James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Making waves in playoff pools

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

There are about a million things that make adults, semi-adults and man-children jealous of children. Here’s a makeshift “power rankings” from off the top of my head – some that apply to me, some to others and a few that touch all of us old fogies:


  • A virtual inability to gain significant amounts of weight in the face of alarming ice cream consumption.*
  • Complete and enviable indifference to the biological call to mate/seek out the opposite sex/whatever you want to call it. Seriously, kids must have a lot of free time.
  • Being completely oblivious to future hair loss and the general gravitational pull of stress.
  • No shame while wasting hours of time playing with action figures.
  • An open door to get away with brutally honest statements under the guise of cuteness.


Yup, kids have a pretty cushy gig – and the worst part is, they don’t even know it. Don’t you want to channel your inner Billy Madison and tell them all to never grow up sometimes? (Perhaps I have some unresolved issues or merely need to go down a few water slides this summer.)


Anyway, this big preamble has a point: Tuesday night represented an odd sensation that adults rarely get. Whether you celebrated Christmas or any other gift-packed holiday as a child, there was that nearly sleepless night of anticipation as your developing brain conjured fantasies of roller blades and Pikachu (or in my case, an NES). Last night was probably as close as adults can get to that “Christmas Eve feeling” but we’re not opening up literal presents.


Instead, for about the next 8-9 weeks (give or take), we’re opening up a nightly gift of wonderful playoff hockey. Many owners are sitting out the action because they don’t know about any pools being available (click here to check out one option, by the way) or just to enjoy the exhilaration of the postseason without the corrupting forces of fantasy rooting interests.


For those of you who are in a pool – particularly those whose draft takes place sometime before the action kicks off tonight – I’ve decided to put together a little guide. Let’s call it “The James O’Brien Do as I Say but Not as I Do Guide to Playoff Pool Dominance.”


(I need to work on the title.)


* - Yes, I know about childhood obesity rates, but those kids really have to push the ice cream envelope. (Pretty sure I was one of those kids – I blame WWF ice cream bars.)



In a normal fantasy hockey league, I’m a strong believer in having a Zen-like patience with netminders. If Mike Smith's 2011-12 season is any indication, year-to-year fluctuations often show that investing an expensive pick in a top guy can be a fool’s errand.


Playoff pools are different, though. Think about this way: only eight goalies (not counting backups, of course) are even going to be kicking beyond the first round. Theoretically, there are only 16 starters to choose from in the playoffs, although obviously the occasional backup can usurp the starter and make a deep run. (See: Ward, Cam and so on.)


If you’re in a league with 10+ owners and make a logical first choice like Sidney Crosby, it’s quite conceivable that you’ll already be subjected to the bargain bin of goalies by the time the draft snakes back even though it would only be round two. Honestly, I think that it pays off to get your goalie – or even goalies – very early on. In fact, here’s my short list of goalies who are worth a first rounder:


Henrik Lundqvist (my favorite – top seed in East, star power, favorable first round matchup)

Tim Thomas (slightly risky because he’s had some struggles here and there, but great team in front of him and you know his credentials)

Jaroslav Halak (With Brian Elliott injured, the worries about drafting the Blues’ goalie is greatly reduced. Of course, beating the Sharks might not be so easy.)

Roberto Luongo (Obviously there’s the Cory Schneider risks and the Kings could very well win, but Luongo’s a proven goalie on a Presidents’ Trophy winning team.)


After that, you get to goalies who are promising – if they manage to survive especially tough first round matchups:


Marc-Andre Fleury, Ilya Bryzgalov (if healthy), Pekka Rinne, Jimmy Howard and Mike Smith make up the “good picks if you’re OK with biting your nails a lot” group. Personally, I’d rather invest in one of the four goalies mentioned above and then get forwards and defensemen once people are getting desperate for goalies.


Interesting gambles: Jonathan Quick (no home ice in the whole playoffs? Worrisome), Antti Niemi (similar issues), Martin Brodeur (favorable first round matchup, if nothing else) and Corey Crawford (see: Brodeur).


If you don’t have a goalie from at least one of the three groups mentioned, perhaps you should go with a blind home run swing of offense. Let’s face it, though, you’re probably in trouble.

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James O'Brien is the Hockey Daily Dose's author and has been a contributor to NBC's Pro Hockey Talk for more than four years. Follow him on Twitter.
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