NHL Matchup Shocker! Wow! Detroit against Chicago in the playoffs! Pistons versus Bulls, you say? No, it's Red Wings versus Blackhawks! When was the last time that an NHL matchup actually meant something? Probably when Gordie Howe and Stan Mikita were on the ice. Host Scott Simon checks in with Howard Bryant for this week in sports.
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NHL Matchup Shocker!

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NHL Matchup Shocker!

NHL Matchup Shocker!

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Time for sports.

(Soundbite of music)

SIMON: Wow! Detroit against Chicago in the playoffs again! But it's not the Pistons versus the Bulls. No, those days gone. Over. It's Red Wings versus Blackhawks. Now, when was the last time that an NHL match-up actually meant something? Probably when Gordie Howe and Stash Mikita were on the ice. If the NBA suits you more, though, than the NHL, you can call tomorrow, Game Seven Sunday. Howard Bryant is here.

Thanks for joining us, Howard.

Mr. HOWARD BRYANT (Senior Writer, ESPN.com): Good morning, Scott. Boy, you must be in all of your glory right now. You got to whip out the old Stan Mikita jersey.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: I have to dust it off. Actually, I was a Bobby Hall guy. Bobby Hall guy. The Golden Jet. Listen, you're a go-to guy. Who are the go-to guys going to be in tomorrow night's Orland/Boston game? We're talking hoops now.

Mr. BRYANT: Well, Scott, I've already said my goodbyes to the Boston Celtics even though I…

SIMON: I was going to remind you a couple weeks ago. Yeah.

Mr. BRYANT: I expect them to win tomorrow, but they are the defending champions. They're playing without Kevin Garnett. They've been gallant. They look like they're out of gas. However, they do have the heart of a champion. You're going to look for Paul Pierce. Look for Ray Allen. Look for Eddie House, who's had a great series. On the Orlando side, of course, look at the man in the middle, Dwight Howard, and Rashard Lewis. They're big and they're strong and they're - I don't like the Orlando Magic necessarily as a championship level team, but they - they're such a weird offensive club. I've always said that outside-in clubs don't win in the play-offs. You can't win by launching three pointers. But they've done it so far.

I think both of those teams will get steamrolled by the onrushing LaBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

SIMON: Lakers/Rockets is the other Game Seven tomorrow. Everybody is so focused on - with delight on the possibility of a Lakers/Cleveland final. Houston have a chance to upset that?

Mr. BRYANT: Houston has a big chance to upset and that's one of the things I like about this narrative, is that we talk about this inevitability of the Los Angeles Lakers. And Houston has shown that they are a very tough team even without Yao Ming. You've got Ron Artest and Shane Battier. They play defense, they play ugly, but they are on you. And if that game stays under a hundred points I think Houston will win it.

It's just a question of whose style is going to be imposed on the other. If the Lakers get out and run and do what they do at home, I mean they beat them by 40 points in the last game in Los Angeles. But then Houston came back and won at their place. So if it's a close tight game underneath a hundred points, I think Houston will pull the upset.

SIMON: Hmm. Okay. To pucks. Do the Blackhawks have a chance of beating the Detroit Red Army Wings?

Mr. BRYANT: Yes, they do, and I like them. I like Martin Havlat, the forward right winger for the Blackhawks. They're a young team. They've improved 17 points the last two years. And they, of course, to answer your question, have not met in a meaningful series in any kind of a regular basis since the early 1960s. And the Blackhawks' last Stanley Cup Championship was in 1961 in six games over the Red Wings. And so…

SIMON: Not even I remember that, yeah.

Mr. BRYANT: I was going to say, you were there for that one, weren't you?

SIMON: I was not, alas. Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BRYANT: And the Red Wings are the defending champions and they're obviously as good as they've always been. And they're going to be the favorites in this series. But I like the upstarts. I know Chris Osgood is a great goaltender. But - and the Red Wings are the Red Wings, but I'd like to see a little original six match-up. I want to go with the Blackhawks, sentimentally.

SIMON: And finally, you got a horse in the Preakness?

Mr. BRYANT: My horse, despite the Kentucky Derby party we had two weeks ago to raise money for the Lee-ella(ph) Farm here, I went with Pioneer of the Nile. I lost to (unintelligible) I will probably lose again to Rachel Alexander. But I'm going with Pioneer of the Nile, five to one.

SIMON: Ooh, all right. Howard Bryant. Thanks so much.

Mr. BRYANT: My pleasure.

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