NHL alumni weigh in on former teams’ chances

New Jersey Devils coach Adam Oates, former coach of Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals, joined Brady and Walker and talked about the superstar's status among the NHL's elite.

Guy Carbonneau, Denis Savard, Dennis Maruk and Brad May—three Stanley Cup champions and a 60-goal scorer among them—may be retired, but all four NHL alumni say they still closely follow their former clubs.

At the Scotiabank Baycrest Pro-Am, a fund-raising tournament to raise money for Alzheimer’s being held in Toronto this weekend, we asked each the four men to break down the Round 2 matchups featuring their former teams and to pick a winner.

STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS: | Broadcast Schedule
Rogers NHL GameCentre LIVE | Stanley Cup Playoffs Fantasy Hockey
New Sportsnet app: iTunes | Google Play

Here is how they size up the conference semi-finals.

(C3) vs. (WC1)
In the words of Hall of Famer Denis Savard, who won a Stanley Cup with Montreal in 1993 but played the majority of his career with the Blackhawks, for whom he is an official ambassador:

“The Hawks believe it. When you have your core guys that won in 2010 and 2013—they’re there. When you’re in that locker room, it brings a presence. It can be done again. Of course, with eight teams left, there’s still a lot of work to be done.

They’re facing a team in Minnesota that’s pretty good. They don’t give you a lot of space; they don’t give up a lot of goals. Friday night is the start of good series. I believe this one’s going long.

The key is to just be the Hawks. They’re intimidating like the Oilers were in my day. How could you not be scared of the Oilers [going into a game]? You’re facing the best team in the history of the game—or one of the best. We competed and gave it a shot, but… I don’t know how many Hall of Famers they have on that team today. At least 10. We knew our chances were slim, but they were intimidating because they knew what it takes to win. And even though we thought we knew what it takes to win, you don’t until you do it, which happened for me with Montreal in 1993.

It’s the hardest trophy to win. And when you’re done, the reward is great, no question. But the reward doesn’t last long because you have to go defend it. It’s all in the head. All mental.

Patrick Kane is going to be one of the best ever. I’m not surprised he came back from injury early. He was pretty good in Round 1, and that’s tough to do. Off six weeks and coming back like he did? That’s very difficult to do. Is he back in stride? He’d tell you yes, but I know he isn’t really, because it’s hard to get back at that pace after that much time off.

That shows you the type of character he is, the type of player he is. He wants to win.

Scott Darling used to make $300 a week. He thanked Stan Bowman, our GM, a couple months ago for signing him. That’s the type of kid he is. Hawks will sign character people, remember that. I know I work for them, but that’s what they’re all about. From our president John McDonough to our GM Stan Bowman, that’s what they do. People want to come to Chicago and they want to win.

And you will win when you join Toews and Kane and Keith and Seabrook and Crawford and Sharp and Hossa.

(A1) vs. (A2)
In the words of Guy Carbonneau, Stanley Cup winner with Montreal in 1986 and 1993 and Dallas in 1999:

I always say in the playoffs it’s goaltending and defence that wins. There’s nobody left in the playoffs as good as Carey [Price], but you never know. Every time you win a series, it just gets harder. I expect this to be a really good series. Tampa is a team that can score a lot of goals. Not as good defensively as the Canadiens, though. [Ben] Bishop just won his first series in the NHL on Wednesday.

It’s hard to say who Carey reminds me of. Every goalie has their own little things. Patrick [Roy] came in not as well announced as Carey. There was no question Carey was going to be a star, and he proved at the Olympics he was part of the elite. Now he’s just carried that on to this season. From Day 1, you saw he had something.

Montreal is not a team that scores a lot of goals—they’ve been that way all year. They rely on defence and goaltending, and that’s not going to change. No one guy is going to score eight or nine in a series. Especially against a quick team like Tampa with so many skilled players who like to carry the puck and make plays, they’ll have to rely on defence. Their concentration will have to be strong, and Carey will have to be really good.

I’m kinda torn. I want the Canadiens to win but my son-in-law, Brenden Morrow, plays for Tampa. I’m going to Montreal. The only game I’ll miss live is [Game 1]. I’ll be here in Toronto, but after that I’ll be watching live. Tampa has done well against the Canadiens all year, so they’re definitely approaching this series with a lot of confidence, but playoffs is a whole different season.

(M1) vs. (M2)
In the words of Dennis Maruk , a 60-goal scorer for Washington (before Alex Ovechkin made it cool) and franchise record-holder for most assists (76) and points (136) in a single season:

I’m really excited about my Caps. I’ll probably go to the fourth game in Washington. It’s going to be a great series. Both teams are really close, but it’s time for Washington to win. If Chicago wins this year, they’re a dynasty. I was cheering for a Washington-St. Louis final.

This series will go seven games and will be one of the better series.

The Caps are getting more scoring from players other than [Nicklas] Backstrom and Ovie. And [Braden] Holtby has been really good in net. Getting [Matt] Niskanen and [Brooks] Orpik has really helped their defence, and Mike Green and John Carlson are playing well. That’s what they didn’t have before—a defence playing well. Holtby’s been hot and cold, but now he’s playing good. And look at Ovie.

You gotta have a guy leading the troops. [Barry] Trotz has been able to communicate with the new players coming in and with Backstrom and Ovie. You have to communicate well with those two—they’re the leaders of the team.

Ovie is a rock star, no doubt about it. Electrifying, strong. The reason he’s been that way—and I’m not knocking [former coaches] Adam Oates or Bruce Boudreau—it just seems that Barry Trotz has an understanding of what Ovie wants and Ovie understands what Barry wants. That’s created a better all-around hockey player.

There’s not many differences between the two teams. Mats Zuccarello getting hurt doesn’t help (the Rangers). It’ll come down to goaltending, and if the Caps get traffic in front of Henrik Lundqvist, they’ll score more. I don’t expect a lot of goals because both teams are playing well defensively.

(P1) vs. (P3)
In the words of Brad May, Stanley Cup winner with Anaheim in 2007:

I’ll be out in Anaheim to watch some of the games. The Calgary Flames, for me, have been the most exciting team to watch all season—probably because you’re waiting to see the wheels fall off. They’ve got something going on. Call it mojo. The chemistry is evident. I’m not ruling them out at all. Calgary has the determination and will to win.

But Anaheim is so gifted and skilled. The question is, can their goaltender live up to the test? And can they stay out of the penalty box? If they do that, they win the series.

Everybody that’s written Calgary off all season long has been wrong, so why would that change now? [Coach] Bob Hartley’s done a phenomenal job, getting Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Jiri Hudler playing great. We all thought when Mark Giordano, their captain, went down that the team would be affected negatively. They just picked up where they left off. A fun team to watch.

Anaheim’s ability to come back in the third period is based on skill. Guys who’ve been there before—Getzlaf and Perry, I played with them, won a Cup with them. Francois Beauchemin on the point. Then it’s a belief. They’ve come back so many times, they can keep even keel up one goal or down two goals.

The one thing Bruce Boudreau does better than most coaches—and he gets criticized for it sometimes—is he enables players to use their instincts and anticipate plays. Some see it as a lack of structure, but that’s what a player wants. You want to feel like if you make a mistake, you won’t get sat on the bench, that you can make up for it the next shift.

Getzlaf and Perry, these guys love hockey. It’s a great place to live and play. Anaheim is well managed, too. Bob Murray has made a lot of trades. Jacob Silfverberg has been really good; they’ve kept the right pieces. I think Anaheim wins the West. However, if they don’t, my pick is the Minnesota Wild.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.