Here we go ladies and gentlemen! We waited six long months and now the second season is finally ready to commence. Tonight, six teams begin their quest to lift Lord Stanley's Cup over their heads. The fantasy perspective dictates a different mindset. This is not like the regular season where you have chances to make quite a few mistakes and still come out on top. The playoffs are literally high risk / high reward. When you make a fantasy error in the playoffs, it is multiplied and exponential. The players who get eliminated do not get you points. That is obvious. What hurts more is usually the limits some pools place on how many players you can have from one team. No loading up kids....that is a no no!
Now if you are still looking for a comprehensive guide to get you through this minefield, may I suggest the one from Fantasy Hockey Coach. Yes there is that whole format thing but it is an extremely solid read that makes it more of a meat and potatoes strategy without throwing in more mind blowing numbers and advanced stats than anyone can handle. It is meant to be a little easier to pick in the playoffs but the agony can be pretty high but so can the ecstasy.
This year's playoff schedule starts off a little staggered too with only three games tonight. Usually there are four maybe five games but there is generally a three and four plan in place. The first six nights feature that and hopefully with the strange TV schedule, your remote is ready. Hey, that is important! There is nothing more frustrating than trying to keep up with your picks and not know what is going on. Sure Twitter is a godsend but sometimes social media can still fail in that regard.
First, let's look at the schedule tonight for the 2012 NHL Playoffs.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
|Philadelphia||at||Pittsburgh||7:30 PM | Gameday
|Detroit||at||Nashville||8:00 PM | Gameday
|Los Angeles||at||Vancouver||10:30 PM | Gameday|
It really feels like home. The odd part is we could take the first game and spend a whole post on that. However, we would be scolded severely for that and this might spontaneously combust. We are kidding. It is always fun to look at who is hot or not going into the playoffs as well but many times the unexpected occurs.
Here is what we decided to do. We will very quickly breakdown the games and maybe what to look for. It will be fast and concise as no one wants to read "War And Peace" come playoff time. They want their information and they want to get the heck out. That is just how it is. Now let's get rummage through the games like its Christmas.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins Vs. 5. Philadelphia Flyers Game 1, EC
What else is there to say other than these two teams hate each other and often defense flies out the window? Actually there is quite a bit. The most important thing is to see what scoring rules playoff pools use before making your decisions but if you are looking for offense, this is probably the series to keep an eye on. Sidney Crosby has been red hot the last five games with 12 points and Evgeni Malkin is the Hart Trophy winner in wait. It will be interesting more to see how a guy like James Neal fares in the playoffs. Here is a 40 goal scorer on the big stage who has been a killer against Philadelphia all year. Watch for him tonight. The Philadelphia defense and goaltending will be tested often and maybe the key to this entire series is Ilya Bryzgalov and his ability to stop pucks and roll with the punches being thrown.
The Flyers obviously counter offensively with their top line of Scotty Hartnell, Jaromir Jagr, and Claude Giroux. Now going the less likely route would be leaning on players like Matt Read and Jakub Voracek. Read and Voracek seem to be long in the tooth and it would surprise me to be players that flourish in the second season. Do not sleep on Max Talbot either as he was a Penguin last season. That intelligence cannot be underestimated this time of year. The Penguins have Tyler Kennedy on their side and do not forget Pascal Dupuis, who has a 17 game point scoring streak!
Again it comes down to defense and goaltending with the usual intensity and hatred that permeates through this entire series. Tonight both teams have to start fast but that pressure is more on the Penguins because the Flyers are almost used to falling behind and coming back. The hitting back and forth will be intense and because it is the playoffs, injuries are going to play a key role in this series. Expect a tight Game 1 with Pittsburgh coming out on top. Evgeni Malkin will be our star player.
4. Nashville Predators Vs. 5. Detroit Red Wings Game 1, WC
It is weird to see the Red Wings starting the playoffs on the road. It just is no matter how you slie it but they have plenty of talent to make this one of the best series of Round 1. Game 1 is always pivotal and we could go into how the winner of Game 1 wins the series a yadda yadda percent of the time. This series but particularly Game 1 comes down to how Detroit's older guns match up against the depth of Nashville. Can Nashville keep that offensive ball err puck rolling or will Detroit channel one of those performances that is an early series changer?
Detroit is a bit banged up honestly while Nashville pretty much comes in healthy. That may be a key point to remind people as the series goes on. Can Detroit fight through the pain? Will Jimmy Howard be that stopper in the net that Detroit absolutely needs? Will Detroit's weapons heat up or will they stay cold? Johan Franzen has been warm and Pavel Datsyuk has been a point a game guy as well though. Detroit did stumble a bit down the stretch while Nashville appeared to right the ship some.
Nashville has to get the Pekka Rinne from the middle of the season to win the series and Game 1 tonight. The soft goals and inconsistent Rinne cannot make an early appearance. Players like Sergei Kostitsyn have to get going (0 pts in last 9). Simply Nashville has to play tonight as if it were a clear slate. Mike Fisher is going to be one of those offensive threats from Nashville in the playoffs, if anyone remembers last year at all. Alex Radulov will also be an interesting difference maker but even moreso in Game 1.
That is why for all the talent that the Red Wings have, Nashville if they play their game will win Game 1 and do not be surprised if a player like Craig Smith comes back reenergized. Fisher is our star player for this one.
1. Vancouver Canucks Vs. 8. Los Angeles Kings Game 1, WC
The Kings are hear because they blew two two goal leads in the final two games of the season. The Canucks are here because they just keep winning. Los Angeles does not have the firepower the last time these two met and that memorable early run they had with special teams that dried up late in that series. There is a question whether Daniel Sedin will play tonight and that is something to keep an eye on. How has he recovered from his concussion because LA will hit him early and often.
Vancouver has their usual playoff suspects. Alex Burrows, Kevin Bieksa, Ryan Kesler all seem to step up in the second season and Kesler particularly has to in order to make up for his subpar regular season. He should be 100% now and raring to go. Los Angeles has a bit of an issue with Jeff Carter's bone bruise on the ankle. Yes he will play but how effective will he be in the first game? No one really knows that answer. Zack Kassian is also questionable for Vancouver and Mason Raymond will play in Game 1. Injuries are going to play a vital role in thie series, at least early on.
Then there is the goaltending with Jonathan Quick willing Los Angeles in the playoffs and Roberto Luongo, who has to be looking over his shoulder a bit at the ever improving Cory Schneider. Alain Vigenault may have a decision on his hands should Luongo falter a bit early on. That is why Game 1 is paramount for the Canucks. It may be more essential than anyone thinks.
So where to go here? Darryl Sutter (Kings Coach) said once that this is a 3-2 league and I think that is where this one winds up tonight with our star player being Ryan Kesler....with a game winner late or in overtime.
Do not forget ladies and gentlemen that we have the show tonight with more hockey goodness at 8pm ET....live Game 1 breakdowns as they happen! Thanks for reading.