Chat with Katie Strang
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, hockey writer Katie Strang stops by to chat about the latest news from around ice.
In addition to covering the NHL as a whole, Strang, who previously covered the Islanders for Newsday, also covers the Rangers, Isles and Devils for ESPNNewYork.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.
Send your questions now and join Strang Monday at 3 p.m. ET!
Katie Strang (3:00 PM)
Hey hockey fans. Last live chat of the regular-season. Time to gear up for some playoff puck talk!Fire away!
How upside-down would it be if the Devils and Rangers missed the playoffs and islanders got in? Would the NY metro area implode?
Katie Strang (3:02 PM)
Would be a strange new world, indeed. But my sense is that both Isles and Rangers will punch their post-season tickets. Devils are obviously out, having missed the cut just one year after making a surprising run to the Stanley Cup Finals. Would be great for all three NY-area teams to make it one year, but hey, I won't get greedy.
Jesse S. (Carmel, NY)
Katie, can you please characterize the Defcon threat level for tonight's Penguins-Senators game (remember Defcon 1 is the highest chance of nuclear war and 5 is total peace). The game is in Ottawa. The Penguins have nothing to play for in the standings. The Senators management and owner put Matt Cooke "on notice" at the time of the Karlsson injury. The fans are organizing a "Matt Cooke hatefest" and generally seem out for blood. The Penguins have called up hulking enforcer Steve McIntyre who has played a grand total of ZERO games so far this year in the NHL. And Karlsson might even actually return to the lineup. This all seems to be fueling the powder keg for a repeat of Pens-Isles 2011, which was a ridiculous debacle even though you enjoyed covering it. Has the league stepped in to formally warn both teams that such nonsense will not be tolerated? Are they at least assigning senior refs to try to keep control?
Katie Strang (3:05 PM)
Oh man, what a debacle this is shaping up to be. And honestly, if this turns into what I suspect it will, Eugene Melnyk will garner some warranted criticism for stoking the fire. The guy HONESTLY attempted to prove, FORENSICALLY (how? I have no idea) that Matt Cooke intended to injure Erik Karlsson. All eyes on these two clubs tonight; impossible to imagine we don't see at least a few skirmishes along the way
Mike (Kalamazoo, MI)
Do the Red Wings squeak into the playoffs? If so, what is the scenario in which it happens?
Katie Strang (3:06 PM)
Mike, as you know, tonight's game against Phoenix absolutely vital to both clubs as they try to catch Columbus
Do you think Stepan is a star in the making, or just getting hot at the right time?
Katie Strang (3:08 PM)
I think he's a legitimate first-line center. The fact that Tortorella is touting him, in terms of importance to the team, in the same breath as Ryan Callahan and Henrik Lundqvist tells you something. Has had some up and down points in previous two seasons, but that's to be expected given his age. At 22 years old, Stepan definitely showing signs of becoming a star in this league. Shoot, the guy did have a hat trick in his first NHL game!
Mike H (Maryland)
When I'm looking at the Hart candidates it seems to me that most of them have someone else on their line that is in the top 10 in points. Ovechkin has Backstrom, Crosby has Kunitz, Stamkos has St. Louis,....Tavares and Toews are the exceptions to the rule (I believe Toews does not play with Kane very often). Tavares is doing it without an elite scorer. Moulson has had a great year, but he is not the kind of player that attracts as much attention as the other sidekicks listed above. Is Tavares the most deserving if you think about the qualification of "player judged most valuable to his team." Where are the Islanders without Tavares? The Blackhawks are winning for many reasons, including Toews, but is he as valuable to the Blackhawks' formula as Tavares is to the NYI?(Getzlaf with Perry doesn't fit the Top 10 in points argument but I would say that Perry is an elite player that attracts a ton of attention from opposing defenses)
Katie Strang (3:11 PM)
Mike- I agree with that argument wholeheartedly, and for that reason, will likely select Tavares as my Hart candidate. Isles would be nowhere close to the playoffs without him. All the other players are surrounded by fellow elite players. Moulson is no fluke; he is a proven scoring threat, but remove Tavares from the Islanders and his absence would have a greater impact than any other candidate in the mix right now
How solid of a number one pick is Seth Jones? It seems like taking defensemen early in the draft can be risky.
Katie Strang (3:13 PM)
I think it's viewed that way because defensemen mature and develop at such a different pace and generally peak a bit later than forwards. Whereas a top forward can have an immediate impact, it is rare for an 18-year-old to become the anchor on the back end in his first year pro. Regardless, Jones is considered a home run and if I'm Colorado I snatch him up. Avs already have some great young forwards to build around.
Brian (St. Paul, MN)
This is my first time visiting your chat. I haven't paid to much attention to the NHL season but that's because I was striking against them and the NBA. What I have seen though is the Minnesota Wild are going to be in the playoffs. How far do you think they will go?
Katie Strang (3:16 PM)
Welcome, Brian! Tough call. Earlier this month, I was still heralding the Wild as a sleeper team to do some damage in the playoffs but I have been since forced to change my tune. They've dropped five straight at home. Not sold on the Wild at all, especially with teams like Detroit and Phoenix pushing from behind, but two of their last three games come against the Oilers and Avalanche. That's a definite advantage
Timmy G. (Clovis, CA)
So how likely is it that Clowe resigns with the Rangers? As a Sharks fan, I'm happy to see how well he's doing there and he fits the Rangers jersey quite well.
Katie Strang (3:18 PM)
Think they definitely like him and will explore re-signing him but it will likely depend on his asking price. Sounds like he was seeking a multi-year deal with significant AAV when there was some preliminary discussion about this near the deadline. Likely depends on some other players the Rangers need to lock up long-term this summer
JP (Babylon, NY)
Katie, thanks for another chat! With the Isles and Rangers almost certainly both going to be playoff teams, which team do you think goes further? Thanks!
Katie Strang (3:19 PM)
Isles. They are playing with so much confidence right now. So are Rangers, but I think the Isles' match up a bit better against the top teams in the East
Will (Brooklyn, NY)
Assuming Crosby, Malkin and Neal come back...could the Rangers beat the Pens in the first round?
Katie Strang (3:21 PM)
Doubtful. With all those guys healthy, Penguins are deepest team in the league. Even without their top guns, they've rattled off six straight and locked up the top spot in the East. Hard to bet against Pittsburgh right now
Ice Ace (Alabama)
Who wins tonight? Chicago or Vancouver.
Katie Strang (3:22 PM)
With Presidents' Trophy in reach, I'll go with Chicago
prob getting ahead of myself but what matchup would the rangers be best positioned to pull of a first round upset?
Katie Strang (3:23 PM)
Winnipeg, if they can chase down the Caps and pass them to secure the Southeast Division title and No. 3 seed. Rangers would also have to move up to No. 6 seed, too. Not sure I see either scenarios happening.
Matt (Kingston ON)
If / when Staal returns, which Ranger D-man gets scratched? Same for Dorsett, which Forward loses his spot?
Katie Strang (3:24 PM)
Steve Eminger will likely sit when Staal returns. Guessing it would be Darroll Powe for Dorsett
How do you think the Pens-Sens game plays out tonight? Could Ottawa become too distracted with Matt Cooke and let a Pens lineup missing so many starters beat them when so much is on the line for the Sens postseason hopes?
Katie Strang (3:26 PM)
I think the Senators are definitely in danger of getting too wrapped up in the retribution angle, so if I'm Paul MacLean I make that a point of emphasis heading into the game. Sens are the team with way more on the line right now. They need to play focused
Jared (North Carolina)
Who do you think most deserves the Vezina Trophy?
Katie Strang (3:28 PM)
If Columbus makes it, Sergei Bobrovsky. May end up being a Hart Trophy candidate as well. Antti Niemi has also been terrific for San Jose and deserves consideration
Timmy G. (Clovis, CA)
Is FLA going to be a bad place to go for a top pick or are their youth finally going to put it together and make that team a contender?
Katie Strang (3:30 PM)
The reason you get a top pick is by being bad, so essentially this will be a situation you'd face wherever you went. Panthers have some great young talent -- Huberdeau will likely be my Calder pick -- and remember, they were absolutely ravaged by injuries this year. 8 rookies all in all made their NHL debuts with the Panthers this season; that shows you how decimated they were. Was only last season they won the Southeast. Could be a decent squad next year.
Katie, my wife is going to "surprise" me with tickets to an NHL game next season...of my choice. I've been to Joe Louis, Xcel, Tampa, Miami and Dallas previously. However I am planning on travelling northeast for this trip. Which would you recommend...NY/NY, NYR/NJ, BOS/MON, MON/TOR? Which of those games should I experience first?
Katie Strang (3:33 PM)
Oh man, definitely Montreal/Toronto, especially if it's at Bell Centre. Nothing like a game there. Every hockey fan should get to experience taking in a Saturday night game in MTL. And consider if these two teams meet in the post-season? Should be plenty of bad blood left over ...:)
Hey Katie. If the Blue Jackets grab the 8 seed, how worried should the Hawks be about that first round matchup. Although the hawks won all 4 games during the season, all were tightly contested.
Katie Strang (3:34 PM)
Absolutely. As the Kings proved last season, all you need is a team peaking at the right time and a hot goaltender. Blue Jackets have both, plus very little pressure/expectations. Contrast that with Chicago, who has dominated all season. Wonder if the lack of adversity during the regular-season makes them more vulnerable in the playoffs
Mike (Boston, MA)
What potential first round playoff matchups are you most looking forward to? As a Boston guy, B's-Rangers and Leafs-Habs would be tough to top.
Katie Strang (3:36 PM)
Would love to see Leafs-Habs. All major Canadian broadcasters would basically explode at the prospect of that series. Would ebe great theater
Frank P. (Frozen Tundra)
I am a Caps fan, but I am also a realist. I know we have the talent in all facets of the game to make some noise (PK is much improved). That said what do you see as a reason to be confident to make a deep run this year? Also, while the Pens seem to have our number, I honestly believe if we match up in the Eastern Finals having won two series we have a legit shot of winning, what say you?
Katie Strang (3:37 PM)
Braden Holtby playing really well right now. Guys like Troy Brouwer stepping up. Nick Backstrom the straw that stirs the drink. Ovechkin has been incredible the past month, but the Caps have a strong supporting cast as well
Reilly (New York)
If this season were 82 games, which teams do you think currently in a playoff spot would miss the playoffs? Same for teams not in a playoff spot?
Katie Strang (3:39 PM)
I think the Wild would miss given the way they are trending (they still might), though I expect them to be a top team in the near future (next few years). I think the Devils would make it. Their ten-game winless streak was pretty extraordinary in terms of bad luck. That stuff evens out during the course of a regular season
Reilly (New York)
Who is your choice for the Jack Adams award? The first half of the season, it was a runaway for Paul MacLean, but with the Sens starting to fall in the standings, have to give consideration to Carlyle for bringing the Leafs back from the dead into the playoffs this year as well as Bruce Boudreau with what he has done with the Ducks
Katie Strang (3:40 PM)
MacLean, no matter what. No one has done more with what he has. Pretty remarkable that they are in the position they are in considering all that has transpired this season
I am one of the last people to defend anything that happens with the Senators, but you are beyond ridiculous... If the Penguins have any intelligence, they will leave that idiot at home and not let him play in the game tonight.
Katie Strang (3:42 PM)
I have certainly never been accused of being a Matt Cooke apologist, but it was definitely Melnyk that kept stoking the flames on this long after it should have subsided. I'm ok with a Jamal Mayers/Raffi Torres situation -- take care of business as you see fit -- but I don't think it needs to turn into a spectacle, given what is at stake for the Sens
Brad (New York)
Does Derek Stepan get a 4 or 5 year deal worth 4-4.5 a year or does he get the two year bridge from Slats. With the likes of Skinner, Hall, Eberle, Ekman Larson, O'Reilly getting big dels does he get that kind of money?
Katie Strang (3:44 PM)
By shedding Gaborik's cap space, the Rangers have the flexibility to go longer on deals with RFA's they would have otherwise had to do the traditional bridge deal with: Stepan, Hagelin, McDonagh. Probably depends which of the three, or which two they have to prioritize with a long-term deal
The Cunucks have been flying under the radar a bit this season. If they have a healthy lineup, do you think a Canucks-Hawks conference final is possible?
Katie Strang (3:46 PM)
You bet. Adding Derek Roy has really paid dividends for Vancouver in terms of addressing their depth down the middle. Canucks en route to their third straight Northwest Division title.
Russ (Phoenix az)
You think Tavares has an honest shot at the Hart
Katie Strang (3:46 PM)
No, I think Crosby will still win it. But I think Tavares probably should
Winslow (Huntington, NY)
Besides the obvious stars on the isles (JT, Moulson, Grabs, Okposso, and Nabby) who do you think has contributed the most to help propel the isles to the level of play they have has the second half of the season?
Katie Strang (3:47 PM)
Frans Nielsen. I'd rank him and Loui Eriksson as the top two underrated players in the league. Incredibly sound two-way game, which has been vital as his line has taken on opponents' top line in the second half
Corey (Chicago, IL)
Who do you think has the best shot at the calder? Brandon Saad should be in the top 3 of that discussion.
Katie Strang (3:50 PM)
He should, I agree. But he's only 5th in scoring and that will hurt him. May turn out to be the most complete player out of the bunch -- plays with that physical edge, trusted with important minutes, contributes on special teams -- but I think Huberdeau will claim the hardware
Kris Letang (Pittsburgh, PA)
Katie, I didn't make the trip to Ottawa for tonight's game because I am out with "food poisoning." Are you buying that? Or is this code for "groin still injured" or "no way I am risking my achilles in this mayhem that is sure to transpire." They could have just said I had sunburn.
Katie Strang (3:51 PM)
Was just gonna say: I'm still trying to wrap my head around Malkin's sunburn status. Pens certainly out in front for most exotic injuries this season. Gonna be interesting when Kunitz gets diagnosed with whooping cough
Obviously a lot depends on the Jets, do you think the Rangers will clinch before the Devils try to ruin their season on Saturday?
Katie Strang (3:52 PM)
If they don't, boy is that going to be an interesting game. Was thinking about that when the fans at MSG were taunting the Devils with "Season's over!" chants. Devils will remember that and would love to repay the favor.
Katie Strang (3:53 PM)
Ok all that is it for today, but thanks so much for all the great questions. Very excited to talk playoffs next week. See you then!