This column, and all of Dobber's work, can also be read on The Hockey News, ESPN.com and MSN.ca.
It is no secret that the power play is the most important element of offense in the playoffs. This makes the participants of the power play the most fantasy worthy in terms of playoff pools. Defensemen who quarterback the PP actually see their production rise by as much as 40 per cent. This makes moving them up your draft list a no-brainer. In part two of a two-part piece, FPL will take a look at the Eastern Conference quarterbacks.
This team was looking all season long for a suitable power-play quarterback and they finally found one in February in Alexei Zhitnik. After they decided that Braydon Coburn was not ready, while Steve McCarthy and Niklas Havelid proved unsuitable, the Thrashers went out and got Zhitnik. If you like Atlanta players for your playoff pool, then Zhitnik should be right up there on your list. He has 14 points in 15 games since joining the team and while that would be a little high in terms of what to expect in the postseason, it won’t be that far off if the team gets out of the first round. He is the only option on the blue line with this team as far as fantasy hockey is concerned.
The Sabres have several options on the point, the best of which is Brian Campbell. That being said, Campbell regressed significantly last postseason, posting just six assists (and no goals) in 18 playoff games. In fact, Henrik Tallinder was the rearguard who stepped up for them, tallying eight points in just 14 contests. Teppo Numminen, Toni Lydman and Dimitri Kalinin can all put up seven or eight points in a prolonged playoff run. Jaroslav Spacek can put up as much as a dozen. My favorite dark horse is rookie Nathan Paetsch. The 24-year-old rookie will have to prove himself in the first round. If he does that, coach Lindy Ruff will use him in more and more situations and you could see him surprise. Paetsch had a run this season of 17 points in 24 games, but that was when Spacek and Lydman were both sidelined with injuries and Paetsch got the ice time that he needed.
Seeing as Sheldon Souray is currently tied for the NHL record for power play goals by defensemen, it’s safe to say that he will contribute on with the man advantage in the postseason. Andrei Markov is also having a career season and his production should also go up a little when the playoffs begin. The only other offensive rearguard that may put up decent numbers is Mark Streit, but he has played a lot as a winger lately and does not really quarterback the power play.
Paul Martin has had a disappointing year this year by fantasy standards, but Brian Rafalski set a new career high. The latter had a fantastic playoff last year, garnering nine points in nine games while the former slipped in production. It’s safe to say that Rafalski is one man you can move up your draft list. The rest of the New Jersey rearguards – leave them be.
New York Rangers
Paul Mara has just five points in 17 games since joining the Rangers at the deadline, but he has the potential to be a real dark horse. He is the No.2 man on the blue line when the Rangers are up a man and he will likely be available in the final round of your draft. If you feel that New York will go two or even three rounds, then Mara would be a steal. Michal Rozsival has been the quarterback, smashing his offensive career high this year. Don’t expect that to change in the postseason.
Wade Redden. Those are the only two words you need to know here. Yes, Tom Preissing is ahead of him in points, but Redden would be a 65-point player if he stayed healthy. Therein lies the risk. Redden has battled a groin injury all season, but c’mon – this is the postseason! When Redden has been at full health, he tallied 29 points in 37 games. That was from Christmas until the middle of March. His production will go up in a big way. If the Sens play 20 games, put Redden down for 16 or 17 points. Preissing, Joe Corvo, and Andrej Meszaros can also post a good 12 or 13 points if given three or four full rounds to get them. Out of those three, I like Preissing the best to do this.
The Pens’ blueliners are a fantasy poolie’s dream. Their role is obvious – there will be no surprises. Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney will get all the points while the rest of the rearguards will not. Both players are hovering around the 0.70 to 0.80 points per game. Come playoff time, prepare yourself to watch them up that by 20 percent. Expect 0.90 to 1.00 points per game from the quarterbacks of one of the best power plays in hockey.
Dan Boyle is one of the most underrated defensemen in fantasy hockey. The reality is, this guy is top five in terms of offense and is a consistent 50-point player. This season he has 63 points. For every 10 playoff games that he plays, expect seven or eight points at the very least. Paul Ranger is a nice dark horse. Not only can he be had in the final round of your draft, but last season he stepped it up at the right time with six points in five playoff games. Filip Kuba is another option. He is very streaky, so you would have to hope that if you draft him, he will begin a good streak…and not a bad one.
Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle sit 1-2 in Leafs scoring with 56 points apiece. Rookie Ian White is the next rearguard on the list, sitting 15th. The McCabe and Kaberle combination are the only options that should be considered in the postseason, but both already produce in the 0.70 to 0.80 points-per-game range. Do not expect that to increase too much, as these guys already get all the ice time and PP time that they need.