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 4 p.m. ET!
Katie Strang (4:00 PM)
Hey hockey fans! Exciting week with the trade deadline to digest and all. Now the playoffs are just around the corner!With that being said, fire away with any and all questions!
You've been dismissive of Montreal's postseason chances - still a doubter? Certainly the Habs are a much better bet than the Rangers
Katie Strang (4:02 PM)
Hmmm, not sure I'd say dismissive since I definitely think they are one of the best teams in the East. But I don't think they are on par with Pittsburgh, no. Good transition game, great contributions from youngsters like Gallagher and Galchenyuk, but think the Rangers COULD beat them in a best-of-seven. Still think the Habs are the better team but have a feeling Blueshirts could get hot late. Also unfortunate for Canadiens they lose Emelin for the season
What was up with the Wilds schedule last week? They played 5 games in 7 days with 2 back to backs and each game was in a different place so they had to travel every night. Thats insane, they had to be so tired mentaly and physicaly. You could tell because they looked like a different team out there and lost 3 straight. I looked at a bunch of teams schedules and none of them had a stretch like that, so why did the Wild?
Katie Strang (4:05 PM)
Lot of wacky scheduling scenarios given the compressed schedule, but the Wild get a much-deserved break with three home games this week. Might be tough to challenge Canucks for division title but Wild still one of my sleeper teams in the playoffs. Curious to see how long Heatley will miss with the shoulder surgery. Know it is just a scope but projecting his return by playoffs still seems pretty optimistic to me
Mike H (DC)
I'm sure a lot will be made of the Southeast Division winner having possibly the lowest point total in top eight, but receiving the 3 seed and home ice, but that being said, if it is indeed the Caps taking the division, they could be a team that actually looks like a 3 seed come playoff time. What are your thoughts?
Katie Strang (4:07 PM)
A lot of people might have laughed at this question but it is indeed a legitimate one. What a resurgence by both the Caps -- four straight wins, eight in their last ten -- and star forward Alex Ovechkin, who has tallied 16 goals in last 14 games to tie Stamkos for league lead with 25 on the season. Would be a great story to see them make the playoffs and advance and I certainly wouldn't mind seeing another Caps-Rangers series. That triple-ot Game 3 stunner still one of my favorites from last spring
JP (Babylon, NY)
The way the Isles are playing right now, it seems that not only are the playoffs a realistic possibility, but a higher seed is also possible, rather than just accepting the 8th seed. Do you feel they can get the 5 or 6 seed the way they are rolling right now?
Katie Strang (4:10 PM)
They could, though I think a five seed is a bit of a reach. Team seems to really be rolling now, though, and I'm happy for their fans because God knows they deserve it for all they have suffered through in recent years. Just remember that this is a young club, though. So, just as they can continue to climb, they could also trip up and stumble in the opposite direction. Ultimately, I think they make it as an eighth seed
Do u think staal will be back for regular season, or only playoffs if they make it
Katie Strang (4:11 PM)
Was told last Wednesday that he is progressing, but "slowly." Has not, to my knowledge, began skating on his own yet so I'm skeptical he returns before the end of the regular season. Playoffs still seem to be a possibility
Do you think the top 8 in the west right now are the 8 we are going to see in the playoffs?
Katie Strang (4:13 PM)
Think the Yotes could make a push this week with a trio of big games -- Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary -- to knock Detroit out of the top 8, but not sure I see much difference beyond that
Brandon (Long Island)
Concerning the New York teams, who gets in and who has a long summer?
Katie Strang (4:13 PM)
Rangers and Isles will make it, I predict, while the Devils will miss
Matthew (Pennsburg, PA)
Katie: Does Chris Mason's 1 year contract extension with the Flyers mean Bryzgalov may be gone this summer?
Katie Strang (4:15 PM)
I think the fact that they were active in seeking and bringing in a goalie is a good indication that they do not have full confidence in Bryzgalov or seeing out the entirety of his nine-year deal
Looking like injury bug or hockey gods have it out for the pens with sid,martin,neal,letang all hurt. Are they expected to be back to full health anytime soon???
Katie Strang (4:16 PM)
Concussion for Neal, so you never know. I'm guessing Crosby is back at some point for the playoffs. Even when PITT not at full strength, they are still very dangerous. Significant stretch during that recent win streak was without Malkin, remember. And Pens GM Ray Shero was aggressive in adding depth at the deadline. Still think this is the team to beat in the East
Not sure how game 3 NY/WAS was a stunner. Rangers were the 1 seed and won :)
Katie Strang (4:19 PM)
Any game that lasts that long is going to be remembered as pretty noteworthy. I also had a particularly amazing DC dim sum feast at 4 am that followed, though, so perhaps my memories are somewhat skewed
How much do owners trade amongst friends, especially with one team out of the playoffs and another in, with a repayment plan (scratch my back I scratch yours) when roles are reversed?
Katie Strang (4:22 PM)
First, owners don't make trades, general managers do. And while there is a very fraternal feeling amongst a lot of management types throughout the league, I'm not sure they are that charitable. Their livelihoods depend on winning NOW and their jobs require them to do what is best for their respective club. I will say, however, that some GMs do have a long history of dealing with others, so there is surely a comfort factor there...
Nick L (Farmingdale)
Katie, with the Isles bringing back Viz, do you think they get Nabby brought back too? It's funny, given that both guys didn't want to be here, now love it here. Also, with no contract, is Streit gone after the season?
Katie Strang (4:24 PM)
I think it will likely depend on how Nabokov does down the stretch because that will ultimately dictate how much he can command on the open market. I imagine Snow will have another chance to lock up Streit but my money is on him testing free agency as well
Adam (Long Island)
Katie,Thanks for the chat. I know the situations are quite different, but it concerns me that the Rangers never mention Mike Sauer anymore and his isolation from the team seems almost Boogaard-like (RIP). I know management feels differently, but I believe the fans deserve to have, at least some, status updates on their favorite players. So, any new news on Sauer? Or is it safe to just continue assuming the worst regarding his future playing career?Thanks again.
Katie Strang (4:26 PM)
Adam- Understand both your concern and frustration. Both legitimate. Have heard nothing encouraging on Sauer front, which leads me to believe that his playing career is very much in question. Obviously, if that is true, would be pretty heart-breaking for such a talented player with so many years in front of him. Will try to find out more this week....
Why wouldnt the Rangers wait one more year to move gaborik? Could've gotten a lot more in return had they waited a year.
Katie Strang (4:27 PM)
Need the cap space to sign restricted free agents -- Hagelin, Stepan, McDonagh -- this summer. Also, that flexibility would be useful if they decide to re-sign Clowe
Who wins the Northwest, Canucks or Wilds?
Katie Strang (4:28 PM)
Canucks. But I think Wild will go to the Conference Finals
What do you make of the Rangers recent string of games? Simple as new players providing a spark or is it more the 'black and blue" identity that they followed last year returning?
Katie Strang (4:30 PM)
Think it's a little of both. Via trade deadline, the Rangers addressed some immediate concerns (depth at center and on defense) while adding players that seemed to fit that blue-collar, lunchpail mentality. They seem to be making a nice fit, but it is a small sample size.
There's no playoffs better than the Stanley Cup Playoffs, right? Have to think it induces more heart attacks than any other sport, especially in the aptly titled 'Sudden Death' Overtime... What Finals would you want to see most as far as excitement goes?
Katie Strang (4:32 PM)
Agreed. Also, no better trophy ceremony than the Cup passing from player to player after the win. Magnificent
Given the shortened career of Mike Richter, why haven't the Rangers discouraged Hank from frequently heading pucks way off net?
Katie Strang (4:33 PM)
I can tell you that it drives goalie coach, Benoit Allaire, CRAZY. They definitely do not encourage it, and for good reason
Aaron (Long Island)
I might be in the minority here but I think it's time for Streit to move on after this season. His game has slipped, plenty of kids ready to take his spot. Also time for Johnny to wear the C.
Katie Strang (4:33 PM)
I agree with you.
Riley (St. Louis)
How far do you think the blues can go in the playoffs if Elliott continues playing like he did sunday? And how long is Halak out?
Katie Strang (4:36 PM)
Sounds like another two to three weeks on Halak. And to answer your question on Elliott, sky may be the limit. He's ben terrific in terms of rounding back into form and there may time yet for the Blues to make good on all of our pre-season predictions (I picked them to win the West :))
Sal (The Hill (Missouri))
The Blues have been a team of ups and downs like many teams have been. But for a team who a lot people were high on before the season with rising D-Men in Shattenkirk and Peitrangelo and maturing top 6 forwards in Oshie. Bergie, Perron and the new comer Tarenseko. To the point here, do you think if the Blues can get strong goal tending and most importantly consistent goal tending, that they can finally take the next step and make it to the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1970?
Katie Strang (4:37 PM)
Yes, I do, Sal. And Elliott has been fantastic lately. Liked STL's moves at the deadline as well, bolstering the blue line. Could be a team people underestimate come playoff time
Terrenc e (NYC)
What do you credit the Nielsen-Okposo-Bailey line's late season surge here? They've gone from a line with 2 "busts" and an overachiever to be an explosive 2-way line that's dominating. Is this real or a mirage?
Katie Strang (4:39 PM)
I find Frans Nielsen to be one of the best defensive centers (and underrated players overall ) in the league, so I'm willing to give a lot of credit there. Have always believed that Okposo and Bailey had the tools to become effective players. Might just be a matter of maturation. I don't think the Islanders are particularly good when it comes to facilitating players' development, and both these guys are likely victims of that.
Which team ends up as the 8-seed in the East. Alot of possibilities this year.
Katie Strang (4:40 PM)
Isles. First playoff appearance since 2007. Calling it now
Katie what are some of your favorite stops during the season, for leisure & game experience?
Katie Strang (4:41 PM)
Montreal is best for game experience. Pittsburgh and Boston my two favorite road cities for leisure. And Carolina for their press meal and bbq
Katie, A lot of the focus is on Chicago, Anaheim, Minny or L.A., to come out the West. Given that the Sharks have come out of their season-long funk, can you see San Jose advancing out of the West to their first Stanley Cup final?
Katie Strang (4:42 PM)
I don't. Although Niemi has been incredible, I find that the team is otherwise far too inconsistent. Whole season has been one big roller coaster.
Does Chicago have a better chance winning the Cup with Crawford in net or Emery? Can they realistically win the Cup platooning them throughout the playoffs?
Katie Strang (4:43 PM)
I actually found it really interesting that Quenneville acknowledged the possibility of using both Crawford and Emery. They both have been pretty strong....why not?
Why do you call the Wild sleepers for the playoffs? Is it because they have had so much change and a few rookies and just needed get chemistry and mature this season? So are they one of the favorites next season?
Katie Strang (4:44 PM)
Yup. Obviously they have tons of talent and potential. But it seemed like a tall task that they'd be able to gel and find that cohesion in a truncated season. Think they will definitely be one of the top teams headed into next season.
Is GMGM really not going to give Ribiero the 4 or 5 years he wants? Is it really that big of a risk for the Caps to have a great second line pivot for that long?
Katie Strang (4:46 PM)
He's 33 though, so I don't necessarily blame McPhee for any reluctance to give him that term. Granted, WSH may have trouble addressing that need if they DON'T lock him up
Just curious what you think of the officiating this season? I've seen several games where even announcers are stunned at "ghost" calls and non-calls that are obvious penalties that completely change the course of the game. I thought the 3rd period of the Wings-Blues was an abomination after 2 well-called periods. Zetterberg "roughing" when the Blue held onto his stick like it was a life preserver for a drowning victim and then shoves/facewashes Z when he's talking with the ref with NO additional penalty? c'mon.
Katie Strang (4:47 PM)
Believe this was a big concern and issue addressed at GMs' meetings. No one happy with the officiating this year. Can't imagine things get any less contentious once the playoffs begin...
Beyond 23, how much can teams expand rosters now, and does that continue into the playoffs? *If* the Isles get there, can/will they bring up some of the top young guys (Nino, Ullstrom, etc)?
Katie Strang (4:48 PM)
Each team has four recalls between now and end of regular season. Then we will see the black aces. 23-man limit no longer applies past the trade deadline
Who joins the Islanders permanently first? Strome, Nino or Nelson? Any chance all three are up next year playing together?
Katie Strang (4:50 PM)
Think there is a good chance we will see all three next season. In terms of top prospects, very much looking forward to watching Lee and Nelson in particular. Strome is gonna be a dynamic player, but still has to fill out a bit physically.
Katie Strang (4:50 PM)
Ok all, that's it for today. As always, thanks for the great questions. See you again next week!