James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Five Alive

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

After another week of wacky playoff hockey, it might be time to step back and just say: “Wow.”


Now, some of us (your humbled author included) might complete the thought with “Wow, I thought I knew something about the way the NHL works, but maybe not.”


The chaos of the postseason underscores the relative normalcy of the regular season. Mike Smith might be the perfect vessel for such an argument. I was able to add the Phoenix Coyotes’ No. 1 goalie right around the time when I pleaded with readers to do the same in a Daily Dose column even though he built about a few weeks' worth of evidence that he was "for real." Yet in the Rotoworld fantasy playoff league and I’d imagine most normal playoff pools,* Smith was gone the day of the draft. That’s just the way things are in most playoff pools; scarcity rules even more than usual.


(The maddening thing is that I thought I invested appropriately – if not wisely – in goaltending. Instead, my top two guys Roberto Luongo and Corey Crawford combined for less starts than Smith had wins.)


Come to think of it, Smith and his Western Conference finals opponent Jonathan Quick’s across-the-board great play might be one of the few unifying threads between a not-too-crazy regular season and an absolutely off-the-wall playoffs. The other unifying factor is that Jimmy Hascup has both goalies, which means that he should cruise to the Rotoworld gold with little trouble.


Actually, that might just be the only “sure thing” we have left in the playoffs.


* - Excluding more idiosyncratic ones where you choose players every day/week instead of being “stuck” with what you acquired at first.



Since last week’s Daily Dose, the St. Louis Blues (four games), the Nashville Predators (five games) and Philadelphia Flyers (also five games) were booted from the 2012 playoffs.



The Blues have some wounds to lick, no doubt, but don’t blame them for being the most positive of the trio. For one thing, you could make a very reasonable argument that they overachieved until the Kings swept them from the semifinals. Much of that indignity can also be reduced by Alex Pietrangelo and Jaroslav Halak’s health issues (whether the Blues want to acknowledge injuries as a factor or not) as well as the fact that the No. 1 seed Vancouver Canucks didn’t have a whole lot more luck against Los Angeles.


(Kind of interesting that Henrik Sedin wasn’t totally healthy, Ryan Kesler just underwent shoulder surgery that will sideline him for about six months for Vancouver and the Blues lost two key players as well, huh? The Kings have been impressive, but let there be no doubt that they got a little lucky – which is something we almost always say this time of year anyway.)


Beyond the shorter term stuff, the Blues should have an extra hop in their steps now that word is that their ownership situation is (more or less) straightened out. I wouldn’t expect Terry Pegula-type spending from the Tom Stillman era, but stability is a good thing – especially for a young team that could logically improve from development alone.



Dave Tippett admitted that the Phoenix Coyotes benefited from the Predators dealing with the “major distraction” that was the two-game voluntary suspensions Barry Trotz handed to forwards Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexander Radulov.


Now, the Predators went 1-1 in the two forwards’ absence so it’s not like that was the only reason they lost. Still, I can’t help but feel that it was a mistake on Trotz’s part. Those two were key (and rare) offensive catalysts who were much-needed in what went from a wide-open series to the tight-checking affair we witnessed once the games shifted to Nashville.


If Trotz was that angry, then perhaps he should’ve just booted them altogether. Andrei Kostitsyn, Sergei Kostitsyn and Radulov join Shea Weber, Paul Gaustad and Ryan Suter (plus plenty of others) as guys who either need new contracts or simply won’t be back. It’s hard to imagine Kostitsyn and Radulov in Predators uniforms next season, although Radulov’s case might be slightly different because he’s a pending RFA.


Either way, expect a dramatically different Preds team. It wouldn’t be surprising if Suter ended up cashing a big free agent check with another team after two straight second-round losses, for one. With the advantage of hindsight, David Poile's bold spending for depth players didn't really pay off; Hal Gill barely played and Gaustad can only win so many draws.



After jettisoning Mike Richards and Jeff Carter in particular, the Flyers were supposed to look like a different team this season. They did, in many ways, until the playoffs. Then they followed a familiar script as the 2011 version.


Much like last year, they survived bad goaltending by overwhelming their opponents with staggering offense (Buffalo in 2011, Pittsburgh this year). Also much like in 2011, they were slapped around by a hated rival in round two. After being swept by the Boston Bruins last year with goaltending be a major distraction, the Flyers stuck with Ilya Bryzgalov and one five postseason games overall instead of four.


It wasn’t all Breezy’s fault but many won’t ever forget the series-clinching goal he essentially “gifted” to David Clarkson, who had two game-winners in round two. No sane GM would take on Bryzgalov’s contract at this point, so it’s likely that Philly will have to sleep in the crusty bed they made for themselves.


Maybe they’ll do something wacky in another area, though. (I hear Ryan Suter might be on the market.)



1. Jimmy Hascup - 307.20 points

2. Corey Abbott - 197.50

3. Jared O - 190.10

4. Marc Lapierre - 163.20

5. Michael Finewax - 158.80

6. My sad team - 145.60

7. Ryan Dadoun - 137.10

8. Brian Rosenbaum - 117.60

9. Gus Katsaros - 106.70

10. Kevin Brown – 86


I already touched on the league quite a bit in the first section, but if you want another taste of how ridiculous Hascup’s team is, chew on this: he also has Braden Holtby, who still has a legitimate chance to make it to the Eastern Conference finals. In that scenario, he’d own three of the final four goalies. Yup, that’s ridiculous.


For the sake of fun and variety, I thought I’d take a look at the best picks per team. We already covered Hascup, so let’s move on to Corey.  (Keep in mind these results show how crazy the playoffs can be, as seemingly “good” investments in favorites went sour for some.)

Corey’s best picks: Dustin Brown - 13th round, pick 122 - Yeah, that's a huge steal. He also drafted Shane Doan 79th overall.

Jared’s best picks: Henrik Lundqvist (third overall), Brad Richards (18th) and Zach Parise (23) might all face off in the Eastern Conference finals. Oh yeah, he also wisely invested in the Coyotes' one-two punch of Ray Whitney (38) and Radim Vrbata (43). Jared is probably too far behind to take first place, but he has a fantastic chance at silver.

Marc’s best picks: Alex Ovechkin (54th) might end up being a slap-you-in-the-face steal if the Caps win two elimination games.

Finewax’s best picks: Investing heavily in Rangers - Gaborik at fifth, Ryan Callahan at the 36th and Ryan McDonagh at 85 - along with drafting Martin Brodeur 25th overall make for some savvy moves.

My best picks: With value Flyers picks gone (such as Danny Briere at 57th), Ilya Kovalchuk (17th), Mike Richards (124th) and possibly Alexander Semin (97th) stand out as decent finds.

Ryan’s best picks: Patrik Elias (70th) is a great value pick.

Brian’s best picks: Losses for the Bruins, Red Wings and Sharks hurts Rosenbaum's group, but three Devils - perhaps Marek Zidlicky (153rd) most of all if he's healthy - shine through.

Gus’ best picks: Gus' team was heavy on teams who lost in the first or second round, so Andy McDonald (40th) and Mike Fisher (81st) were among the better contributors.

Kevin’s best picks: With heavy investments in the Canucks and Panthers, Derek Stepan (69th) is among the better contributors.


Again, playoff upsets really helped to swing the league. We might have to pick Hascup’s brain about how “confident” he was about Smith, Holtby and Quick, though. He used pretty early picks on Quick and Smith, so it’s not dumb luck.



The Devils probably want the Rangers and Capitals to go seven games because Anton Volchenkov, Marek Zidlicky and Dainius Zubrus all took some pretty big hits against the Flyers in Game 5 … Brian Elliott apparently had an ear infection during the second round. Jake Allen must feel even more fabulous about sitting on the bench … Joel Quenneville remains as the Blackhawks’ head coach while assistants shuffle … The Coyotes’ ownership situation remains murky despite vague signs of positivity … Rostislav Klesla served his suspension so he’ll back for Game 1 of the WCF. (Click here for the full injury list.)

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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