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April 30, 3:00 PM ET
Chat with Katie Strang

Katie Strang
  (3:00 PM)

Hey all! Happy playoffs! Best time of the year, with games kicking off tonight. Settle in for some exciting action and fire away with those questions!

Marc (Brooklyn)

What upset(s) do you see happening in the first round?

Katie Strang
  (3:04 PM)

I truly think Boston looks pretty ripe for the upset. To me they were the most impressive team in the East out of the gate, but down the stretch they have really tapered -- 3-5-2 in their last ten games of the season. Also, it's really hard for me to bet against the stubborn Senators considering what they have accomplished last year. They were very impressive as an eight seed last season, and with Karlsson back in the lineup I think they can do some damage. Out West, I think LA, San Jose and Det could all pull off a first-round upset

Andrew (Mn)

Hey. I believe that the Wild were so inconsistent because of how many new players they had. Half the team was new this season. With a short season and no pre season was it realistic to think they could really be a top seed? We saw what they are capable of when they were playing great, but they were just to inconsistent down the stretch. Next season do you see them being more consistent and grabbing a top seed? They definently have the roster, especialy if they can get rid of a little more dead weight and grab a good defenseman in the off season.

Katie Strang
  (3:06 PM)

I agree with a lot of this logic, Andrew. In fact, I'd predict them to have finished about where they ended up. I think they'll be bounced easily from the playoffs this year -- drawing Chi obviously did them no favors -- but I expect them to be much better next year. Have a lot to be excited about in Parise, Suter and Brodin among others

Larry (Illinois)

Between the Penguins and the Hawks, which one has a tougher road to the Cup. In terms of teams that can pose a challenge to them.

Katie Strang
  (3:08 PM)

Definitely the Hawks, in my opinion. Though Chicago has been downright dominant from start to finish this season, there is an abundance of dangerous teams out West. Could see LA, STL, VAN or ANA with a legitimate chance to go to the Finals. SJ could pull off an upset in the opening rounds as well. In contrast, the level of competition is much weaker. Pitt the best team by a long shot.

Alex (State College, PA)

Who do you see meeting in the Cup Finals, and who ultimately wins?

Katie Strang
  (3:09 PM)

I believe my pre-season pick was STL vs. PITT, so I'll stick with my guns. Pens winning it all with a healthy Sidney Crosby back by late first round or early second

cljamny (NY)

HI Katie, It always seemed as if the Caps were a much better team with Brooks Laich in the lineup. Who have you seen step up for them in his absence? Has Dorsett given any more updates on why his status has not changed? Thanks

Katie Strang
  (3:11 PM)

Absolutely, and he's the type of veteran guy whose importance is heightened in the playoffs. Unfortunately for Laich, he's been hampered by a nagging groin injury all season. Reportedly underwent sports hernia surgery, so could conceivably be back by Round 2.Nothing new on Dorsett. He had a CT scan recently but has yet to be cleared for contact. So, he's at least a week away, I'd say. All hinges on when he gets cleared

John (Tampa, FL)

With the new collective bargaining agreement bringing the salary cap down are the teams allow to restructure any players contracts? I know they have the option of buying out up to two players but I think allowing a restructure of a contract would be a better option going forward.

Katie Strang
  (3:13 PM)

No. And there are pretty strict stipulations in the new CBA about what a guy can do after being bought out vis a vis his original club to prevent circumvention in this way

Mike (Ithaca, NY)

Who benefits most from the semi-long layoff before Game 1...Caps or Rangers? Gotta be at least 2 OT games in that series, right?

Katie Strang
  (3:15 PM)

I'd say the Caps, because they'll have some additional time to return Joel Ward to the lineup. Rangers would be an obvious choice given their injury-ravaged lineup -- Staal, Clowe, Boyle, Dorsett -- but I don't get the sense that any are close to returning. And yes, expect at least four games decided by one goal, as per custom with these two clubs. Last year I was up for 24 hours straight the night of the triple-ot Game 3. Fun times

Mike (IL)

What would have to happen for the Islanders to win their series?

Katie Strang
  (3:17 PM)

In all honesty, they probably have to hope that Marc-Andre Fleury has a meltdown similar to last April when he imploded against the Flyers. His regular-season performance this year doesn't give much hope in that regard, though. I do think the Islanders will be more competitive than people think BUT the Penguins just have so much firepower up front. I truly do not think anyone in the East can match that

Sarah (Chicago)

Any WCF and ECF predictions??

Katie Strang
  (3:18 PM)

Here's a link to my picks as well as the rest of the NHL crew at ESPN.com. Feel free to mock at will:http://espn.go.com/nhl/playoffs/2013/story/_/id/9222132/experts-picks

Justin (Chicago)

Any inside information on Ray Emery's lower-body injury?is it a groin or hammy? Sounds like he might be missing the entire Blackhawks first round.

Katie Strang
  (3:21 PM)

Although Joel Quenneville slipped and revealed that Bolland's injury was a groin issue, seems like they are trying to best to keep Emery's injury under wraps. Sounds like a lower-body injury but don't expect that to be confirmed with the subterfuge at peak levels heading into the playoffs. Fortunately for Chicago they have Corey Crawford in goal. Crawford and Emery combined to win the Jennings Trophy this season for the league's top goaltending tandem.

Ben Bean (Peoria, IL )

I find it very interesting that everyone has Detroit taking down Anaheim in the first round. Detroit is the hotter team, but Anaheim had a more impressive season. When making predictions, what is more important to you: the hotter team, or the club with a better overall record?

Katie Strang
  (3:22 PM)

Both, really. But if I had to put more stock in one, I think the better bet is put your money on the team that is peaking at the right time. Case in point? No. 8 seed LA Kings vs. No. 6 seed NJ Devils in the Stanley Cup Finals last June. Who would've predicted that?

Steven (Reno)

Katie, I know there might be some east coast bias, but will you stay up and watch the Sharks- Canucks series, which will far and away be the best series in the western conference!

Katie Strang
  (3:24 PM)

Between San Jose-Van and LAK-STL I am more than happy to put on a pot of coffee and stay up for those games, believe me!

Ice Ace (Alabama)

What do the Devils need to address in the offseason?

Katie Strang
  (3:25 PM)

They need to figure out a plan in net, for one. Martin Broduer is not going to play forever obviously and will be heading into the last year of his contract. Time to groom his successor

Joshua Bass (Los Angeles)

Do you see the kings making an impact first round? Also can you see them going the distance again?

Katie Strang
  (3:27 PM)

They will have a mighty tough series against the St. Louis Blues, but they could definitely make another run. Even without Willie Mitchell for the season, their back end is looking good with Drew Doughty and Slava Voynov playing well. Both Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar are dangerous up front. And Jonathan Quick is rounding into form. If all those things fall into place they could make some noise, for sure.

Phil (Canada)

What did you think of Don Cherry's comments on Saturday? I am sure you have heard them.

Katie Strang
  (3:30 PM)

Indeed, I did. I think I'd be far more upset if those comments came from someone whose opinion actually carries some weight. To me, Cherry showed that his perspective no longer has much currency; he's rendered himself pretty irrelevant. It's really absurd to have to dignify those comments with a response, really. Reporters, both men and women, are expected to treat locker-room situations with respect and professionalism. They do. To me, the most disheartening part of that whole debacle is that it reflected poorly on hockey. That's a shame there is no sport that has been more progressive and inclusionary toward women than hockey.

Larry (Monroe, NJ)

do you think theres any chance we get Marc Staal back in the playoffs? doesn't sound like his blurry vision is progressing at all..

Katie Strang
  (3:33 PM)

I do, but the longer he practices without making tangible progress, the more skeptical I become. Which is a shame, because he's a great player and an even better person, so I'm definitely rooting for him to return from what was a harrowing injury. It is sort of like a concussion in the sense that it's hard to predict a recovery or nail down a timeline.

Alan (New York)

Will Sidney Crosby be ready for Game 1? If so, how important is it for the Islanders to physically manhandle him from the opening faceoff.

Katie Strang
  (3:34 PM)

My guess is no, though he has a doctor's appointment today. If my understanding is correct, he has not been cleared for contact. So, I think they'd like for him to battle in practice a bit before throwing him into the fire. And if you're the Pens, why not see how the series develops rather than rush him back?

Manny (Houston)

Katie, you keep changing your picks. You just said you have STL going to the finals, and yet in the "expert" predictions you have the Kings winning, care to explain?

Katie Strang
  (3:37 PM)

Haha, you guys are right good catch. Not trying to waffle, I swear. I'll stick with my "expert" pick and go with the Kings dispatching the Blues in 7

Andy (Newport Beach)

Katie, what would you rather see in the second round? Ducks vs Kings or Pit vs Boston?

Katie Strang
  (3:38 PM)

Um, if I got to cover one of those, ANA-LA, obviously! Could use the sunshine :)

Aaron (Long Island)

Katie, please tell me you will be in the building Sunday at noon?

Katie Strang
  (3:40 PM)

Aaron, I am going to try to make it, as long as I get back from DC the night prior with no setbacks. Great that the Rangers and Isles are playing on alternating nights. Should be really fun. NVMC will be rocking

Patrick (MN)

You only get to watch one of the first round match-ups, who are you tuning in to?

Katie Strang
  (3:41 PM)

As I said before either San Jose-Vancouver or St. Louis - LA. Both should be fantastic

Chirs (Vermont)

Who do you see as the top three potential buy-out candidates come seasons end?

Katie Strang
  (3:44 PM)

Rick DiPietro, Ilya Bryzgalov, Dany Heatly. Though the Wild can't buy him out until he's healthy. had season-ending shoulder surgery

ASN (NY)

I find it interesting that you think the Caps are that must better than the Rangers. They finished the season 1 point apart and the Caps are only the 3 seed because they won the weak Southeast. Yes Ovechkin is awesome, but I think the Rangers have the better goaltending.

Katie Strang
  (3:46 PM)

I don't think they are THAT much better. But I think they are playing better hockey right now. Plus, the Rangers have suffered some pretty significant injuries, one of which (Staal) will only complicate matters as they try to find a way to shut down or contain Ovechkin

Katie Strang
  (3:47 PM)

sorry about that, had to plug my laptop into charger. Will take a few more

Jon (STL)

Who is your player to watch that could get the Blues over the Kings?

Katie Strang
  (3:49 PM)

Definitely Brian Elliott. Having a hot goaltender is invaluable in the playoffs and he's been terrific during the month of April

Katie Strang
  (3:49 PM)

Definitely Brian Elliott. Having a hot goaltender is invaluable in the playoffs and he's been terrific during the month of April

Katie Strang
  (3:49 PM)

Definitely Brian Elliott. Having a hot goaltender is invaluable in the playoffs and he's been terrific during the month of April

Phil (Canada)

"I think I'd be far more upset if those comments came from someone whose opinion actually carries some weight. To me, Cherry showed that his perspective no longer has much currency; he's rendered himself pretty irrelevant."I'm definitely not supporting his view but his opinion is relevant and people listen to him, that's why it was such a big deal. Would you support men in women's locker rooms interviewing them in their sports bras and shorts? No need to reply to this.

Katie Strang
  (3:50 PM)

Phil: Yes, absolutely. If women are allowed, then men should be also. They are not any less capable of handling themselves as professionals. Believe this is how a WNBA locker room works if I remember correctly.

Mark (NYC)

True or false: Darren Dreger usually shows up to work totally hungover.

Katie Strang
  (3:51 PM)

Phil: Yes, absolutely. If women are allowed, then men should be also. They are not any less capable of handling themselves as professionals. Believe this is how a WNBA locker room works if I remember correctly.

Katie Strang
  (3:51 PM)

False. He's a pro. But how funny was that skit? Darryl Sutter's cameo was priceless. Outtakes were also gold

Andrew (Columbus, OH)

Which Canadian team has the best chance to bring the Cup back to Canada?

Katie Strang
  (3:52 PM)

Vancouver.

Ryan (Germantown, MD)

How big of a contributor will Dorssett be once he finally suits up for the Rangers?

Katie Strang
  (3:54 PM)

Definitely the type of guy you want in the playoffs -- a player that brings energy, grit and heart. Cannot tell you how much unsolicited praise he received from people I talked to in CBJ. From everything I have heard about him, he will be an absolute fan favorite.

Jason (Pittsburgh, PA)

Who will lead the Rangers in scoring this postseason?

Katie Strang
  (3:55 PM)

Derek Stepan. Has been incredibly impressive for the Rangers this season.

Katie Strang
  (3:56 PM)

Ok all that's it for today. Enjoy some playoff hockey tonight and we'll talk next week!!!