Fantasy Hockey Faceoff: Playoff pool picks | Hockey | CBC Sports

NHLFantasy Hockey Faceoff: Playoff pool picks

Posted: Thursday, April 5, 2012 | 06:09 PM

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With the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers on a collision course to meet in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, which team will you go with in your playoff pool? (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) With the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers on a collision course to meet in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, which team will you go with in your playoff pool? (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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In last week's edition of Fantasy Hockey Faceoff, Jordan Shifman and Jesse Campigotto gave you suggestions for how to set up your playoff pool. This week's column - our last of the season - is about helping you identify both the players and the teams who are poised for strong playoff runs.
In last week's edition of Fantasy Hockey Faceoff, we gave you suggestions for how to set up your playoff pool. Check out the various formats (some straightforward, others more creative) and choose your favourite.

No matter which kind of pool you go with, you'll want to pick players who will go deep into the playoffs and accumulate a lot of points along the way. Simple concept, but tough to execute. Think about it: In the regular season, every player (barring injury) has the opportunity to play in 82 games, regardless of the quality of his team. So you can pick Steven Stamkos first overall and not really worry about how good the Lightning will be. But in the playoffs, a guy can play in as few as four games, and as many as 28.

With that in mind, this week's column - our last of the season - is about helping you identify both the players and the teams who are poised for strong playoff runs. Plus, we've got one final piece of roster-move advice to help you in the final days of your regular season pool.

Even though the fantasy hockey season is ending, you can still follow Jesse and Jordan on Twitter, along with the CBC Sports fantasy hockey account.

After you read our predictions, why not join the playoff round of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada Fantasy Pool. The winner drives away with the All-New 2012 Kia Optima.

Thanks for reading this season, and good luck in your playoff pools!

Who's poised for a big post-season?

Jesse: A good strategy for winning a playoff pool is to do something different than everyone else. Seek out the conventional wisdom, and go the other way. Take the last two years: Each time, Washington went into the playoffs as the top seed in the East, with a roster full of high-scoring stars, and won a total of one series. If you avoided following the crowd and picking a bunch of Caps in your playoff pool, you gave yourself an advantage. Well, at least you did if you instead grabbed players from an undervalued team like Boston last year (a No. 3 seed) or Philadelphia in 2010 (a No. 7).

So who's undervalued going into this year's playoffs? Maybe Detroit. The Wings were 41-17-2 on Feb. 20 before fading over the rest of the regular season as Pavel Datsyuk and Jimmy Howard missed time with injuries (it's no conincidence that the indispensable Datsyuk had knee surgery on Feb. 21). Now those guys are back in the lineup and Detroit's likely first-round opponent is Nashville, a team garnering some trendy "sleeper" buzz. But the Wings' goal differential is 30 better than the Preds', and if they can hold onto home-ice advantage, well, Detroit is 31-6-2 at Joe Louis Arena. Sold on the Wings' chances of advancing and maybe doing more damage in later rounds? Then consider picking proven playoff producers like Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Nicklas Lidstrom along with up-and-comer Valtteri Filppula (career-high 65 points this season).

Jordan: I like the road that lies ahead for the Boston Bruins in the East. Let's be realistic: even though the pressure is all on the B's, it's hard to imagine the Senators knocking off Boston unless Craig Anderson plays out of his mind like he did in 2009-10 while with Colorado. So if the Bruins do advance, they will take on Florida, the No. 8 seed from Washington or Buffalo or the winner of Pittsburgh versus Philadelphia series. Many would agree that at least two of those series are very winnable for the defending champs. What sets Boston apart in a playoff pool is their playoff-proven, balanced attack with the likes of David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley, Milan Lucic, Zdeno Chara and Tyler Seguin.

In the West, a lot is still up in the air, but one thing is for certain: injuries could play an extremely significant role here. If the likes of Jonathan Toews, Jeff Carter and Daniel Sedin are out for any length of time, I don't see their teams going as far as they could. As of now, Toews is travelling with the Hawks, Carter's injury is listed as a 'deep bone bruise' and Sedin is only doing light workouts. With that in mind, I like the Hawks to advance from their first-round series and have a rematch with the Sedin-less Canucks. If Chicago advances again, they will likely face the Blues or the Red Wings, although that could also be a second-round match-up. More importantly, however, is how good Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane and Corey Crawford have been down the stretch.

Who could be a playoff flop?

Jesse: Sticking with our theme of identifying the conventional wisdom and going the other way, this year's chic team seems to be the Penguins, and why not? Pittsburgh boasts the likely Art Ross winner in Evgeni Malkin, the league's No. 4 goal scorer in James Neal, and a former scoring champ in Sidney Crosby. The Pens also own the second-best goal differential in the East. They could go on a long run.

But... Pittsburgh's first-round opponent is going to be Philly, a team that's beaten them four out of five times this season (one matchup remains) and has the edge in aggregate score, 20-16. A lot of people in your pool are sure to load up on Penguins, and maybe with good reason. But if you're feeling bold, now you've got a reason to go the other way.

Jordan: On Jesse's note, if you're like most people and contemplating going with either the Penguins or Flyers, you have to consider the big picture. For argument's sake, let's say you're leaning towards the Flyers. You may not want to go as deep into their roster as you would other teams. Once you get past the obvious choices in Claude Giroux (92 points) and Scott Hartnell (37 goals), you could consider the playoff proven Danny Briere and Jaromir Jagr and then perhaps Wayne Simmonds (28 goals), but who else? The big factor here is that, without a doubt, Philadelphia will face Marc-Andre Fleury, followed by either Henrik Lundqvist or Tim Thomas (if not all three in a row) and then a sure-fire elite goalie from the West if they make it that far. The Flyers may be a high-scoring team (second in the league in goals for), but heading into the playoffs, I would be weary about using valuable roster spots on guys like Jakub Voracek, Matt Carle or rookie Matt Read.

Add this guy!

Jordan: Though largely unowned players like Kyle Turris may be hotter, you may not be able to fit him in your line-up with all 30 teams in action on Saturday. Instead, go with Coyotes forwards Martin Hanzal and Gilbert Brule. Hanzal has two power-play assists in his last three games, while Brule scored in his last game. What's most noteworthy here is that Phoenix is one of only two teams that plays on both Friday and Saturday and they're currently fighting for their playoff lives.

Jesse: Normally at this time of year, fantasy owners look to exploit the differences in games remaining, dropping players from teams with a lower number of contests left in favour of players with more games to go. But this year the NHL has done a better job of evening out the schedule. Entering Thursday's action, every team in the league has played exactly 80 games. However, that doesn't mean every goalie will play the same number of games. Some teams, like Boston or the Rangers, who have nothing left to play for, may rest their starter for at least one of their remaining contests. But teams that are out of the playoff hunt don't usually sit their healthy top players at the end of the year.

Enter Ben Scrivens. With the Leafs all but out of goalie options (James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson are hurt and unlikely to return, and Jussi Rynnas is, well, Jussi Rynnas. Scrivens played impressively in last Saturday's win over Buffalo (not so much in Tuesday's OT defeat, though he at least didn't get tagged with a fantasy loss), and Toronto's final two opponents are also-rans Tampa and Montreal. Scrivens hasn't played great this year (.899) save percentage, but at least he'll probably play. And he's available in 99 per cent of Yahoo! leagues.

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