Brett Lockwood

In The Crease

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Playoff Pools

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


With the season winding down, there is not much advice I can give to help you overcome the odds and win your league. Of course I stick by my guns and say you should ride your horses down the stretch, no matter the opponent. If Ryan Miller is facing the Vancouver Canucks, you have to start him! Your horses win you championships in the last two weeks.

With the regular season nearing completion, this article will focus on the ever-popular playoff pools. Now there are a number of ways to approach these types of pools. Depending on the rules, goalies can be either very important or useless. If you are in a pool that counts goalie wins, guys like Roberto Luongo, Tim Thomas, and Dwayne Roloson shoot up the draft boards. If you are in a pool that just counts goalie shutouts, then I advise against drafting any goaltenders. In the 2009-10 post-season, just seven goalies recorded a shutout. Of those seven goaltenders, only two (Michael Leighton and Antti Niemi) had more than one shutout. If your league does not reward goalies with a point per win, they are not worth owning.

The number one rule in drafting a playoff roster is picking a team to win. It does not take a rocket scientist to know that two teams will likely play more games than anyone else in the NHL. In the 2009-10 playoffs, the top seven scorers came from the Philadelphia Flyers and the Chicago Blackhawks. It is important, especially in the early rounds, to target the star players from the teams you believe will make it to the Stanley Cup Finals. This year, it is only natural to think Henrik and Daniel Sedin will be the first two picks off the board, if only because Vancouver is the odds-on favourite to win the Cup. What a luxury it would be if you can land studs on the top few teams. Adding depth players on these teams can help propel you due to the number of games they will play.

The biggest question that looms in playoff pools is when to take the star players from a bottom-tier team. Would you rather take a 3rd line center from a first place squad or a 1st line center from an eighth place squad? Let's delve into the numbers, using the 2009-10 playoffs as the scenario. The comparison will be between Mike Knuble from the top seeded Washington Capitals and Mike Richards of the seventh seeded Philadelphia Flyers. After a quick first-round shocking upset, Knuble finished the playoffs with two goals and four assists. While he had a decent post-season, it was short-lived, lasting only seven games. Mike Richards was a player taken in the mid-late rounds in pools (probably from some lunatic Flyers fans). What did he produce as a perennial first line all-star for a seventh seeded club? Seven goals and 16 assists, good for fourth overall in scoring. The key here is that a star player can be huge if his team has a major breakthrough a la the Flyers last season. Anyone who invested in the Flyers likely won their pool last post-season. As history shows, all the 8th seed needs to do is make it to Round Two for the star to out-produce a Stanley Cup bound scrub. Take a flier and see where it takes you. It will take some courage to win a playoff pool, so take a chance, be a daredevil.

And don't sleep on defensemen! Year in and year out, defensemen step it up post-season to produce like horses. Last season Chris Pronger was 10th in total scoring with 18 points. Just behind him was Duncan Keith with 17 points. Dan Boyle and Matt Carle each had 14 points. All these defensemen outscored top picks such as Pavel Datsyuk, Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton, and Evgeni Malkin. It would be a critical error if you were to overlook the stud defensemen on top tier teams. They can win you the whole thing with a quality performance. After forwards are selected in the first few rounds, take a look at the gift shop and take your pick of the elite near round four.

An injured player poses a touch conundrum. Where should one draft Sidney Crosby? Will he be back in time for the Cup run? How good will he be if he does make it back? Needless to say, even if his future is in doubt, Crosby will be drafted early in most pools. Is it worth the plunge? Hardly. I'd rather own a proven playoff sniper like Mikael Samuelsson than take a risk that Crosby will be back and scoring like a madman. For your information, the general consensus is that Crosby will go in the first few rounds no matter his situation.

As for who I think will take home the championship, my money is on Vancouver and Boston meeting in the finals. As a result, I will lean towards drafting players off these two teams. As always, I will pray no lower seed makes a run to knock off one of my contenders. When it comes to taking players from the New York Rangers or Calgary Flames, I will be wary but not rule them out. I'd rather have Marian Gaborik on my playoff squad than Blair Betts.

***Did You Know?***
Sidney Crosby has 77 points over the last three post-seasons. He has been in the top eight in playoff scoring over that span. What will he do this year, is the question.





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