He’s a new player now. He’s just become enlightened as to how to get it done in critical moments. Nobody can convince me that he didn’t change his game and sacrifice more and do more things.
Tyler Seguin is a tremendous talent, magnificent talent. He’s won a Stanley Cup, but sort of as a backseat membership, I guess. He needs to do this for himself and establish himself as a great player in playoffs because that’s really when you strut your stuff and get credit for it. I think it’s been a terrific story in Dallas. I mean, after all that nightmarish nonsense that went on at the beginning of the year, they’ve managed to find a way to pull it together and present themselves as a really tough opponent going forward. It’s been a great turnaround by another first year coach who’s done an outstanding job.
Just answer the question, flat out yes, he does. He needs to have a dominant postseason. Jamie Benn has to be right alongside with him. They can’t do it alone, but this is no time for them to slack off. This is a time for them to step up.
What is the outside perception of Tyler Seguin?
MIKE MILBURY: Well, I tried to answer that. He’s a tremendous offensive player, and he’s been pretty consistent with his numbers. The numbers need to be excellent in the postseason. Can he do it? Absolutely. He’s got the potential to do it. Will he do it? That’s the big question with the postseason about every good player. You have to find a way to work your way through the maze of difficulty and still be productive and not get upset when you have some down moments, some off nights because the defense is so tough. Pick yourself up, get back at it. He’s going to have to show people that he can do that in the postseason.