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This will be a must-read for all playoff poolies, as I’ll break down everything you pretty much need to know about each of the Western Conference matchups.
There are two traditional ways to approaching a playoff pool. First, is the SPRAY method, where you take a little bit from each team, usually the top performers, and hope to generate points that way. The only problem with that is that out of the millions that play in hockey playoff pools, half of them will generally use the method, which means that essentially you’ll be pretty much picking the same team as everyone else, so the chances of you winning are highly unlikely.
The second method that others will use is the, PRAY method. Basically you load up all the players on one team and hope they make it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals.
A smart combination of both will probably be the key to winning your playoff pool. First, be objective in coming up with who you think will legitimately win the Stanley Cup. Then choose players who are dark horse candidates on that team that will produce until the very end eg.) Todd Bertuzzi or Ryan Kesler going to the end will be much more productive than a Patrick Marleau getting knocked out in the first round. People who won playoff pools last season are the people who picked up Johan Franzen, Ryan Malone, Mike Ribeiro over guys like Alex Ovechkin, Joe Thornton, or Jarome Iginla.
WARNING: this is a pretty long read (roughly 6000 words), but I’d rather give you more info than less. Hopefully it helps you out in your playoff pools.
Players who I suggested last week and their production during the week.
Matthew Lombardi 0 G, 3 A, -1, 0 PIMs. 1 PPP, 10 SOG
Jon Cheechoo 1 G, 1 A, 0, 10 PIMs, 1 PPP, 2 SOG
Tomas Holmstrom 0 G, 2 A, -3, 2 PIMs, 1 PPP, 6 SOG
Scottie Upshall 2 G, 1 A, 0, 2 PIMs, 0 PPP. 12 SOG
Ryan Whitney 0 G, 1 A, -2, 4 PIMs, 1 PPP, 7 SOG
T.J. Galiardi 0 G,1 A, 0, 4 PIMs, 0 PPP, 8 SOG
Rebounded in the final week of the regular season, as most of my picks were hits last week.
San Jose .vs. Anaheim
Wow huge Pacific Division matchup in the first round for a top vs. bottom matchup. The Ducks righted the ship at the end of the season with a 7-2-1 record to finish the regular season. Can the Sharks get over years of post-season disappointment?
Evgeni Nabokov has a 3-2-0 record with a 2.00 GAA and .930 save percentage against the Ducks this season. 16-7-4 in 28 Post-All-Star game appearances. Key-stat, 29-4-2 at home this season.
J.S. Giguere 1-1 record with a 2.00 GAA and .949 save percentage against the Sharks this season. 7-6-1 in 15 Post-All-Star game appearances. Key-stat, 33-17 and 2.10 and .925 save percentage in his career in the playoffs.
I don’t know if you can completely commit yourself for a top-seeded team to get knocked out in the first round, but despite Giggy’s struggles this season, statistically speaking he has played his best games against the Sharks, which would instantly ring alarm bells in my head. Giggy will certainly make this series a lot more interesting than your typical one vs. eight matchup. Slight edge to Sharks(55 to 45).
Rob Blake, finished the season with ten goals and 35 assists, which is the first time in three years he’s cracked the 45 point plateau. His plus 15 rating also shows that he’s doing his part on the defensive end of the ice as well. Only hiccup I can see is that he had a 0.67 point-per-game first half average compared to a 0.53 second half average.
Dan Boyle, finished the season with 16 goals and 41 assists, which was sixth overall in terms of scoring for a defenseman in the NHL. Boyle led the Sharks in both overall and power-play time on ice, which means that he should get plenty of opportunities during playoff time to put up points for the Sharks.
M.A. Vlasic, finished the season with six goals and 30 assists. He’s second behind only Boyle in average ice-time per contest. Only down side is that he finished with only one assist in the final nine contests of the season. I probably wouldn’t pick up Vlasic unless you are dedicating your entire playoff pool on Sharks.
Christian Ehrhoff, finished with eight goals and 34 assists, which is third amongst all Shark defenders this season. He doesn’t garner as much ice-time as Vlasic, but does have more offensive upside. He had a much strong second half with 23 points in 33 contests than first half, which shows that he’s heading into the playoffs with confidence. Ehrhoff is my dark horse defenseman for the Sharks.
Scott Niedermayer, finished the season with 14 goals and 45 assists, which is the third highest point total in his 17-year NHL career. He also tallied 30 points in the final 33 games, which proves that he’s geared up and ready to go for the post-season. He’s a must-own for playoff pools.
Chris Pronger, finished with 11 goals and 37 assists, which isn’t as strong as a campaign as fellow blue-liner Niedermayer. He has 92 career playoff points in 134 contests, which makes his near 0.70 point-per-game playoff average also a must-own for fantasy pools.
Ryan Whitney, since traded from the Penguins, tallied 10 points in 20 contests for the Ducks. The fact that he’s garnering nearly 24 minutes of ice-time per contest with big minute-chewers Niedermayer and Pronger in the lineup shows that he’s an integral part of the Ducks blue-line corps. He’s probably not a must-own, but if you are loading up on Ducks you probably won’t want to miss out on Whitney.
Francois Beauchemin, was averaging huge minutes, before missing most of this season with an ACL injury. He speedily recuperated from the injury and will be returning to the Ducks lineup just in time for the post-season. Beauchemin has never been a huge point producer, but his presence will probably keep Pronger, Niedermayer and Whitney fresher throughout the playoffs if they are to make it deep this season. He’s a great dark horse candidate for playoff pools.
Once again, it’d be hard to argue against the top-seeded team, but if you compare the two teams it’d be hard to go against a team that has 390 man-games of playoff experience despite being the underdog. Edge to Ducks.
Joe Thornton, his 86 points is the lowest offensive output since his 2003-04 NHL season with the Bruins, which is the first alarm bell. He finished the season with 31 points in 37 Post-All-Star game appearances, second alarm bell. 48 points in 70 career NHL playoff appearances for an All-Star caliber player, third and final alarm bell. All signs are pointing towards him being a flop this post-season.
Patrick Marleau, finished the season with 71 points, which is the third-highest total in his 11-year NHL career. Although he was battling injuries, the fact that he finished the season with six points in his final 15 games, warns me not to pick him up in playoff pools. On a positive note, he does have 59 points in 86 career playoff contests, which might give you something to ponder about.
Devin Setoguchi, had a great sophomore year as he finished with 65 points in 81 contests. Like many of the other Sharks, Setoguchi disappeared for most of the second half as he only put up 21 points in the final 37 games. He only has nine games of playoff experience, so I wouldn’t bet the farm on him producing mind-boggling numbers this post-season.
Jonathan Cheechoo, had another disappointing season, but did manage to finish the season on a high with five points in his final six contests. He remains the odd-man out with Thornton, Marleau, Setoguchi, Ryan Clowe, Joe Pavelski, and Milan Michalek occupying the top-six of the Sharks lineup. But if the Sharks go down early to the Ducks, you might just see Todd McClellan re-unite the big line of Cheechoo, Marleau and Thornton to jumpstart the team. Cheechoo is a great dark horse sleeper candidate for this season’s playoffs.
Ryan Getzlaf, has been on a tear to end the season as he posted 21 points in the final 18 games of the season. I also like the fact that he turned around a horrendous February and finished the season on a high. He’s a difference maker and we’ll see that in the playoffs this season. He’s a must-own for playoff pools.
Corey Perry, is the other half of the Ducks’ dynamic duo. He finished with 18 points in the final 18 games and really brought life back into the Ducks’ lineup when they seem to be roasted in mid-March. Perry only has three points in six matchups against the Sharks this season, which probably won’t win over many playoff poolies. Either way you are banking on the Ducks this post-season picking up both Perry and Getzlaf is a must.
Teemu Selanne, will be the difference maker in this series, if he shows up Ducks will win, if the doesn’t Ducks will be ousted quicker than you can say “Quack Attack”. The thing with Selanne is that he always shows up when the Ducks need him the most. Since the 2005-06 playoffs, Selanne has put up 33 points in 43 playoff contests with the Ducks and should put up similar numbers this season. He also has 88 points in 69 games against the Sharks since 1989. Bank on Selanne playing a major role this post-season.
Bobby Ryan, has had a somewhat decent sophomore year as he put up 57 points in 64 contests. Ryan has operated at near the point-per-game pace for most of the year, which should continue into the post-season this year. He’s the sleeper pick of the Ducks in this season’s playoffs.
This is a stark contrast between two teams, on one-side you have a few seasoned veterans who have been there done that but has never been able to secure a championship, on the other you have a team of young-budding superstars chomping at the bit to try to knock off the heavy favorites for the Stanley Cup. Because the Sharks don’t have a history of finishing off their opponents, at best you can do is call it a draw between the forwards of the two teams.
Red Wings .vs. Blue Jackets
Another huge divisional matchup this time with the Central Division. Red-hot goalie versus red-hot offense, who will win out?
Chris Osgood has a 2-2-1 record with a sub-par 3.37 GAA and .855 save percentage against the Blue Jackets this season. 11-5-3 in 21 Post-All-Star game appearances. Key-stat, 13-6-4 at home this season, with a 3.28 GAA and .878 save percentage.
Steve Mason 3-2-0 record with a sparkling 2.38 GAA and .930 save percentage against the Red Wings this season. 16-9-5 in 35 Post-All-Star game appearances. Key-stat, no playoff appearances, 42.9% away win percentage, 63.6% home win percentage.
Very similar to the matchup above, I don’t know if you can completely commit yourself for a second-seeded team to get knocked out in the first round, but the numbers are there for another first round upset. A lot of Detroit’s playoff fortunes will depend on the play of Osgood, if he plays well, they’ll repeat as championship, if he falters they’ll be out in the first round. Mason is red-hot and ready to establish himself as a top-tiered goalie in his rookie season in the NHL. I don’t think you can go against 113 games of playoff experience over zero. Edge to Wings (60 to 40).
Niklas Lidstrom, finished the season with 59 points in 78 contests, which is slightly below the numbers he has put up in the past four seasons. His plus 31 rating still ranked amongst the leaders on the Red Wings which shows that he’s taking care of both ends of the ice. Despite a slow March production, Lidstrom managed to pick up six points in the final five games for the Red Wings, which is a good sign that he’ll be ready for playoff hockey. He’s a must own in all formats of playoff pools.
Brian Rafalski, finished with the exact same total as Lidstrom, 59 points in 78 contests, which was a new career-high for the nine-year NHL veteran. He averaged just ten seconds less than Lidstrom per contest in power-play time, which makes him also a must own in playoff pools this season.
Nik Kronwall, followed in the footsteps of Rafalski and also established a new career-high for himself this season. He took a huge step in his development as he picked up nearly 20 points more than he did last season and really has asserted himself into the Red Wing’s blue line corps. He won’t get as much overall or power-play ice-time as Rafalski or Lidstrom, but if you are banking on the Red Wings to go deep into the playoffs, I’d for sure pick up Kronwall in your playoff pools.
Fedor Tyutin, finished the season with a career-high of 34 points with the Blue Jackets this season. His 167 SOG was also the highest mark that he’s fired in his career. Tyutin is pretty much the only productive defender on the Blue Jackets, so if you are going to pick up a Columbus blue-line, you better make it Tyutin.
Mike Commodore, won’t light up the score sheet as his 24 points this season was nearly a career-high for the rugged veteran defenseman. His 49 playoff appearances will probably play a bigger role in this post-season than his offensive ability. Commodore might be a decent pick up if your playoff pool counts PIMs, as he has 52 career playoff PIMs in 49 contests.
Jan Hedja, also set a new career-high mark with 21points in his third season in the NHL. His plus 23 rating was the most productive on the Blue Jackets, which means that he’ll be heavily leaned upon to keep the high-flying Red Wings’ offense from getting the puck past Mason. Same case as Commodore, his strong defensive play will play more of a prominent role than his offensive scoring ability.
Kris Russell, doubled his point total from his rookie season, but that isn’t saying much since he only picked up 10 points as a rookie. Russell once put up 32 goals in 59 contests with the Medicine Hat Tigers in the WHL, which is unheard of from a defenseman, so that shows that one day he will develop into an elite NHL blue-liner. Russell won’t do much damage on even-strength, but on the power-play will be a different story. He ranks second amongst blue-liners in power-play ice-time for the Blue Jackets, which makes him a great sleeper pick for playoff pools this season.
You can’t really argue against a pairing of seasoned playoff vets vs. a defensive corps that has a total of 86 playoff contests under their belt. Huge edge to Red Wings.
Pavel Datsyuk, 97 points in 81 contests, 23 points in 22 contests in last season’s Stanley Cup winning playoffs. Can’t really argue with the numbers, must own in playoff pools.
Henrik Zetterberg, bit of a down year with 73 points in 77 contests. 27 in 22 in last season’s Stanley Cup willing playoffs. Once again can’t really argue with the numbers, also must own in playoff pools.
Marian Hossa, similar to Zetterberg, didn’t have a great year, but didn’t need to. 26 points in 20 contests during last year’s playoffs and scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year looking for a big payday.
Johan Franzen, signed a big deal to stay in Detroit, will that positively or negatively impact his playoff performance? Went on a tear with 13 goals in 16 playoff contests last season, can he repeat that feat? Finishing off the season with one point in final five games rings alarm bells.
Tomas Holmstrom, hernia surgery probably slowed down his production this year, but still managed to finish with five points in the final six games of the season. If you are going to go hardcore on Red Wings you might as well add Holmstrom to the list, as he’ll be doing all the dirty work in front of the net for Datsyuk and Zetterberg.
Rick Nash, tore it up in the final two months of the regular season as he picked up 22 points in the final 20 contests for the Blue Jackets. He has six goals in six contests against the Red Wings this season and will need to keep that pace up if the Blue Jackets have any shot as upsetting the Red Wings in the first round of this year’s playoffs.
Kristian Huselius, was beginning to find his groove before sustaining a concussion-like injury near the end of the regular season. In March he picked up 13 points in 15 games while almost averaging three SOG per contest. He tends to pull a disappearing act in the playoffs as all Flames’ fans can tell you, so I’d put a buyer-beware sign on him before considering to pick him up for playoff pools.
Jason Williams, has really enjoyed his move from Atlanta to Columbus, as he finished with 29 points in 39 contests for the Blue Jackets this season. He’s also ranked third amongst Blue Jacket forwards in power-play ice-time while averaging 3:13 per contest, which should give him plenty of opportunities to wreck havoc on Osgood.
R.J. Umberger, really has taken another step in his development as he fired 61 shots more on goal this season than last year. His 26 goals is also double of the total that he potted last season, which is a positive sign heading into the playoffs. If Umberger can provide some timely secondary scoring for the Blue Jackets, an upset might be in store for Columbus.
Antoine Vermette, picked up 13 points in 17 contests since joining the Blue Jackets from the Senators at the trade deadline. His value is along the same lines as Umberger. If the Jackets’ second unit can outscore the Wings’ second unit, they’ll have a good shot at upsetting Detroit in the opening round of the playoff.
Once again you have a stark contrast between two teams, on one side you have the reigning Stanley Cup champions, and on the other you have a team of young-budding superstars experiencing the playoffs for the first time in their young NHL careers. The Red Wings have the advantage of going through the process last season, as they have the expectation to repeat as champions again this season. Edge to Red Wings.