Rangers hot, Leafs not in early season 

October, 13, 2009

At the outset of this venture into the blogosphere, I promised to include your voice in the daily doings. In the future, I'm going to try to get into the mailbag at least once a week. To be honest, I'm still trying to figure out a schedule that works logistically. For now, here are my thoughts on some of your questions.

Hey E.J., I completely agree on the Stars' potential this season. Last season was a blip. For me it's between them and Anaheim for second in the Pacific, and whoever gets that will get sixth in the West and a matchup with Vancouver or Calgary. Then whoever gets [third] in the Pacific will get seventh in the West and Detroit or the Hawks. Against the Canucks or Flames I could see the Stars winning at least a round. Not so sure against the Wings or Hawks, but either way they will have a bounce-back year. -- Ben, Southampton, UK

Ben, I think you might be getting ahead of yourself just a little with potential playoff matchups. I think the key for all the teams making a realistic push for a playoff spot is to stay in the moment. In an 82-game schedule, it's tough to stay at the same level of competitiveness every night. Injuries and schedule issues shift the balance of things on a day-to-day basis. The races for the final playoffs spots in each conference figure to be tighter than Paul Coffey's skates. If the Stars can play at a consistently high level throughout the early part of their schedule, they should be able to accumulate points and build confidence. They'd also better get their act together in the shootout. They've squandered three potential points thus far. In the end, those points could be the difference.

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E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.